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Feds see Anoka-Hennepin plan as national model

The feds are happy with the settlements in the Anoka-Hennepin gay/bullying episode. Says the AP: “A settlement with Minnesota’s largest school district over the harassment and bullying of students who are gay, or perceived to be gay, should serve as a model for other schools in the U.S., federal officials said Tuesday. The Anoka-Hennepin School Board agreed Monday night to strengthen the district’s efforts to prevent sex-based harassment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker told reporters during a conference call Tuesday that several provisions that are part of the settlement shouldn’t cost much for other school districts to adapt, such as conducting anti-bullying surveys; creating a committee of students, parents and teachers to discuss what’s working and what’s not; identifying ‘hot spots’ on school grounds and on buses that need better supervision; and peer leadership training. Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division at the U.S. Justice Department, said districts can seek federal dollars and free training and technical help from the Department of Education.”


A phone survey here in the state shows that a significant number of people regaining employment after the worst of the recession are not getting health insurance with it. Says Lorna Benson at MPR: “Minnesota's uninsured rate in 2011 remained essentially unchanged at 9.1 percent, despite improvements in the state's job picture. ‘Whatever recovery has occurred in the labor market has not come with jobs that provide employer coverage,’ said Stefan Gildemeister, the state health economist. ‘Or, if new jobs with employer coverage were added to the economy, we may have lost employer coverage elsewhere.’ The number of employers who offer health coverage has remained essentially the same. But Gildemeister said fewer people were eligible for coverage and fewer employees decided to opt-in to employer-sponsored plans — possibly due to stagnant or reduced wages.”

An item worth watching on the radar … Don Davis of the Forum papers reports: “Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the House Education Finance Committee Tuesday that his department manages 3 million other acres and a proposal to establish a new agency for so-called school trust lands would just make for a larger government. “When I look at this bill, I see more expenses,” he said. Supporters of the bill complain that the DNR has done a poor job of using the land to make money over the years. Money from sale, mineral leases, timber sales and other uses of the 2.5 million acres is split among all Minnesota public schools. Rep. Denise Dittrich, DFL-Champlin, said that Minnesota schools have lost $400 million in the last 50 years because the lands were not well managed. … Dittrich and other supporters of the change said the DNR has a conflict of interest because it is charged with the job of improving natural resources. They say that a new school land trust fund agency would have a priority of raising money.”

The driver in the Dinkytown hit-and-run case was found guilty of second-degree murder. Dave Hanners’ PiPress story says: “[Timothy] Bakdash, 29, of Roseville was convicted on nine counts in the April 15 Dinkytown hit-and-run that resulted in Ben Van Handel's death. The most serious count he was convicted of was second-degree murder. By finding that his acts lacked premeditation, though, the jury of six men and six women acquitted Bakdash of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder, the severest charges he faced. A first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence without hope of release.  ... Bakdash, who has a history of substance abuse and treatment dating to age 11, had testified that he and a friend spent the evening getting drunk at the Library Bar, a Dinkytown nightspot.”

A combo of the AP and the Strib’s Mike Kaszuba try to explain the balancing act between a Vikings stadium and the Target Center: “The Minnesota Vikings stadium bill that was promised for Monday is being delayed in part by a politically tricky move to find a way to include financial relief for the Minneapolis-owned Target Center. Negotiators are looking at a package of two legislative proposals — both of which would need to be adopted — in order to gain the votes needed for the $975 million project. Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's point man on the stadium, said on Tuesday that one plan would adopt the details of last week's agreement but would give Minneapolis express authority to use existing taxes to overhaul Target Center. The other proposal would give the city an exemption from its charter provision capping spending on sports facilities at $10 million. That exemption would allow the city to actually undertake a $135 million remodeling of the aging Target Center. Chuck Lutz, the city's top development director, said Minneapolis needs both provisions before it would agree to divert $150 million of existing taxes toward building a new stadium.”

A professed Democrat writes a commentary for the Strib arguing against teacher seniority. Says Lynnell Mickelsen, a Minneapolis public school parent and co-founder of Put Kids First Minneapolis: “Our small meeting started off with the governor's deputy chief of staff, Michelle Kelm Helgen, saying that [Last In First Out] LIFO is not a problem because — listen up, people, great news — ineffective teachers in Minnesota are routinely removed from the classroom within two or three months. So by the time layoffs are announced in April, she went on, there aren't many ineffective teachers left. They've already been removed. Which is why our seniority rules work just fine. As God is my witness, she actually said this. I started to reply that this rosy scenario had not been my experience in Minneapolis. But the governor cut me off, saying that Minneapolis schools were not relevant to this discussion because the district was an abomination, a sea of dysfunction; its school board couldn't even negotiate a decent contract; it was not like the rest of the state. It was an abomination, he repeated. Which I thought was a bit too biblical. Yes, we have problems, but I didn't think we were at Book of Revelation levels. As I type this, I'm thinking the governor may have meant ‘aberration.’ " I’ll expect that to be clarified rather quickly ...

