Skip to Content

National reaction to Anoka-Hennepin gay policy change

Rolling Stone, and Sabrina Rubin Erdely the writer who wrote the provocative profile of the Anoka-Hennepin school district’s intertwining of anti-gay politics and teen suicides, covers the decision to step away from its previous “neutrality” policy: “In a 5-1 vote on Monday night, the district's school board repealed its Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, which required teachers to be ‘neutral’ on homosexuality. Teachers throughout the district had been so confused about how to enforce the policy that they’d avoided any mention of homosexuality, even when it meant ignoring anti-gay bullying; the result was a toxic environment in which LGBT students were marginalized, demoralized, and subjected to unchecked torment. … The new approach dictates that when ‘contentious’ issues arise in class, teachers should make sure to uphold the dignity of all students – regardless of status, including sexual orientation – but also refrain from persuading students to adopt any particular viewpoint. It’s a more gay-friendly policy than ‘neutrality,’ but still distressingly vague, with its odd demand for balanced discussion no matter the topic, which makes Tammy Aaberg, mother of gay suicide victim Justin Aaberg, nervous. ‘I’m so happy that the [neutrality policy] has been taken away, but can’t feel excited about the new policy until I see some real change,’ says Aaberg, who avoided Monday’s board meeting, saying she couldn’t bring herself to listen to [the Parent Action League’s] ‘hate speech.’ "

Judy Molland, at Care2, a gay advocacy website, writes: “The district, Minnesota’s largest, whose schools mostly fall in Rep. Michele Bachmann’s congressional district, has been at the center of a raging controversy, and under investigation by the federal Department of Education’s office for civil rights since 2010. The so-called ‘neutrality’ policy was created in 2009, and meant that teachers had to remain neutral if issues of sexual identity came up in class. It had its roots in a 1995 program colloquially called ‘no promo homo,’ which was created by conservative Christian parents with ties to the Minnesota Family Council. This policy plainly stated: [H]omosexuality [will] not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle and that the district staff and their resources not advocate the homosexual lifestyle. … Apparently the Parents Action League is waiting for the district to respond before deciding whether to sue. So the story may not be over yet but, meanwhile, thank you to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board for making this decision.”

At the snarky Jezebel website, Anna North takes this view: “Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district has become infamous for its policy of ‘neutrality’ regarding LGBT issues — teachers aren't supposed to tell students that gay people deserve equal rights, or that they're not. After two lawsuits and a cluster of student suicides, the district has finally changed the policy. But the new one isn't that much better. … basically, teachers are supposed to uphold everybody's ‘dignity and self-worth,’ but when debates come up about whether or not being gay is an abomination and gay relationships should be discouraged for the protection of society, they're still not supposed to take a position. It'll be interesting to see that in action. One student who led a petition against the old policy is skeptical. Also, homophobic parents remain un-mollified. Says one, Barb Anderson, ‘We are at a crossroads. You either cave in to the demands of the homosexual activists, an action that will make our schools unsafe for all kids, or you stand firm and protect the children.’ The kindest word I can think of for someone who can say this after nine student suicides in two years is: delusional. And the fact that folks like Barb exist in the district pretty much ensures that gay students won't be truly safe for a long time to come.”

 I wonder how the previous guy would have handled this? The St. Cloud Times story on the state GOP’s caucus brochure flap says: “The spokesman for the Minnesota Senate’s Republicans said today he made a mistake by including a link to a campaign website on taxpayer-funded brochures distributed at last week’s precinct caucuses by Republican senators, including two from the St. Cloud area. Communications director Steve Sviggum said he stands by the content of the materials, but acknowledged it was wrong for them to refer people to a donation website. His comments came after the Minnesota DFL announced it intended to file a complaint alleging Senate Republicans violated state campaign law. Sens. Michelle Fischbach of Paynesville and John Pederson of St. Cloud were among 14 GOP senators who distributed brochures containing the campaign link, Sviggum told the Times. The brochures were distributed at GOP caucuses and touted Republican lawmakers for fighting DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget. Sviggum, a former House speaker, said the Senate GOP campaign committee will reimburse the state $47 for printing costs.” Plus interest!

