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Anoka-Hennepin School Board replaces Neutrality Policy with Respectful Learning Environment Policy

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Last week at TRC we posted a link to the Rolling Stone article on the Anoka-Hennepin School District and its neutrality policy that has garnered national attention in the wake a string of tragic student suicides. This issue is very emotional and very contentions in the district, throughout MN and around the country. Check my inbox for evidence.

Yesterday, the School Board for the Anoka-Hennepin School District voted 5-1 to replace the neutrality policy with the ” Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy.”

Whether the new policy will result in an improvement remains to be seen. But it does at least seem to provide a new starting point for teachers and others who work in schools, and will hopefully provide those men and women more confidence as they seek to provide an equally safe environment for all students. Let’s hope the vote is a first step towards resolving this divide, moving towards equality and protecting everyone in the halls of high school, which can be a very difficult environment.

As the outspoken, local  anti-gay activist Barb Anderson told the School Board just yesterday:

You are the gatekeepers…This decision will affect our children and grandchildren and will have a ripple effect for years to come. On this one issue you will be remembered forever for your vote.”

True. Thankfully, they did not listen to Barb Anderson.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 14, 2012 at 10:05

Rolling Stone on Anoka Bullying and the No Homo Promo

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Bullying, specifically bullying of gay and lesbian youth, has become a part of the Minnesota history in the past few years. Among the darkest parts of our recent history. With such tragedy on our home-front, it is not a surprise to see publicity such as this article from Rolling Stone. Whatever you think about anti-bullying laws, special protections for gays and lesbian, education policies regarding homosexuality, there is no way any society can accept seeing its children commit suicide because of fear, self-loathing, or ignorance on the part of his or her peers or protectors. Something has to be done. If you cannot acknowledge the real life of a person, if you cannot discuss the reality of being gay, how can you protect someone who is?

Suicide rates among gay and lesbian kids are frighteningly high, with attempt rates four times that of their straight counterparts; studies show that one-third of all gay youth have attempted suicide at some point (versus 13 percent of hetero kids), and that internalized homophobia contributes to suicide risk.

Against this supercharged backdrop, the Anoka-Hennepin school district finds itself in the spotlight not only for the sheer number of suicides but because it is accused of having contributed to the death toll by cultivating an extreme anti-gay climate. “LGBTQ students don’t feel safe at school,” says Anoka Middle School for the Arts teacher Jefferson Fietek, using the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning. “They’re made to feel ashamed of who they are. They’re bullied. And there’s no one to stand up for them, because teachers are afraid of being fired.”…

The No Homo Promo eventually became the Neutrality Policy, which led to anything but neutrality. It led rather to ignoring abuse.

In Andover High School, when 10th-grader Sam Pinilla was pushed to the ground by three kids calling him a “faggot,” he saw a teacher nearby who did nothing to stop the assault. At Anoka High School, a 10th-grade girl became so upset at being mocked as a “lesbo” and a “sinner” – in earshot of teachers – that she complained to an associate principal, who counseled her to “lay low”; the girl would later attempt suicide. At Anoka Middle School for the Arts, after Kyle Rooker was urinated upon from above in a boys’ bathroom stall, an associate principal told him, “It was probably water.” Jackson Middle School seventh-grader Dylon Frei was passed notes saying, “Get out of this town, fag”; when a teacher intercepted one such note, she simply threw it away.

“You feel horrible about yourself,” remembers Dylon. “Like, why do these kids hate me so much? And why won’t anybody help me?” The following year, after Dylon was hit in the head with a binder and called “fag,” the associate principal told Dylon that since there was no proof of the incident she could take no action. By contrast, Dylon and others saw how the same teachers who ignored anti-gay insults were quick to reprimand kids who uttered racial slurs. It further reinforced the message resonating throughout the district: Gay kids simply didn’t deserve protection.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 8, 2012 at 14:05

Posted in bullying, education

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