Petition supports Anoka-Hennepin GLBT policy

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2011 - 8:59 PM

The Parents Action League, a citizens group, is circulating an online petition supporting the Anoka-Hennepin school district's sexual orientation curriculum policy, which has been challenged by advocates for gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender (GLBT) students.

The policy, referred to as the "neutrality policy," allows teachers to address GLBT issues in the classroom but forbids them from staking out positions on such issues.

It has been at the heart of a yearlong controversy in the district that has escalated into lawsuits and a federal investigation.

Advocates for GLBT students have argued that the policy contributes to the harassment of GLBT students. They have charged that several student suicides in the district have been linked to such harassment, and they want the policy repealed.

The Parents Action League, formed in 2010, wants the district to keep the policy. Their petition is being circulated via the group's website.

In an e-mail sent to the Star Tribune last month by chairwoman Laurie Thompson, the group says the neutrality policy "keeps our school focused on the unbiased teaching of academics and prevents anyone from using children as pawns for social change." According to the petition online, "homosexual behavior exposes participants to many life-threatening health risks," and "the classroom environment needs to be solely focused on academics."

Thompson could not be reached for comment on the petition. Nor could a spokeswoman for the Anoka-Hennepin Gay Equity Team, which has faulted the district for its handling of GLBT issues.

It was unclear from the Parents Action League's website how long the petition would be circulated, how long it has been active, and how many signatures have been collected. Last month, two GLBT student advocates presented the district school board petitions bearing more than 12,000 names from around the world opposing the neutrality policy.

When asked Wednesday about the most recent petition, district spokesman Brett Johnson said: "This is an outside group not connected to the school district. What they do is their business. We're focused on teaching kids."

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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