Anoka may change LGBT policy

The Anoka-Hennepin district is reflecting on how it treats sexual orientation.

by Eric Best

In my Dec. 1 column, âÄúAnokaâÄôs cyber bullying problem,âÄù I detailed that the Anoka-Hennepin School District was home to yet another teen suicide, which was its sixth suicide in a matter of months when the article was written.

At the time of the incidents, Anoka-Hennepin had in place a âÄúneutralityâÄù policy âÄî the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy âÄî which removed all language about dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the classroom. The policy, which had little support from either the LGBT community or conservative groups, resulted in numerous complaints, suicides and a lawsuit filed against the school district by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District is now in the process of changing its policy. The school board attempted to pass a âÄúControversial TopicsâÄù policy, which would âÄúban teachers from advocating their personal beliefs on controversial topics in the classroom.âÄù The plan was scrapped relatively quickly by protesters on both sides of the issue.

The newest policy the school board has come up with only has a name so far: the “Respectful Learning Environment” policy. District officials have not released the exact wording, which will come up for discussion at a Jan. 23 board meeting, after press time.

There is a lot at stake in this decision. The school system is considered a âÄúsuicide contagionâÄù area, because of the drastic number suicide cases. The Department of Education and Department of Justice have both run independent investigations of the practices of the school district for discrimination and harassment.

Ultimately, the lives of students and the future of our education system are at stake. The Anoka-Hennepin School District must change not only its policy on how to treat discrimination concerns, but its attitude of ignoring problems because theyâÄôre controversial. Regardless of the boardâÄôs decision, the Anoka-Hennepin school system must make a commitment to the well-being of each of its students.