The Anoka-Hennepin School Board voted on Monday to repeal a long-held policy that prohibits discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the classroom and replaced it with a policy that directs district staff to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students,” including those who are LGBT.
No More “Neutrality” Policy
The district, Minnesota’s largest, whose schools mostly fall in Rep. Michele Bachmann’s congressional district, has been at the center of a raging controversy, and under investigation by the federal Department of Education’s office for civil rights since 2010.
The so-called “neutrality” policy was created in 2009, and meant that teachers had to remain neutral if issues of sexual identity came up in class. It had its roots in a 1995 program colloquially called “no promo homo,” which was created by conservative Christian parents with ties to the Minnesota Family Council.
[H]omosexuality [will] not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle and that the district staff and their resources not advocate the homosexual lifestyle.
New Policy: Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum
On Monday the board replaced this policy, blamed for contributing to a school culture that led to the bullying, and eventually the suicides, of several gay students, with one that promotes “a respectful learning environment in which teachers facilitate student discussions of contentious topics in a balanced and impartial manner,” the school district said.
The new policy, called the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum policy is intended to establish the dignity and self-worth of all students.
From Education Week:
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which sued the district over its old policy last July, applauded the new policy in a statement.
“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 Although we would have preferred for the District to have repealed this stigmatizing policy without replacing it, we are pleased that the new policy expressly requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all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,” it read.
But the new policy faces potential challenges. The Parents Action League, formed in support of the old policy, had asked the school board to provide the same level of support to Christian and “ex-homosexual” students as it does to gay students, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
“I am not as confident as the board that this policy will prevent homosexual propaganda from flooding the classrooms,” the group’s president, Laurie Thompson, said, calling the policy vote “a big disappointment.”
Parents Action League May Sue
Apparently the Parents Action League is waiting for the district to respond before deciding whether to sue. So the story may not be over yet but, meanwhile, thank you to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board for making this decision.
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