COON RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) — The school board in Minnesota’s largest school district approved Monday night a replacement for a policy that required teachers to stay neutral when sexual orientation comes up in class, a stance that some critics blamed for fostering bullying.

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board adopted the “Respectful Learning Environment” policy on a voice vote. Only board member Kathy Tingelstad voted no.

After hearing more than an hour of often impassioned testimony from more than 20 people on both sides, board member Scott Wenzel said the change eliminates an old policy that singled out one minority group for different treatment.

“This policy is truly a compromise, Wenzel said. “And I truly hope that it will move this district and community forward from this point on.”

The district, which is the target of two lawsuits over the old policy, has found itself in the national spotlight over the issue, and Tingelstad and several parents who testified said they didn’t appreciate it.

“I just think we could have done a lot better job,” Tingelstad told reporters after the vote. “I think we were being pushed by outside influences that were outside of our school district. I know we’re setting some national standards her tonight but I’m disappointed,” she said, adding that the board could have better addressed the concerns of those who testified against the change.

The new policy commits the north suburban Twin Cities district to providing “a safe and respectful learning environment for all students.” It says that when contentious political, religious, social matters or economic issues come up — it does not specifically cite sexuality issues — teachers shouldn’t try to persuade students to adopt particular viewpoint. It calls for teachers to foster respectful exchanges of views. It also says in such discussions, staff should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

The proposal was unveiled at a Jan. 23 school board meeting after an earlier revision attempt left all sides unsatisfied. The new policy takes effect immediately and might move the lawsuits closer to settlement.

The district’s teachers union endorsed the policy change. Julie Blaha, president of the Anoka-Hennepin local of Education Minnesota, told the board the new policy could just become buried among all the district’s other policies, or it could become “the first few paragraphs of a new chapter … in which everybody feels safe and welcome at school. A chapter where it is clear that every student, staff member and family is valued for who they are. And a chapter full of rigorous conversations between professionals about how to improve our school climate.”

Critics said the old neutrality policy kept teachers from preventing bullying of students who are gay or perceived as gay. It had the support of parents who believe homosexual conduct is immoral and told the board they don’t want their children taught otherwise.

Barb Anderson, of Champlin, was one of several parents who asked the board not to give in to demands for changing it.

“If you pass a policy with weak language of appeasement, the gay agenda will be given an even greater foothold in our school district,” Anderson said. “We are at a crossroads. You either cave in the demands of the homosexual activists, an action that will make our schools unsafe for all kids, or you stand firm and protect the children.”

The old policy had been under fire since six students in the district committed suicide in less than two years. A parent of one of the students who committed suicide says her son was bullied for being gay. Gay advocacy groups say some of the others students who killed themselves were also bullied.

The district has said its internal investigation found no evidence that bullying contributed to the deaths. But the district changed its anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in October 2010 to clearly state that harassment or bullying of gay students wouldn’t be tolerated.

The district has about 38,500 students and 2,800 teachers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Rau has scheduled the next round of settlement talks for March 1 and 2 in two lawsuits filed by students, former students and parents against the neutrality policy. Both sides have been keeping those discussions confidential, but the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which are representing the plaintiffs, issued a statement applauding the policy change.

“Today is the first day in nearly 18 years that Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District no longer has a harmful policy that singles out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Although we would have preferred for the District to have repealed this stigmatizing policy without replacing it, we are pleased that the new policy expressly requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, including LGBT students,” the statement said. “The repeal of this policy is an important first step, but the District must do much more to create a safe, welcoming, and respectful learning environment for all students, including LGBT and gender non-conforming students, and those perceived as such.”

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

Comments (46)
  1. The Editor says:

    Where is the replacement policy?
    It’s not in the story.
    There is no link to it.

    When did we stop reporting the news and start censoring the news?

    I’m ashamed to work at this news outlet.

  2. Brett says:

    PC run amok. We are all doomed. This isn’t the worst, it’s only the beginning.
    Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!!

    1. Dr. Drew says:

      Oh Brett…you’re all worked up again. This is what happens when you don’t take your medication.

      1. Brett says:

        Never needed it, don’t want it. Don’t do dope, either. We will be like Greece within 2 years IF something doesn’t “change” soon. If nothing changes, I would hate to be a cop then.

        1. Cindy says:

          You’re going to get the hetrophobes around here all worked up talking like that.

          The new policy reads that the sodomites get to do all of the hating, you are not to respond.

          1. cindyliscious says:

            Cindy, you are going to get the what? hahaha This was funny. Good one!

        2. Mike says:

          Geez Brett, tell your grandparents to give up their Medicare and Social Security and if you have any indigent relatives have them drop the help they receive from Medicaid. While your at it, buy a hose and to put out fires, a gun to police your streets and teach your own damn children to read!

          1. Brett says:

            GEEZ Mike, my grandparents have been dead for over 10 years now. I have no known relatives on Medicaid, either. Apparently, you think that big riots can only occur in L.A. Well, you may be proven wrong someday.

