The Big Story Blog

Other voices on Anoka-Hennepin orientation policy

Posted at 11:49 AM on December 8, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Education

The Star Tribune and Associated Press wrote stories detailing the proposed policy changes to the Anoka-Hennepin schools sexual orientation policy in the face of lawsuits.

Excerpts from the Star Tribune story:

The plaintiffs in the suit said that they were persistently bullied and harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and that the district did not adequately protect them. The Neutrality Policy, they said, worked as a gag order that left staff members unsure how or whether to respond when they saw students being victimized because of their sexual orientations.

Critics also charged that their inability to discuss gay history, for example, created the sense that the topic was taboo, which worked against the goals of creating an environment of tolerance and inclusion. The new policy still has a clause requiring teachers to stick to "Board-adopted curriculum." In the past, staff members had doubted whether their attempts to include issues of sexual orientation in lessons on history and literature, for example would have been accepted as amendments to district-approved curriculum.

Though training this year attempted to clarified the Neutrality Policy to require the staff end of discussions to be "fact-based, age-appropriate and relevant to the class," staff members continued to say that the policy is confusing and that the behavior intervention they feel they need to do rarely happens in a way that is related to the curriculum.

The Associated Press writes:

Some current and former students are suing the district over its policy requiring staff to remain neutral when sexual orientation is discussed. The plaintiffs claim that prevents teachers from protecting gay students. The neutrality policy came under criticism after six students committed suicide in the district in less than two years.

District spokesman Brett Johnson said Wednesday the proposed change is meant to give teachers more clarification and is not in response to the lawsuit.

Johnson said the proposal is broader than current policy. A policy on keeping neutral on religious matters also would be eliminated and covered by the new policy.

"This is saying, don't bring your personal beliefs into it (controversial topics)," Johnson told The Associated Press. "It's not saying you can't talk about them."


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.