Really? $25,000 worth of Tide detergent? WCCO-TV has the story of the guy with some serious laundry issues: “A 53-year-old South St. Paul man has been charged with theft, after police say he stole thousands of dollars worth of detergent from a retailer. According to the criminal complaint, Patrick Paul Costanzo was spotted on surveillance video pushing carts full of detergent out of a store without paying for it. Police met with a loss prevention employee at the store in West St. Paul who said the inventory audit showed an abnormal loss of Tide laundry detergent. According to loss prevention, the total thefts documented on video surveillance [were] estimated at approximately $6,000. They also told police that over the past 15 months, inventory reports showed a loss of $25,000 in missing laundry detergent.”

Like the swallows to Capistrano … Don Davis at the Forum papers reports: “A Minnesota Republican tax priority is lowering and eventually eliminating a statewide property tax on businesses, but Democrats say they are funding the tax cut with money from poor, disabled and elderly renters. A bill the House Taxes Committee debated Tuesday produced widely varied reactions, punctuated by businesses saying it is good policy to cut their taxes. Tom Hesse of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce said the state’s business property tax ranks among the country’s highest. ‘We look at this as a competitive issue,’ said Jill Larson of the Minnesota Business Partnership, adding that high taxes drive business to other states.” I tell ya, they’re clogging the rest area outside of Sioux Falls.

If it’s Wednesday, the Vikings are technically free to leave. At the PiPress, Doug Belden writes: “The Minnesota Vikings cemented their intent to remain in Minnesota Tuesday, announcing they will not file a league-required ‘intent to relocate’ by today's deadline. It was pretty clear already that the Vikings wouldn't be moving this coming season. The NFL all but ruled out Los Angeles as a possible home next year and team owners repeatedly assured fans they felt progress was being made for a new Minnesota stadium. … The National Football League requires any team intending to relocate in a given year to give notice by Feb. 15 of that year. ‘We're not going to do that,’ Bagley said Tuesday. ‘We feel we're making good progress toward a solution.’ The NFL had already said there won't be a team in Los Angeles in 2012, which largely put the question of the Vikings relocating to rest for this year. But the date was still a marker in the ongoing stadium saga.”

I don’t see how any Minnesotan can report this story with a straight face. The AP says: “The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make critical changes to home-brew guidelines in a state known for appreciating beer. Current state law prohibits home brewers from transporting any beer or wine they make at home. The bill passed on a 32-1 vote would change that and allow them to make beer or wine outside their homes. It now moves to the Assembly. The bill would also exempt home brewers from permit requirements and taxes as long as they don't make more than 100 gallons for one person in a household or 200 gallons for two people in a household. As with current law, home brewers cannot sell any beverage they make.” I ask you, what Wisconsin couple can survive on a mere 200 gallons of beer a year?

 Speaking of … the latest Scott Walker-related drama is reported by Patrick Marley at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “The head of a state agency late last year gave a political appointment -- and a nearly $27,000 annual raise -- to the wife of a Republican Party official without considering any other applicants, state records show. In December, Angela Herl took over a state division with 40 employees that processes credentials for dozens of professions such as doctors, even though she had no direct experience in that area. Herl had not previously managed any staff during her 20 years working for the state as a payroll and benefits specialist. With the new job, Herl received a 49% pay boost, raising her annual salary from $54,378 to $81,265. Herl is married to Mike Herl, chairman of the Dane County Republican Party, and she landed her new job less than a year after GOP Gov. Scott Walker faced an uproar over the hiring of a campaign donor's son with few qualifications.” Come on. Give the guy a break. He’s obviously creating jobs, one friend at a time.

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

About the Author:

Comments (19)

Glean

“Sviggum, a former House speaker, said the Senate GOP campaign committee will reimburse the state $47 for printing costs.” And while he's at it, I hope he'll let us all know where we can get 5,000 copies of *anything* printed for $47.

Exactly

$47 for 5000 copies is a pretty impressive deal...how did they do that? Oh, and I'm sure the time provided by the paid staff to make the brochure in the first place was free.

Don't the facts get in your way!

Just want to clarify one of the many pieces of misinformation being repeated about the Anoka-Hennepin School District: Regarding this statement: "[The policy] had its roots in a 1995 program colloquially called ‘no promo homo,’ which was created by conservative Christian parents with ties to the Minnesota Family Council."

