COON RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) — The teachers union in Minnesota’s largest school district on Monday endorsed a proposed replacement for a policy that requires teachers to stay neutral when issues of sexual orientation come up in class.
Local President Julie Blaha said the representative assembly of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota showed overwhelming support for the proposed “Respectful Learning Environment” policy in a voice vote. The proposal was unveiled at a school board meeting Jan. 23.
“Ultimately we believe this (proposed) policy reflects what works for students and we definitely can work with that,” said Blaha, whose union has about 2,700 members in the northern suburban Twin Cities district of about 38,500 students. She said the union is recommending only four minor wording changes for clarity.
Critics say the district’s existing neutrality policy on human sexuality 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. Supporters of the policy include parents who believe homosexual conduct is immoral and don’t want teachers telling their children that gay relationships are acceptable.
The draft proposal says it’s not the district’s role to take positions on contentious political, religious, social, or economic issues, and teachers and staff should not try to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint on such issues. It says discussions of these issues should be presented in an impartial, balanced and objective manner, allowing a respectful exchange of views. And during these discussions, it says, teachers and staffers should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
The school board is expected to vote on the proposed policy next Monday.
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