Emotions ran high Monday night at the Anoka-Hennepin school board meeting as a citizens group presented its online petition supporting the school district's sexual orientation curriculum policy, which has been challenged by advocates for gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender (GLBT) students.
The Parents Action League supports the so-called "neutrality policy," which has been at the heart of a yearlong controversy. It allows teachers to address GLBT issues in the classroom but forbids them from staking out positions on such issues.
"We think this is an excellent policy that honors the rights of all parents to discuss with their children these issues based on their own values and beliefs," Laurie Thompson, the chairwoman of the Parents Action League, said to board members, who showed little reaction as they accepted the petition but didn't act on it. "We urge you to keep the existing policy in place and leave the controversial social issues out of the classrooms but at home where they belong."
Advocates for GLBT students have argued that the policy contributes to the harassment of those students. They say several student suicides were linked to such harassment, and they want the policy repealed.
The Anoka-Hennepin Gay Equity Team has faulted the district for its handling of GLBT issues.
The Parents Action League, formed in 2010, wants the district to retain the policy. The petition was circulated via the group's website.
The petition presented Tuesday night bore 1,052 signatures.
"We put more emphasis on having sex rather than citizenship and academics in the classroom," said Jane Boster, a petition supporter. "The public school system wasn't designed for social services. ... Those agencies are readily available outside the school systems."
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."
Last month, two GLBT student advocates presented the board with petitions bearing more than 12,000 names from around the world opposing the neutrality policy.
Charges were exchanged between the Parents Action League and the GLBT advocacy groups that some of the petitions contained signatures that weren't from local residents and that others were the signatures of children.
Daarel Burnette II • 651-925-5032 Twitter: @DaarelStrib