Member of Anoka-Hennepin anti-bullying board under fire
- Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA
- Star Tribune
- December 5, 2012 - 11:17 PM
A group of Anoka-Hennepin residents will submit a petition to the school board Monday seeking removal of a member of its expanded Anti-Bullying Task Force.
Bryan Lindquist is among 26 parents, students, staff and faculty members appointed in mid-October to help the district shape policy on school climate. Its expansion beyond district staff was required to settle a federal lawsuit filed against the district last year. Six students sued the district, claiming that their reports of persistent and severe bullying and harassment were not adequately addressed.
The petition, which had nearly 2,400 names by Wednesday afternoon, said Lindquist, of Ramsey, "uses his personal faith as a weapon and represents the anti-LGBTQ bigotry that is STILL hurting kids in our district."
Lindquist, who could not be reached Wednesday, is a member of the Parents Action League (PAL), a socially conservative group that has criticized the district's work to prevent bullying and harassment. Last January, as the school board worked to settle the lawsuit, Lindquist and another PAL member presented a list of demands that the district commit more resources to "students of faith, moral conviction, ex-homosexuals and ex-transgenders." Their demands included ex-gay therapy training for staff. More recently, in a letter to the Anoka Union newspaper in support of the amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage, Lindquist asserted that children raised by same-sex parents are more likely to be sexually abused at home.
A surprise appointment
In March, after the lawsuit was settled, School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann wrote a letter dismissing the demands.
Heidemann, as board chair, has the authority to appoint task force members, with advice from the board.
Still, in mid-October, some people were surprised to see Lindquist's name appear on the list of task force members. The group, which includes no elected officials, has met twice; meetings have been closed to the public and to the media.
Heidemann said Wednesday that he's had good reports.
He recalled his rationale in culling through 69 task force applications, "which was to bring together a diverse community, on the basis of protecting all children from bullying and harassment, regardless of the reason. That's something everybody can agree with."
Melissa Thompson, parent of a Blaine High School student, doesn't buy it. She was among the core group that launched the online petition at Change.org and has gone to the board in the past to raise concerns that her daughter has been harassed on the basis of religion.
"To imply that Mr. Lindquist lends balance is so disingenuous," she said. "His position is very clear, and the effects of that rhetoric are painfully clear in this district. ... This has nothing to do with balance. It has nothing to do with opposing views. It's one thing to have opposing beliefs, but this is about opposing the existence of students."
Some petitioners called on the board to lead by example; others questioned the district's dedication to preventing bullying. Some called Lindquist a bully.
A diverse makeup
In a recent e-mail interview on the district's anti-bullying work, PAL President Laurie Thompson addressed the composition of the task force.
"The 25 members selected are from a diverse background which was the School Board's intent," she wrote, noting that the group also includes members of the district's Gay Equity Team. "Our hope is that everyone on the task force will bring a culmination of ideas to the table that will lend ongoing support to policies and directives that support a safe learning environment for ALL students, not just any one individual or any one group."
Heidemann said he'll listen to the petitioners' concerns.
"This isn't going to change," he said. "This decision is final. We're going to move on with this committee and let them do their work. ... As far as I'm concerned, we're moving on to looking forward to the recommendations that come out of this process."
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409
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