    2. Kevin says:

      Amen brother….amen….and the Lord said “the liberals will be the first to go”……

      1. Kate says:

        “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

        44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

        45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

        46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

        But keep following Supply-Side Jeezus if you want. I certainly can’t stop you.

        1. DougT says:

          “and then he said to them…. Go forth and Sin No More…”

          Sometimes people conveniently forget the last part……

          1. jackactionhero says:

            Jesus isn’t in American Government, so he isn’t part of the conversation here. Try to stay on topic.

            1. progressive counterpt says:

              One might argue differently. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” “Creator” was in caps for a reason. Most religious institutions at the time of the establishment of the US constitution believed in the Trinity of God…God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. So it is very likely the authors of our government did as well.

          2. Kate says:

            If you’ve eaten lobster, shrimp, a bowl of clam chowder, or a cheeseburger before and intend to do so again, you have precisely the same guilt as I, so let’s not even talk about “sin no more.”

            Never mind that the science makes it very, very clear that sexual orientation is immutable. The idea that oppressing gay kids will turn them straight is very, very wrong. All it does, as we’ve seen very graphically in a bloody swathe over the last several years, is turn them dead.

            1. jackactionhero says:

              So true, Kate. Great comment.

              I can’t figure out why anybody wants to hide gays away as if they aren’t part of our society.

              Like the commenter at the meeting who said the “gay agenda” is dangerous. In what way did she mean? Is her straight kid going to ask for a knobber from the quarterback of the football team now?

              What is the danger of NOT allowing people to bully gays? Does anybody have an answer?

              1. Tom says:

                @ Jackactionhero

                I love how social conservatives at this meeting call it a gay agenda lol. The social conservatives parents want their kids to free reign and bully and say whatever they want to students who is gay because in their minds gay people are not normal. There is something that social conservatives parents should know there is no such thing as being normal.

                And since their child is not being bullied they think the issue is being over blown, but if their kids were the ones who were being bulllied they demand the school board take action.

            2. DougT says:

              Actually, the new policy is not all bad. But a government school should not be Promoting an alternative lifestyle or lefty defined correctness… They should stay out of it.

              A safe environment for learning is the job. Lord knows they have a hard enough time teaching Reading and Writing. All else is not their business….

              1. jackactionhero says:

                Where is anybody promoting any lifestyle at all?

                So is it safe to say you think bullying gays in high schools should be protected?

                1. DougT says:

                  And who is promoting “bullying” ??

                  Geesh – go against the Liberal Truths and you dont meet much of the sacred tolerance or diversity…..

                  No – Schools should work to provide a safe environment for all – any shape, size, self described life style etc… But it ends there. If we must have government controlled, taxpayer extorted education centers – then teach – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – and leave the rest to the parents


                2. jackactionhero says:

                  Barb Anderson of Champlin. She said if we don’t condone the bullying of gays that it creates an unsafe environment for all students.

                  Do you agree?

  3. chinwhiskers says:

    I looked all over for the same thing — where is the replacement policy? As far as censoring & slanting the news — it’s been going on for a long time. Or as Dan R. called it, “Shaping the news.”

  4. james2 says:

    ‎”We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.” – Ronald Reagan

  5. mel says:

    I don’t understand. What is the difference between the former and new policies?

  6. RIII says:

    We needed the new policy beacause the union teachers are too stupid to think for themselfs.

    1. Tom says:

      @ RIII

      Unions are not the problem here. Teachers have to follow school policy and the school policy is what got them into this mess to begin with. And the other part of the problem are parents who are social conservatives, and parents who believe that the bullying issue is over blown when it is not their kid being bullied. And social conservative cant think for themselves either, they do as they are told by the person at the pulpit!

  7. Score One for Humanity says:

    TOLERANCE WINS – live with it bigots!

    The haters are running amok. It is laughably clear that their hate short-circuits any blood-flow to the brain…stopping any rational thought, if there ever was any there to begin with.

    Really, Rlll? Who is the stupid one? It is you who could not even SPELL an elementary school-level word “themselves” *facepalm*

    1. Sue says:

      Wow! So how is that H A T E working for you? Looks like you are doing the same thing

      1. Kevin says:

        LIberals are funny little sackless wonders. They preach peace and love and equality…..and anti bullying…then spew their hatred… fat people in Zombieland….they will be the first to go…..

        1. Tom says:

          @ Kevin

          Actually Liberals dont spew hatred that is the Social Conservatives job! Yes Liberals preach peace, love, and equality and antibullying, which is good thing. All of which social conservatives lack!

      2. jackactionhero says:

        What hate, Sue?

        Is being gay wrong, Sue? And if so, shouldn’t there be a penalty for it? What should be done with gays, Sue?

        1. Kevin says:

          I hate gays…thats a federal hate crime…..unless both chicks are hot….then its ok….

