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Minn. District To Redo Controversial Topics Policy

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COON RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s largest school district plans to rework a proposed policy on controversial topics that came under criticism.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District administration plans to present a “respectful learning environment curriculum policy” at Monday night’s board meeting. The board will review the proposed policy but will not vote on it then.

The district had proposed a new policy to require teachers to refrain from stating their views on controversial topics in the classroom. The board proposed the change to replace a current policy that requires teachers to remain neutral when the topic of human sexuality comes up during class. Some people believe the current policy, which is being challenged by two lawsuits, fosters bullying of gay students.

The neutrality policy came under fire after six students in the district committed suicide in less than two years. The district in the northern Twin Cities suburbs has about 38,500 students and 2,800 teachers.

School administrators plan to work on the revised policy through the weekend.

“We hope the result will be language that is more clear on the school board’s intent and which will be embraced more positively by our community,” Superintendent Dennis Carlson said in a statement.

The local teachers union had urged the board to drop the controversial topics proposal, saying educators should be trusted to mediate student discussions about sexual orientation and other issues. Some parents and clergy members argued for maintaining the existing neutrality policy, saying it was the best way to respect the views of conservative and religious students and families who believe homosexuality is immoral.

Two lawsuits filed by students, former students and parents allege that the neutrality policy effectively silences teachers and prevents them from protecting students who are gay or perceived as gay.

Lawsuit settlement talks continued Wednesday but there was no resolution, district spokesman Brett Johnson said.

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