Jefferson Fietek, Anoka-Hennepin teacher and gay rights advocate, is running for state senate

Jefferson Fietek is making the leap into politics.
Jefferson Fietek is making the leap into politics.

Jefferson Fietek has made a name for himself as the most outspoken teacher in the Anoka-Hennepin school district's "neutrality policy" debate -- now he's parlaying that notoriety into a run for state senate.

"I definitely think this work that I've done locally -- and transitioned into nationally -- will hopefully be good training for me," says Fietek, who is a drama instructor and Gay Straight Alliance club leader in the now-infamous school district.

After Anoka-Hennepin was declared a "suicide contagion" zone following nine student suicides in the two years, Fietek became a vocal opponent of the district's "Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy" or "no homo promo." The policy states "Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation."

Fietek -- who was an adviser to one of the student who died, Samantha Johnson -- said he felt the school district created an unhealthy environment for kids like Samantha and that gay students were coming to him with suicidal thoughts everyday. He also works closely with Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, who committed suicide in 2010.

His outspokenness got him quoted in articles on the policy (and the subsequent lawsuit against the district by the Southern Poverty Law Center) in Mother Jones and The New York Times.

The policy is currently on a rocky road to being phased out.

He'll be challenging incumbent Republican Michelle Benson for the District 49 seat, who is a supporter of the marriage amendment. Fietek says he'll emphasize local solutions to poverty in his district, and says that Benson was an absentee leader during the suicide contagion issue.

"I haven't really met people in the community other than in Ham Lake where she resides who know who she is," says Fietek. "I think that's concerning particularly, again, when we have such a magnifying glass on our community."

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