        2. Tom says:

          @ Jackactionhero

          It is difficult to talk common sense with people like Sue and Kevin when they live in a bubble that is far from reality!

  8. mel says:

    So no one can explain to me the difference?

    1. Bill Janklow's Ghost says:

      Teachers can now talk about f*gs in class. Because that will stop all the bullying. They can now give their own views on f*gs, becasue that will stop all the bullying. They can now discuss little Jimmies need to toss Billy’s salad, becasue that will stop the bullying.

      1. jackactionhero says:

        Umm nope, that is false. Didn’t you even bother to read the article?

  9. why bully the gays says:

    I don’t get this gay bullying stuff. I mean don’t the HS students ever watch Bravo? Moat males on Bravo are gay and they seem to all be doing just fine. We had one obvious gay in HS over 20 years ago and he was closeted but nobody bothered him ever and that was a total redneck school. I’d think the gay kids would have been accepted by now.

    1. DougT says:

      Ya, what about all the guys on “Glee” — their school is a happy fun place with singing and dancing!

  10. Grynch says:

    How on earth is this supposed to stop kids from bullying other kids and why didn’t the parents get to vote on it?

  11. what is the agenda says:

    What pray tell, is the “gay agenda” that this person so greatly fears? Tolerance? Equal treatment? Most likely it is gay marriage, which social conservatives equate with the apocalypse. One of the missions of our schools is to addressed these “closed areas” of our society to promote tolerance and to learn from painful events that we would otherwise choose to forget. Whether it be our past fascination with eugenics or continued denial of our species complex sexuality, a position of neutrality is cowardice.

    1. tolerance does not equal acceptance says:

      Why is gay marriage so important to the “gay agenda?” What are the benefits of a gay marriage over that of a gay union? Equal treatment? Can two women procreate? Can two men procreate? While there are some species that contain both male and female parts and can reproduce, our species no matter how complex you want to make our species’ sexualtiy, can not. So in terms of sexuality, male and female are not created equal, so this is not about “equal treatment.” This also has nothing to do with “tolerance.” I can “tolerate” a great many things, but “tolerance” doesn’t require my beliefs to change. Get over labeling other people fearful just because you’re mad gay marriage is not allowed. Be glad you can fight for what you want, but others who disagree can also fight for what they want. Just remember, that even if gay marriage is allowed due to a majority vote, the gay lifestyle will not be accepted by many because you can’t and never will change one’s beliefs.

      1. Kate says:

        Why? Because “separate but equal” isn’t equal, only separate. The definition of “marriage” has changed many times, and in many societies – including Christian ones – marriage has at times included the union of two people of the same sex (in many of the more ascetic periods in Christian history, marriage itself was seen as a compromise with “sinful” nature, so marrying two people of the same sex was no more sinful than marrying two people of the opposite sex).

        As far as not being able to change one’s beliefs… you’d be surprised. People change their beliefs all the time.

      2. jackactionhero says:

        You don’t have to accept it. But you can’t create Constitutional Amendments and enact laws saying it’s wrong just because YOU can’t accept it.

        Procreation is irrelevant and not part of the discussion in any way.

        What would motivate you to “fight against it”? What would happen to you if you didn’t fight against it?

        1. tolerance does not equal acceptance says:

          @Kate and jackactionhero

          Why is gay marriage so important to the “gay agenda?” What are the benefits of a gay marriage over that of a gay union? Why didn’t you answer my questions?

          Procration is very much relevant because it’s what makes the union between a man and a woman unique to all other unions.

          I am motivated to fight against gay marriage because I don’t believe we need it as a society. What would happen to me if I didn’t fight against it? Nothing. What would happen to you if gay marriage doesn’t pass and isn’t allowed?

          Just because marriage has changed many times in other societies doesn’t mean we should adopt it here in America. Marriage was not seen as a compromise with “sinful” nature…divorce however was allowed because of sinful nature.

          You don’t have to accept it. But you can’t create Constitutional Amendments and enact laws saying it’s wrong just because YOU can’t accept it. Oh yes you can. What, only you can set laws and create Constitutional Amendments saying it’s allowed? Society has the right to set the laws by which the people of the society are to live by. So go ahead and fight for gay marriage but get over it that there are people who will fight against it.

  12. DougT says:

    “One of the missions of our schools is to addressed these “closed areas” of our society to promote tolerance…”

    What does that mean? And since when? Again – how about reading, writing and arithmetic? When they can do that we can talk of other “missions”


    “Whether it be our past fascination with eugenics…” –

    When you say “ours” – you mean the progressives – right – because that was their program to remove the “undesirables”



  13. AtrusChristian says:

    Since we all know God hates the gays, God also hates the checkered whiptail lizard. Here’s the undeniable proof! All Christians should read and heed. THY WILL BE DONE!!!

  14. Poetry says:

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