Anoka-Hennepin school board says 'no' to ex-gay therapy
"No." It's a word the Parents Action League hasn't heard much in its 18-year history with the Anoka-Hennepin school district.
But times have definitely changed since members of PAL -- a conservative Christian parents group -- helped draft a 1995 curriculum policy that said homosexuality should not be acknowledged by teachers as a "valid, normal lifestyle."
Board Chair Tom Heidemann responded point by point to a resolution that PAL read to the board back in January, explaining -- in one section -- why the district won't be referring kids to ex-gay therapy.
PAL submitted its resolution at a board meeting with a list of demands. Some of the items included:
- Provide professional development opportunities in which philosophical, pedagogical, and political assumptions of GLBT advocacy are critically examined
- Provide webinars/seminars for all staff on overcoming sexual disorders
Heidemann wrote back to PAL member Bryan Lindquist essentially denying each of the requests. PAL asked that Anoka-Hennepin establish support services for "students of faith, moral conviction, ex-homosexuals, and ex-transgenders," and Heidemann writes this would cause an "entanglement of Church and State." To the demand that district staff be trained by and students referred to ex-gay therapy resources, Heidemann provides a list of mental health resources, conspicuously missing any of the organizations PAL recommends. PAL also wanted the district to teach "the history of gay-related immune deficiency . . . and the consequences of homosexual acts." Heidemann responds that sex ed "is considered abstinence-based. It does not focus on specific sex acts, with the exception of oral sex."
Perhaps most importantly, to the PAL request that refers to homosexuality as a "sexual disorder," Heidemann wrote:
As a public school district, we accept all students and we do not consider them to have a disorder if they identify as gay or support their gay friends.
Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Sam Wolfe says the rejection of PAL's resolution had nothing directly to do with the settlement the district reached with six bullied students earlier this month. However, he said that agreeing to PAL's requests probably would violate the settlement agreement that was reached.
"Although the consent decree says nothing about PAL, accepting all of PAL's demands would result in further hostility to LGBT and gender non-conforming students," said Wolfe in an email. "PAL's demands, particularly the ones seeking to foist ex-gay materials on the student body, are at fundamental odds with the consent decree."
It'll be interesting to see if PAL follows through on any of the legalese they threw into the resolution, saying the district could be liable "if it is proved that homosexual activist organizations were granted access to students under your responsibility." Stay tuned.
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