Justin's Gift, LBGTQ youth group, shut out of Anoka's Halloween parade

"We foolishly assumed that given we were an Anoka-based youth organization, we were in," a Justin's Group coordinator said.
"We foolishly assumed that given we were an Anoka-based youth organization, we were in," a Justin's Group coordinator said.

At best, it's an example of horrible public relations on behalf of Anoka Halloween. At worst, it reflects the fact that the more things change in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the more they stay the same.

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Justin's Gift, an LGBTQ youth group founded in the memory of Justin Aaberg, a 15-year-old gay Anoka High School who killed himself after he was bullied in school, has been informed youth from the group won't be allowed to walk in Anoka's annual Halloween parade, ostensibly because "there were too many people already walking in the parade."

Anoka Halloween is the nonprofit that organizes the annual parade in the so-called "Halloween Capital of the World." MinnPost called Anoka Halloween's headquarters in hopes of getting more information about the decision to shut out Justin's Gift, but their calls weren't returned.

Jefferson Fietek, a teacher and one of the adult coordinators of Justin's Gift, told MinnPost the decision "doesn't seem to be very well-thought-out."

"The history of the [Anoka Halloween] organization is showcasing youth organizations; that's confusing to us," he said. "Especially when there's outside groups marching, we got bumped?"

Justin's Gift announced Anoka Halloween's decision on its website and urged youth to instead attend the "Halloween Dance," but at least one parent isn't willing to take Anoka-Hennepin's snub lying down.

Rebecca Krone, a mom and paraprofessional works works with special needs youth in Anoka-Hennepin, created a petition to "Allow the students of Justin's Gift organization to walk in the parade."

To read the petition, which already had about 400 signatures as of late this morning, click to page two.


I am a mom and also a paraprofessional who works with special needs youth in the Anoka-Hennepin Schools. I am starting this petition to urge the Anoka Halloween Parade Committee to change their minds and allow the youth of Justin's Gift (www.justinsgift.org) to walk in the communities' annual Halloween Parade on Saturday, October 27th. Anoka is the city that made national news for its school policies that discriminated against gay youth. Anoka is in the heart of the communities were four suicides occurred of teens that were presumed to be or were identified as gay/lesbian...

Anoka also happens to be the Halloween Capital of the World (www.anokahalloween.com) and each year they host a huge Halloween Parade, which thousands and thousands of people attend. The families of Justin's Gift hoped 2012 would be the FIRST of these youth walks. Justin's Gift was hoping they would be able to walk as an organization but these hopes were lost when they were denied because the parade committee simply said there were already too many groups walking. I guess there just wasn't room for these 30 kids?

Justin's Gift was an organization born out of tragedy. It was created by Tammy Aaberg whose gay son Justin, was continually bullied, and once even sexually assaulted while attending Anoka High. Justin tragically committed suicide. Justin's Gift is an Anoka based organization that provides empowering programs and events for LGBT youth and their ally friends. The youth of the organization chose the theme "Favorite Fairy Tale Characters" and submitted their application on time and were still denied. The decision to deny these youth seems unfair and insensitive considering what they have suffered through over the last number of years in the community. According to the Anoka Halloween website, the parade and festival were founded on the idea of showcasing Anoka youth and community, therefore it seems a rather illogical decision then to bump this Anoka based youth organization over groups not from Anoka and groups notfocused on youth. More information about the festival is available at: http://anokahalloween.com/pages/AnokaHalloweenHistory/

The other issues that cause me to question the validity and fairness of their decision, is that no where on the application form or website does it state that there is a limit to the number of walkers in the parade as a whole nor does it say that the applications are filled on a first come first serve basis. The guidelines only state that there is a max per group and an application deadline - Justin's Gift easily met both these guidelines.

Though this may all seem trivial to an outsider, it meant a lot to these kids to be able to walk as a group and celebrate who they are and that they are part of a positive organization that is working to make every kid feel safe and loved for who they are. Participating in this parade is a way to help this committee start to heal. The Anoka Halloween Parade committee has simply sent the wrong message to LGBT youth and everyone outside of Anoka.

I appreciate greatly you taking the time to listen to my concerns,

Rebecca Krone

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