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Anoka-Hennepin School District responds to parents group's demands

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA
  • Star Tribune
  • March 25, 2012 - 12:16 AM

The Anoka-Hennepin School District will not fulfill a parents group's demands to provide resources on so-called ex-homosexual therapies and health education lessons linking homosexuality to sexually transmitted diseases.

Over the course of the past several weeks, the district studied its current practices and policies and consulted with its attorney to analyze what it is doing and what it can and cannot do relevant to the Parents Action League's demands, School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann, said Saturday. In the e-mail, he wrote that in many cases, the demands are incompatible with state and federal laws, and with existing district curriculum and inclusion standards.

"I hope they understand the responses that we've provided," Heidemann said, "and if they have more information or thoughts relative to issues of equity within the school district ... we did offer the opportunity to provide those."

During a Jan. 9 public hearing, members of the Parents Action League read a statement accusing the district of violating their rights as parents through its anti-bullying initiatives, warning of dire consequences if it went through with its plan to scrap the Sexual Orientation Neutrality Policy. The group emphasized the district's legal liability for a "hostile academic environment, for discrimination and for violating the First Amendment rights of parents and students." Members Bryan Lindquist of Ramsey and Michael Skaalerud of Anoka brought up the spectre of a lawsuit at least five times as they read from the statement.

Other demands included additional resources for "students of faith, moral conviction, ex-homosexuals and ex-transgenders."

In his response, addressed to Lindquist, Heidemann reminded the group that the district only recently approved the consent decree ending six current and former students' bullying lawsuit. That decree builds upon existing anti-bullying programs, he wrote, adding that the agreement also requires the district to continue to work with the U.S. Justice Department and an equity consultant to review practices. The Parents Action League statement, he said, will be shared during that process.

Neither Lindquist nor other members of the league were available for comment Saturday.

Other district responses:

To requests for resources for students of faith, Heidemann responded that district actions "may not have the primary effect of either enhancing or inhibiting religion, and may not create an extensive entanglement between Church and State."

To demands for ex-gay therapies and trainings, and training on "overcoming sexual disorders," Heidemann echoed an earlier statement by Superintendent Dennis Carlson, saying, "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."

To demands for curriculum linking homosexuality to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, he said health classes do not address homosexuality or specific sex acts.

To demands that Carlson embark on a listening tour with District Prevention Coordinator Barry Scanlan to visit with students of faith, moral conviction, ex-homosexuals and ex-transgenders, much as they did with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, Heidemann said, "The superintendent ... is open to any invitations from classes or student groups that want to meet with him."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

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