Currently, the Anoka-Hennepin School District (AHSD) in MN is under fire in relationship to eight suicides in the district over the last two years. Critics say they have not done enough to prevent the anti-gay bullying and harassment that often precedes despair and depression for kids who are same-sex attracted and those who are perceived to be.
The AHSD added a page on GLBT issues to their website recently. The district neutrality policy is at the center of the controversy with some parents wanting to allow teachers to discuss sexual orientation and others wanting to keep the policy as is. For our consideration, here is the policy in full:
SEXUAL ORIENTATION CURRICULUM POLICY
It is the primary mission of the Anoka-Hennepin School District to effectively educate each of our students for success. District policies shall comply with state and federal law as well as reflect community standards. As set forth in the Equal Education Opportunity Policy, it is the School District’s policy to provide equal educational opportunity and to prohibit harassment of all students. The Board is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to provide an education that respects the beliefs of all students and families.
The School District employs a diverse and talented staff committed to serving students and families from diverse backgrounds. The School District acknowledges that one aspect of that diversity regards sexual orientation. Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions. If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum. Staff are encouraged to take into consideration individual student needs and refer students to the appropriate social worker or licensed school counselor.
Anoka-Hennepin District No. 11
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Adopted February 9, 2009
What does neutral mean in the context of this policy? Can teachers supply information about false and stereotypical claims?
If a student says, all Christians are haters; or unscientific. A teacher, no matter what his or her feelings about Christianity could point out the overgeneralization and ask, “What about Mother Teresa?” or “What about Francis Collins?” One could safely point to examples which address the error in logic without giving the impression that the school favors Christianity over other religions.
However, if a student says in class that gays are mentally ill, or choose their orientation or are all miserable people who should change in order to be happy (Parents Action League talking points), what could a teacher say in response? I think the ambiguity of the policy would make teachers worry that they are going to violate the policy just by responding factually.
It appears that the AHSD is making some strides to providing staff training as indicated by this staff training outline. However, if teachers are unable to correct fact errors or stereotypes directly, how will this training benefit students?
I have some of the sharpest readers around, so I am wondering what you think of the policy and what would you recommend to the AHSD?