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National reaction to Anoka-Hennepin gay policy change

Sviggum apologizes for brochures; a “flood” of Tide detergent; business taxes; Vikes say they’re staying; and more.

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to step away from its previous “neutrality” policy: “In a 5-1 vote on Monday night, the district’s school board repealed its Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, which required teachers to be ‘neutral’ on homosexuality.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!

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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.