It's almost ancient history, but it has been repeatedly overlooked and omitted by reporters who know better that in 2009 the Anoka-Hennepin School District sought input on the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy (which is non-existent as of 2/13) from OutFront Minnesota. OutFront's opinion on that policy changed, but at the time it was supportive of the district. It's only a small hole in that right-wing conspiracy theory people are propagating, but as always there's more to the story.

That was then

Big Gay's public school agenda has moved ahead by leaps and bounds since '09, Brett. Tolerance begat acceptance which today itself is no longer good enough. Unless you are actively teaching students to embrace homosexuality as a perfectly normal behavior which should be explored, you're going to be a target.

I give huge credit to the parents of Anoka-Hennepin school district that refuse to offer their kids up as pawns, despite the campaign of hatred that is being focused upon them by groups such as OutFront et al.

That was false then, and it's false now

Tom S. wrote: "Unless you are actively teaching students to embrace homosexuality as a perfectly normal behavior which should be explored, you're going to be a target."
This is a false statement.
Or, put another way, can Tom S. provide evidence that teachers who never raise the issue or respond to the issue of homosexuality (maybe a math teacher, for example?) have been targeted.

"Unless you are actively

"Unless you are actively teaching students to embrace homosexuality as a perfectly normal behavior which should be explored, you're going to be a target."

While Tom S cannot, perhaps, supply an instance of a teacher thus targeted, I think the school district itself is the entity which demonstrates the truth of his statement.

My point, exactly

I was, of course, speaking broadly...sometimes I forget how adept leftists are at splitting hairs and parsing words.

Since I'm not really sure what you are asking

....how about I provide an example of what I actually said?

"Actively teaching students to embrace homsexuality as a perfectly normal behavior which should be explored"

Here's what Big Gay finds minimally acceptable (keep in mind, this started as "anti-bullying):

"Welcome to Out for Equity"

Out for Equity Goals:

-Organize GLBT Employee Network to plan, advocate, and socialize
-Catalogue and distribute GLBT-related materials.
-Conduct classroom lessons.
-Facilitate student-run Gay Straight Alliances

http://outforequity.spps.org/

The real "good stuff" is kept under the counter. Try ordering an "Out For Equity" intructors manual:
http://outforequity.spps.org/safe_schools_manual.html

Hope that helps!

Not the Words but Their Application

Actually it was not the words of the old policy, but the way they were applied that became problematical.

As applied, the old policy came to be used by conservatives to say that to intervene when one student was attacking (verbally or otherwise) another student perceived to be GLBT on the basis of what they claimed they were being taught at home or at church about how "God hates" such individuals,...

was to VIOLATE that neutrality policy.

I.E. to defend a student being abused in ways claimed to be based on "religious belief" put the teacher at risk of discipline or termination, because they were perceived to be violating the "faith" of the student perpetrating the abuse.

The old policy was being applied, or threats based on that policy were being made to teachers, which said, in effect,...

my child's right to abuse other kids when it's based on my family's and church's "beliefs" trumps those other kids' right to be free from abuse, to be treated with dignity, and to feel safe and respected at school.

When it initially approved of the policy, OutFront Minnesota could not have foreseen how that policy would eventually come to be applied in Anoka-Hennepin.

"As applied, the old policy came to be used by conservatives"

Can you supply one, just one concrete example of this, Greg? A documented instance of just 1 parent complaint along the lines you've just opined would suffice.

Otherwise, I suggest you owe the parents of Anoka-Hennepin an apology, since all good Christians know that bearing false witness is a sin, and I'm confident you wouldn't want that on your conscience.

Wanted: Special interest group

According to a research report published in the May 3 issue of Pediatrics.

"Obese children were more likely to be bullied regardless of a number of potential sociodemographic, social, or academic differences.
No protective factors were found.

[O]besity is the main reason kids are being bullied. The child’s race and being members of poorer families were also analyzed as potential contributing factors, along with weak social skills and low academic achievement. The study found that obese 8- to-11-year-old kids were more likely to be bullied than children who weren’t overweight, regardless of sex, race, or other factors."

http://bit.ly/cJDXuj

Too bad these kids don't have adults with an agenda that makes them attractive for propaganda purposes.......

Red Herring

And where do you see anyone here saying that ANY bullying for ANY reason is acceptable?

“The head of a state agency

“The head of a state agency late last year gave a political appointment -- and a nearly $27,000 annual raise -- to the wife of a Republican Party official without considering any other applicants, state records show."

