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School Sexual Orientation Policy Draws Praise, Criticism

School Sexual Orientation Policy Draws Praise, Criticism

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In Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District, a revision of a revision of guidelines for classroom discussion of sexual orientation received mixed reviews at a Monday hearing.

The district, which is the state's largest and covers several Twin Cities suburbs, has been under scrutiny because of a rash of student suicides in the past few years and has been sued by students who allege it offers a hostile environment to LGBT youths.

To address the problem, the school board is considering scrapping a long-standing policy calling for teacher and staff neutrality in discussions of sexual orientation. A replacement proposed late last year still mandated neutrality but acknowledged the importance of talking about "controversial issues." At a board meeting earlier this month, some teachers and students said that policy would be no improvement.

Yet another policy, unveiled Monday night, once again calls for neutrality but drops the word "controversial," instead saying that it covers "political, religious, social or economic issues ... in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people," St. Paul's Pioneer Press reports. It also says teachers and staff should "affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students regardless" of sexual orientation or other characteristics.

Rachel Hawley, a senior at Anoka High School, said the latest policy "sounds a lot more inclusive" than its predecessors, according to the paper. Robin Mavis, founder of the Anoka-Hennepin Gay Equity team, also offered praise, saying, "I am really glad you have pointed out that all students are to be affirmed and welcomed."

Tammy Aaberg, mother of bullied gay student Justin Aaberg, who committed suicide, "called the language an improvement but said she would prefer to see the policy on sexual orientation rescinded, not replaced," the Pioneer Press reports. Teachers' union president Julie Blaha also said she would prefer no formal policy, but added, "If we need to adopt a policy to go forward, then we're willing to go forward," according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Some parents favored keeping the original policy, saying the revisions were an attempt to promote "a gay agenda." "We send our children to school, not to have lessons on homosexuality woven into the classroom curriculum," said parent Rebecca Vadhat, as quoted in the Star Tribune. "This is an abuse of children under the camouflage of education."

The board is scheduled to vote on the new policy in February.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.