GLBT: Gay-neutrality spurs bullying

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER
  • Star Tribune
  • July 11, 2011 - 9:42 PM

Petitions bearing thousands of signatures opposed to the Anoka-Hennepin school district's "neutral" policy toward gay and lesbian student issues were presented to the district board of education Monday.

According to one petition organizer, 19-year-old Blaine High School graduate Justin Anderson, the petition planned since June 4 has more than 12,000 signatures.

The signatures were collected from around the world, including Vietnam, Russia and the Netherlands, said Anderson and Tammy Aaberg, whose gay 15-year-old son committed suicide last summer.

The current policy allows teachers to discuss issues related to sexual orientation in the classroom, but requires them to maintain neutrality.

Advocates in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community view it as a gag order preventing GLBT students from getting help and fighting harassment.

"We feel the neutrality policy is harmful to GLBT students and their allies," Anderson said. "So this is a policy calling for them to repeal it."

The petitions were accepted without comment by the board at the sparsely attended meeting. No action was taken and Chairman Tom Heidemann said it was unlikely the petition would spur a change in policy.

"This is not the first petition on this we've received," Heidemann said after the meeting. "We've received petitions from both sides of the issue." One petition supporting the neutrality policy, he said, had 400 to 500 signatures from district residents.

Controversies pertaining to gay and lesbian students have dogged the state's largest district since last year. In January, the district was sued because officials refused to let two lesbian members of the Champlin Park High School Snow Days royalty walk in a pep fest as a couple. The district later relented.

Last fall, after a number of student suicides in the district, GLBT advocates argued that some deaths stemmed from bullying because of real or perceived GLBT orientation. In the spring, the district was warned by two national GLBT advocacy groups that it would be sued unless it changed its neutrality policy. School officials have argued that people have different opinions on homosexuality, and that neutrality doesn't prevent teachers from stopping bullying based on sexual orientation.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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