The Anoka-Hennepin school district is Minnesota's largest school district. Over the past year, three students in the district who identified as gay or lesbian committed suicide, with evidence that these students experienced anti-gay harassment while in school. The district has put in place a number of policies to address anti-gay bullying, yet the district also has a policy on the books known as the "neutrality" policy regarding sexual orientation. Here's the policy:
"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. If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum."
The school district has indicated that this policy only concerns curriculum, and should by no means effect efforts to deal with anti-gay bullying. But a number of activists have noted that this policy, when put in practice, confuses teachers and could tie their heads when dealing with the subject of sexual orientation.
Moreover, an anti-gay organization in the district known as the Parents Action League (PAL) has endorsed this "neutrality" policy. PAL believes that homosexuality is a disorder and a disease, and that it can be cured through therapy. They've vowed to go after leaders in the district if bolder steps to address anti-gay bullying are put in place.
Given this epidemic of suicide -- indeed, on the Anoka-Hennepin school district's web site, the district says that it is considered a site of "suicide contagion" with higher than normal numbers of suicides and suicide attempts -- now seems like the perfect time to re-evaluate the district's "neutrality" policy.
As Tammy Aaberg, the mother of a 15-year-old student, Justin, who committed suicide earlier this year, said in testimony before the school district:
"For those of you who have never had a gay child, you need to know that it is one of the scariest things to learn, because you know that they will need to deal with a lot of criticism and harassment in their lives, and it makes you worried," Aaberg said. "Unfortunately, I didn't learn of this unfair school sexuality policy until after Justin died ... my question to you is what about my parental rights to have my gay son go to school, without being bullied?"
LGBT issues should not be kept out of curriculum. Please send the Anoka-Hennepin school district a message today.
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