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Petition seeks ouster of anti-gay activist from Anoka-Hennepin task force on bullying

MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
Pressure is mounting school board Chair Tom Heidemann, center, to remove a vocal anti-gay activist from a district anti-bullying task force.

In recent weeks yet another chapter has been opened in the controversy over the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s handling of bullying. A group of parents and students is petitioning school board Chair Tom Heidemann to remove a vocal anti-gay activist from a district anti-bullying task force.

A member of the Parents Action League (PAL), Bryan Lindquist demanded earlier this year that the district distribute information about gay conversion or “reparative” therapy. In September, California enacted a law banning the practice of the therapy, which is considered dangerous by mainstream medical and psychological groups, on children and teens.

“Safe schools for all youth doesn’t mean including a man with this guy’s well-documented history on the task force,” wrote one petitioner, Liz Oppenheimer. “While the intention is worthwhile, the impact of allowing Bryan Lindquist on the task force is horrifically insensitive.”

At the Oct. 22 meeting board member John Hoffman, elected to the state Senate as a DFLer last week despite PAL’s efforts, agreed.

“Mr. Lindquist … has repeatedly spoken out against affirming all students and does not support the current policy. Mr. Lindquist has publicly stated that LGBT individuals suffer from a disorder,” he said. “This kind of language and sentiment has no place on this task force and does not represent the views of the vast majority of residents that I am talking to within the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and it certainly doesn’t represent the needs and rights of all students.”

Civil-rights suit settled in March

In March, in the wake of two years of increasing controversy over its response to a wave of suicides by students, some of whom were bullied for their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, the district settled a federal civil-rights suit and with the U.S. Department of Justice.

PAL had kept the district under intense pressure to maintain the policy of “curricular neutrality” many blamed for the climate linked to the suicides and to provide materials, training and referrals to staff and students about “curing” homosexuality.

Heidemann declined: “As a public school district, we accept all students and we do not consider them to have a disorder if they identify as gay or support their gay friends,” he wrote in reply to PAL’s January demands. Other group members told the board there would be repercussions for what they said were broken campaign promises to maintain the controversial neutrality policy.

Reply to conservative critics

A month after the settlement’s announcement, Heidemann replied to critics who had taken him to task on the conservative website Anoka County Watchdog. “It was a very difficult decision to agree to the settlement but it was the best we could do given the circumstances the school board was faced with,” he wrote.

“In my opinion we preserved several core principles: The Board maintained the intent of the sexual orientation curriculum policy while making it defensible in future legal challenges. The Board did not make any changes to curriculum and did not allow the federal government authority over classroom curriculum.

Prior to the settlement, the board had proposed the creation of an anti-bullying task force, which is not a part of the landmark court-approved agreement that ended the lawsuit and the federal investigation. Applications to serve were solicited last summer with Heidemann making the appointments in August. The group will make recommendations next spring, although it is not clear they will have an impact on the implementation of the terms of the settlement.   

For its part, the PAL does not appear ready to stand down. Its website includes a link to a “student opt-out notice” parents supposedly can use to remove their children from activities in which “such personally objectionable material is taught, discussed, or assigned.”

Parents can choose school, but can’t dictate

A well-worn body of law — most recently misconstrued in TV ads aired here in support of the failed marriage amendment — holds that  parents can choose whether to send their children to public schools, but can’t dictate what or how they are taught.

Continued acrimony at the board level notwithstanding, many of the critics who pushed for the changes report that they are pleased so far at the way school climate issues are being addressed by the district.  

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/14/2012 - 09:16 am.


    How did this guy get on the board in the first place?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/14/2012 - 09:45 am.


      Imagine the whining if “all points of view” were not considered. The District is afraid of these people because they make a lot of noise.

  2. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 11/14/2012 - 11:40 am.

    Important to Get this Right

    This is not a trivial issue. Children in Anoka Hennepin Schools have been bullied and even died because of an inappropriate school climate. All efforts must be made to protect children from ideologues who would interfere with their right to a safe , public education.

  3. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 11/14/2012 - 11:58 am.

    A lot of noise

    I attended an Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting devoted to the “neutrality” issue and was appalled by the bullying the PAL members exhibited at the meeting. I have unfortunately seen much of this bullying behavior in the Anoka County Watchdog. It is no wonder the children of the PAL mimic what their parents displayed at this meeting. There was much Bible thumping,and “ain’t it awful” scenarios threatened if the school board did not adhere to the PAL members’ demands.I wish my school board had not found it necessary to reply to bullies like the Anoka County Watchdog as such a response only validates their bullying. I perceive these bullies as only a small but angry and vocal part of a much larger and more balanced community. If the school board does not cower to this bullying, this balanced community will support them.

  4. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 11/14/2012 - 01:52 pm.

    A wee update

    Calls that came in too late to make it into this post add a couple of details: First, Superintendent Dennis Carlson reportedly has been meeting with as many students as possible and is hearing positive things about climate in the district’s schools this year, which echoes what I’ve heard. And the first meeting of the task force was said to be friendly and productive, controversy notwithstanding.

  5. Submitted by stan James on 11/14/2012 - 02:00 pm.

    anti gay on protect the children board

    This whole biz is about ending bullying and was mandated by a court after I think it was 4 kids in the district were driven to suicide,

    Having this guy on the board is like having a fox guard the henhouse. BTW typically these people believe in “suppoting life for every human person”

    But they apparently dont consider gays human.

    Welcome to the extremist xtians whose previous legacy of their religionl is slavery and segregation for the most part., justified as per the bible.

    Gays are the latest victims. Its a sad sad life when people are brought up to hate other parts of Gods creation

  6. Submitted by Tim Walker on 11/14/2012 - 03:54 pm.

    “Mr. Lindquist … has repeatedly spoken out against affirming all students and does not support the current policy. Mr. Lindquist has publicly stated that LGBT individuals suffer from a disorder.”

    Me thinks that Mr. Lindquist doth protest too much (and all that that implies …).

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/14/2012 - 08:59 pm.

    Religion is About Ultimate Things

    Let us, therefore, never forget that both those who would do amazing good and those would do disturbing evil are both very likely to use their religion, whatever it is, to justify whatever it is they would most like to do.

    Such people ignore the broad totality of the God found in their foundational writings in favor of a much smaller “god” created in the image of their own motivations and psychological proclivities.

    Those who do not believe in a deity do the same things but use misinterpretations of science and misapplications of logic to convince them that they’re right.

    In such cases we can’t rightfully blame religion nor can we blame science and logic for those who use such things as their justification.

    We can only rightfully hold responsible for their own excellent deeds and miserable misdeeds those who would do unreasoning and unreasonable things and ignore that they have believed themselves to be motivated by some force or source larger than themselves.

    Short form: if some of those who claim to follow God or science and logic do good things or evil things in God’s (or Newton’s) name we can’t rightfully hold God or Sir Isaac responsible for what those who claim to follow them choose to do. In the ends, it is only those doing the deeds that are responsible for what they do.

    In the public, secular sphere, we must evaluate people based on their deeds, not based on the claims they make regarding their source of inspiration: evil is not converted to good because those responsible for it claim a “sacred” or a “secular” source, nor is good converted to evil because those responsible claim to be inspired by a “secular” or “sacred” source.

  8. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/16/2012 - 10:15 am.

    As difficult as it may be

    for some to accept his presence on the task force, it’s important to remember that he is but a single voice in a group that can do little more than make reccommendations to the school board. Yes, he’s likely to disagree with many on the task force about the nature of the problem and appropriate counter measures. But if you want buy in on those measures, your more likely to get it if all opinions have been represented than if one has been excluded from the outset.

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