The Strib’s Susan Feyder adds some local dimension to the tale of Rush Limbaugh and his advertiser exodus: “The companies parting ways with Rush Limbaugh over the radio host's latest controversial remarks are following a well-established script for crisis management: Make a brief statement and move on. ‘You don't have to overelaborate,’ said Matt Kucharski, an executive vice president with the Minneapolis public relations firm Padilla Speer Beardsley. Kucharski said he's not surprised by the terse explanations issued by most companies announcing they have pulled their advertising from Limbaugh's show. That includes Plymouth-based Select Comfort Corp., which Friday was among the first to say it was dropping its advertising after Limbaugh said on his show that a Georgetown law student was ‘a slut’ because she advocated female contraception. … Kucharski said companies are aware of the risks of sponsoring shows with hosts like Limbaugh and Stern. ‘Companies have to make the decision to go after a particular demographic, and that can mean advertising on a popular but edgier show. Otherwise they'd all be advertising on programs that are so generic that they don't offend anybody but also don't interest anybody. Advertising on 'Little House on the Prairie' is not going to reach your key demographic,’ Kucharski said.” And what does local radio management have to say about Limbaugh’s performance?

Weather just got older. The Strib’s Bill McAuliffe writes: “A national effort to make local weather records more consistent dropped the Twin Cities' all-time low temperature by 7 degrees, from 34 below, in 1936, to 41 below, set in 1888. That's cold enough to freeze mercury. 'As if it weren't bad enough before,' said Keith Eggleston, a climatologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center in Ithaca, N.Y., and coordinator of the ThreadEx data project that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched several years ago. The lower low is a result of the project extending Twin Cities official records 20 years further back, from 1891 to 1871. ThreadEx isn't so much about bragging rights as it is about making weather records from around the nation more uniform, Eggleston said.”

You know you’re getting old when something a 19-year-old says matters all that much to the chattering classes. Andrea Swensson of The Current explains the flap over Howler: “Howler's Jordan Gatesmith decided to throw whatever goodwill he's accrued in his hometown out the window during a recent interview with the Guardian's Alexis Petridis. It was a puzzling display, to say the least, and I don't have much interest in editorializing Gatesmith's remarks; I thought it'd be best to let him speak for himself. The interview begins with Petridis asking Gatesmith if there is a strong music scene in Minneapolis. ‘I'm so mixed about this. I feel bad like back-talking my city or whatever,’ Gatesmith replies. ‘Feel free — they can't hear you, man,’ Petridis prods, laughing. ‘I mean, they might.’ ‘Screw 'em,’ Gatesmith scoffs. ‘Yeah, it's weird, because you know the '80s saw a great hardcore and punk rock scene, Hüsker Dü kind of being the leaders of it, and the Replacements as well. And Prince was there, which was a whole different thing all together. Completely different. But yeah, I feel like there's this giant lull period of like 30 years. We had Tapes 'n Tapes kind of come out for a little bit, so that was kind of interesting, but the scene right now is interesting. It really supports its own bands, like they'll build up these bands no offense, Minneapolis that I will hate. I will completely hate. But they'll like sell out the biggest room in Minneapolis." Like, man, chill. The Plasmatics sold out Zoogies.

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Comments (11)

DNR conflicted over trust land management

Yes, indeed. After all, the DNR is charged with managing and maintaining the natural resouces of MN for the benefit of present and future generations in an integrated plan.

But then along comes "...a new school land trust fund agency would have a priority of raising money.”

It's so much easier to sell off an asset than to maintain and preserve it, no? So any fool can generate more money from these lands - no need for expertise in water resources, forest management, wildlife management, concern for public uses nor the legacy of a beautiful environment. Just sell, sell, sell - without regard for what you may be losing, in the short and long run.

It's another application of that wonderful kind of accounting that looks at only one side of a balance sheet - the income side. Ignore all else, because all those other things are not in your job description. Never mind the deferred expenses and future losses you're causing. Never mind the value of the public's access to the use of these natural resources.

It's not a bad idea to manage the resources in such a way as to produce more revenue while preserving and protecting those resources. This is a good idea.

What is a bad idea here is not only creating yet another bureacracy - but to give it a single-pointed mission of selling off Minnesota's natural resources.

If this stupidest of stupid ideas actually goes through, you can kiss some of Minnesota's natural resources and natural beauty goodbye.

DNR land management

Agreed--anyone can spend the bank account and call it prosperity.

North Dakota is a boom state because they are digging up and burning finite natural resources--and creating a mess that will need to be cleaned up later, after the money is gone. Not good governance.