Wouldn't it be keen if we discovered they got the idea from reading a Glean story about Dayton/Anderson?

Everyone Will Turn Gay?

It seems clear to me that the parents and clergy members who are complaining about this new "protect the dignity of all" policy in the Anoka-Hennepin school district are bearing testimony to their own fears about their serious shortcomings as parents and religious leaders.

I can't help but wonder what it is about our "conservative" "Christian" friends in this district,...

what it is that lies buried in their own psyches or their own personal experience that convinces them,...

that if the public schools no longer support their desire (and the right they're trying to claim) for themselves and their children to attack, denigrate, damage and even destroy the gay and lesbian kids among their children's classmates while AT SCHOOL,...

all the kids in the district will suddenly "choose" to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?

Do they really believe, as they seem to, that if the abuse of GLBT kids at school were to cease, the percentage of GLBT students in the Anoka-Hennepin Distirct would skyrocket from 10% to 90%,...

and that their own children are so psychologically weak and so lacking in adherence to their "faith" that they would allow themselves to be peer-pressured into becoming GLBT?

The fact is that the constitution guarantees the right for these parents to teach their progeny whatever they want within their own homes and churches,...

but the schools and their staffs are completely prohibited from supporting, teaching and reinforcing those same religiously-based perspectives in the classrooms, hallways, playgrounds, athletic facilities, art facilities and every location or activity sanctioned by and supported by the school system.

It is a testament to how weak and insecure these parents and religious leaders feel, at the deepest levels of their own psyches, about the adequacy, veracity, and "faithfulness" of their own points of view that they believe their children will desert the faith and beliefs in which they are seeking to raise them if the schools insist that that faith, specifically where it encourages disrespectful comments directed at students who adhere to forms of Christianity with a different perspective, to different faiths, or to no "faith" at all, not be openly expressed at school.

copy costs

Ray makes a good point. I work that out to .009 cents per copy. Obviously this taxpayer subsidized which is kinda funny in own right, and explains why it's sooooo inappropriate to use this service for partisan projects.

Cheap, but not that cheap

It actually works out to just under a cent per copy. Considering that the cheapest paper you can get is about half a cent per page, and the most ink-efficient printer can print black and white text for about 1.7 cents per page (6 cents for black and white graphics, and 13 cents for color--figured for the cheapest ink cost), I'd say they got a steal. A STEAL! I mean, a minimum 2.2 cent copy for under 1 cent? Wow! And, if you or I went to any government entity in MN and asked to have something printed out, we'd likely have to pay 25 cents (50 cents if double sided). If we're lucky, we'll be charged the ACTUAL cost of printing, which can include cost of staff time, materials (paper, ink, staples, etc.), among other costs.

In other words, they're underestimating the cost of printing their advertisement sheet by 100% (at least). Yes, it may still be petty cash, but it's a lie nonetheless. If they can't accurately figure out what they ACTUALLY spent taxpayer money for this little print job, why in the world should we trust them on the entire budget?!?

Those gays...

If at some future date all citizens were treated equally by the state of Minnesota would that be a good thing or a bad thing? I'm asking you, Tom.

The future is now

All citizens are accorded the same, exact rights today Bill. What you're really asking is "Wouldn't it be nice if people would toss aside everything we know about science, human biology and common sense in order to accomodate the desires of a group of people who enjoy participating in a particluar sexual behavior"

No Bill, not so much.

Reply to Mr. Swift

Your assertions are not based on science or common sense. They are based on your religious beliefs and moral preferences; they are subjectively-derived. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous, as the biological understanding of homosexuality is not fully understand by science, and may never be.

And guess what? It doesn’t matter whether we straight people (are you straight, Mr. Swift?) understand “why?,” because citizens of the United States of America (and Minnesota) are all to be treated equally under the law. We have been collectively working toward this fundamental vision since our establishment. And we are still a democracy, not a theocracy. So, if by "accomodate," you mean "treat equally under the law" - yes, Mr. Swift, that is the expectation.

Mr. Swift, if you find gay sex to be immoral, simply refrain from it. And if you and your ilk would learn to kindly keep your noses out of other people’s bedrooms, and your religion out of our public classrooms, yes, that also would be nice. Indeed.