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Parents group petition defends Anoka-Hennepin's anti-gay policy

Laurie Thompson has 1,051 friends.
Laurie Thompson has 1,051 friends.

The Parents Action League, the influential group that has been on the knife's edge of Anoka-Hennpin's "neutrality" policy on homosexuality, stormed back into the spotlight at last night's school board meeting.

The policy has gotten the Anoka-Hennepin School District sued twice now, with the families of six students filing lawsuits through either the Southern Poverty Law Center of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It's also brought the district under investigation from the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Education.

But forget about all that. PAL has signatures!

Introducing a petition at the school board meeting with 1,052 signatures, PAL representative Laurie Thompson described the neutrality policy as "an excellent policy," before envisioning some sort of gay communism taking root.

"Academic instruction is sacrificed when indoctrination of specific viewpoints come into the classroom," Thompson said.

Thompson said schools should focus on things like math and literature, and leave all other subjects to parents' discretion.

Thompson's petition had 1,052 signatures, either hard copy or digital. That comes in far lower than the 12,000-strong petition presented earlier, which calls for the policy's repeal, though Thompson pointed out that few of those signers actually live inside the district.

Thompson harked back to the creation of the neutrality policy in 2009. She said she was there, and watched three people who spoke in favor of the policy's passing. Thompson pointed out that one of those three was Phil Duran, legal director of Outfront Minnesota.

"Isn't it ironic," Thompson wondered, "that two and a half years ago, gay advocates encouraged the board to pass this policy, and now they're filing lawsuits to get the policy repealed?"

No, Laurie, it isn't ironic. Thank God you're not volunteering to teach kids about grammar.

Reached by phone, Phil Duran told City Pages that Thompson's right, and he was in fact there to support the neutrality policy. But Duran pointed out a couple things that put the lie to Thompson's testimony.

Duran says he wrote parts of the school district's current policy, including several sentences that have been held up with pride by board members and Superintendent Dennis Carlson in recent weeks. But he had nothing to do with the "neutrality"  sentence, which 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.

Duran says Outfront Minnesota was never on board with that sentence, the key line that makes Anoka-Hennepin an outlier among Minnesota districts -- and puts it more in line with school policies in several southern states.

Duran said he communicated his concern about that line to school board member Scott Wenzel and the district's general counsel in 2009, but was ignored. Outfront still supported enacting the policy in 2009, Duran said, because the 1995 policy it was replacing was "deeply, deeply problematic."

But he says he knew where this was headed before the policy was passed.

"When the district put together the neutrality language, we told them two and a half years ago, that's going to be a problem," Duran said. "We told them two and a half years ago, you're going to get sued. Now they are getting sued, just like we told them they were going to get sued."

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