Another ploy

To get politicians' buddies into government in order to further their ideological and business goals. The idea here is to appoint a body of people (who may or may not have a stake in what happens to those lands and their use) who are able to further hire private companies to take over the use/maintenance of the land. This can include development, private law enforcement, mineral rights usage, water usage, forest usage, and the like. The panel would be appointed in part by the governor, in part by the state house, and in part by the state senate. The only reins provided to prevent a further conflict of interest is the following:

The board shall establish policies for the management of the Permanent School Trust Lands Administration. The policies shall:
(1) be consistent with the Minnesota Constitution and state law (note:this is VERY flexible, considering the ease with which amendments to the MN constitution can be introduced and passed);
(2) reflect undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries consistent with fiduciary duties;
(3) require the return of not less than fair market value for the use, sale, or exchange of school trust assets;
(4) seek to optimize trust land revenues and increase the value of trust land holdings consistent with the balancing of short-term and long-term interests, so that long-term benefits are not lost in an effort to maximize short-term gains; and
(5) maintain the integrity of the trust and prevent the misapplication of its lands and its revenues.

However, the board may also enter into "enter into joint ventures to develop trust lands and minerals."

I'm afraid that there are many more conflicts of interest that are introduced by this bill, not the least of which is the inherent nod to giving use, development, and law enforcement over to private individuals/companies.

The full text of the bill can be found here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S1152.0.html&session=ls87

This bill is a real stinker.

For those readers who haven't yet read this bill, follow Ms. Kahler's link given above and take a peek. Its mandate and constraints provide plenty of wiggle room for the new body to roam around in as it sells off resources.

Settlement

I must say, I read Ms. Hawkins previous report on how Anoka became a suicide contagion area here on Minnpost back in Dec and found it to be an excellent article.

http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2011/12/bullying-gay-and-lesbian...

For me the most disturbing the aspect of the whole affair is that apparently some staff in the school district actually interpreted the neutrality poicy to mean that they should ignore abuse they witnessed. In this age of school shootings and suicides it's incomprehensible to me that any adult would assume that a policy actually requires them to ignore bullying and student abuse of any kind for any reason. Granted the policy was a bad policy, and a vague policy, but it didn't negate the requirement that staff maintain a safe environment for the students, nor could it. It's incredible that an intelligent adult in and public school would ignore assault, bullying, and abuse, as a matter of policy. One thing it is to refrain from certain opinions or discussions in the classroom, but how could a policy authorize bullying? Even if a policy did authorize bullying, how that policy possibly be enforced?

The fact that this behavior emerged from this policy not only reveals that the policy was a really bad policy, unfortunately it also reveals the fact that there are some really poor quality staff in the system that interpreted a poorly conceived policy as a license for student bullying.

I can think of a couple scenarios

For those teachers who have a problem with the idea of homosexuality, the neutrality policy gave them an "out" so that they wouldn't have to defend and protect gay students. Kind of like the "I was just following orders" soldier who participated in atrocities. Pushing responsibility upstairs can be so convenient, dontcha' know.

Then there are those teachers who are in mortal fear for their jobs, and who can blame them in this day and age of teacher-bashing? Defying the "gag order" of the neutrality policy could put their employment at risk. And that's not an easy choice. I'd still rather they'd taken the chance and protected the students, but I can also see where a lot of fear was at work here.

Scenarios

Pat, I can see your point, but these teachers have labor union protections, and I can't see successful reprimand proceeding against someone for maintaining student safety. How to do you reprimand someone for NOT allowing bullying? Who's gonna complain, and what's the basis of the complaint gonna be? Hey, my kid has right go bully gay kids the policy says so!

If in fact there were legit concerns about jobs, I agree, it's hard to expect someone to put their job on the line. But I have hard time seeing how that happens when your talking bullying.

Uninformed disrespect

"For me the most disturbing the aspect of the whole affair is that apparently some staff in the school district actually interpreted the neutrality poicy to mean that they should ignore abuse they witnessed."

Paul, you have absolutely no basis in fact to make such an assumption. That is nothing but specious twaddle meant to justify an outcome that you've concluded desperately needs propping up. Further, it is highly disrespectful of a profession I've seen you bemoan lack of respect for from others.

To suggest someone who is responsible for the safety of kids would willfully stand by while they were being harmed, for any reason, while in their presence takes disrespect to a new level.

Disrespect?

I provided a link to the story Mr. Swift, you're free to read it for yourself.

Four Words: Walter Filson, Diane Cleveland

http://kstp.com/news/stories/s1081881.shtml

"The Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigated and found there was enough evidence to show that teachers Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson had subjected the student to jokes and taunts and that the conduct was 'egregious enough to compel the student to withdraw from the situation by transferring to another school.'

The department also found district's own investigation substantiated the student's allegations against Cleveland and Filson."

Thanks James

I hadn't heard or, or seen that report. Both of those teachers should have been terminated, but I noticed that they are still working in the district; I wonder if union rules are the reason.

Since the link he provided does not substantiate his conclusion in a similar fashion, my comment to Paul, however, stands.