Anoka-Hennepin School Board holds contentious reading of revised "neutrality policy"
Last night's Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting was the first time the public was able to react to the language replacing the district's controversial Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy. The so-called "neutrality" policy's most stalwart allies and vehement opponents were all on hand to speak their minds.
Even Janet Boynes, the ex-gay minister with ties to Michele Bachmann, made an appearance.
"Removing the present Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy . . . opens the door for promotion of the homosexual lifestyle in the classroom," she told board members.
The district's policy is the basis of a federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Anoka-Hennepin, claiming that it creates a discriminatory environment for gay students. The key part of the policy reads: "Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions."
District officials insist that redrafting the "no-homo promo" has nothing to do with the lawsuit. However, the replacement policy, renamed the "Controversial Topics Curriculum Policy," does not specifically address sexual orientation and the word "neutral" is nowhere to be found. It reads, in part:
The study of controversial topics shall contribute toward helping students develop techniques for examining controversy, be appropriate to maturity and developmental level of students, be of significance related to course content, and presented in an atmosphere free of bias and prejudice.
Teachers and educational support staff shall not advocate personal beliefs or opinions regarding controversial topics in the course of their professional duties.
Not a single person who spoke during last night's meeting, however, felt the new language is an improvement.
"The first thing that came to my mind was, 'Now we're going from neutral to labeling LGBT youth as controversial,'" said Tammy Aaberg, the mother of a district student who committed suicide in 2010 after being bullied for being gay. "My worry is that this policy will start this whole cycle all over again."
Aaberg and other LGBT advocates want the policy eliminated altogether.
Barb Anderson of the Minnesota Family Council was also in attendance. She echoed the sentiment of other speakers that district chair Tom Heidemann is going back on his promise during board elections to defend the neutrality policy.
Anderson was a district parent who helped write the most harshly worded version of the policy in 1995, which dictated that "homosexuality not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle."
"We will see more homosexual propaganda flooding the classroom," she said ruefully.
The board members will vote on adoption of the new "controversial topics" policy in January, but have not yet specified the exact date.
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