Anoka-Hennepin School Board Still Struggling With Policy

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) — The school board in Minnesota’s largest school district tried once again Monday to craft a replacement for its policy that requires teachers to stay neutral when issues of sexual orientation come up in class.

The Anoka-Hennepin district’s policy has been criticized by those who say it hampers teachers from effectively preventing bullying of students who are gay or perceived as gay, and the district is the target of two lawsuits challenging it. Defenders of the neutrality policy say it respects the views of families and students who believe homosexual conduct is immoral.

A draft “Respectful Learning Environment” policy presented to the Anoka-Hennepin school board Monday night says it’s not the district’s role to take positions on contentious political, religious, social or economic issues. It also says teachers should not try to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoints on such issues.

The policy says district staff should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, gender or sexual orientation when discussing such issues.

The board does not plan to take a vote Monday night.

A proposed revision that would have dropped references to human sexuality but require teachers to refrain from stating their views on “controversial topics” satisfied neither side when the board met two weeks ago.

Julie Blaha, president of the Anoka-Hennepin district’s local of the Education Minnesota union, said before Monday night’s meeting that while she had not seen the proposal, she was encouraged that the plan still seemed to be to drop the existing neutrality policy.

“If it reflects the concerns people have had, it has potential,” Blaha said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with.”

The existing policy states that the topic of sexual orientation isn’t part of the curriculum and is best addressed outside the schools. If the issue comes up during student-led discussions, teachers are to remain neutral. The 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.

Settlement talks continue quietly in two lawsuits filed by students, former students and parents against the neutrality policy. Both sides have agreed to keep those discussions confidential. Board members have said the proposed changes are not a response to the lawsuit.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • three miles down

    Further down the slope we go.

  • The Editor

    There is no story here.

    Wait for the new policy to be released THEN you have a story.

    By the way, publish the policy, don’t just tell us about it.

  • G Dog

    You might want to go to the meeting.

  • Huh?

    Why are these issues linked? Bullying those that are gay or perceived as gay is just a subset of bullying. The policy should apply to all people that are bullied. Here Anoka-Hennepin, let me write your antibullying policy:

    “No student or staff member shall treat another student or staff member in way that is bigoted, prejudicial, threatening, or verbally or physically abusive for any reason. All students are staff have an obligation to handle the situation, if appropriate, or report the situation to the proper authorities. Bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.”

    • ringo

      Thank you…I agree. Stop the Bullying…end of conversation.

      • Bill Clintons Cigar

        Stop the Gay lifestyle!!!!! End of conversation!

        • BABS

          This is a policy for public schools, and as such should not consider religious morals. The only consideration should be the children and ending bullying of any type.

  • wilbur

    Hey I got a flippin idea… why not just stick to teaching the basics and force parents to be parents.. No wonder our public school system is a joke, they are too busy teaching stupoid chit instead of giving students the tools necessary to function as a productive member of society.

    • jackactionhero

      Because kids bully others when their parents aren’t around.

      Are you an idiot or something?

  • RIII

    One size does not fit all; a bunch of administrators cannot create a policy for common sense across a broad range of demographics. What works fine and is acceptable to the parents in the inner city may not be acceptable in the suburbs. Our school system is top heavy with administrators that are out of touch, control and policy should be in the hands of the schools principal. When we waste so much time and money to be politically correct we are not providing the education necessary to the students for the real world.

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