This sprawling suburban school system, much of it within Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district, is caught in the eye of one of the country’s hottest culture wars—how homosexuality should be discussed in the schools. After years of harsh conflict between advocates for gay students and Christian conservatives, the issue was already highly charged here. Then in July, six students brought a lawsuit contending that school officials have failed to stop relentless antigay bullying and that a district policy requiring teachers to remain “neutral” on issues of sexual orientation has fostered oppressive silence and a corrosive stigma.... Adding an extra incendiary element, the school district has suffered eight student suicides in the last two years, leading state officials to declare a “suicide contagion.”
Here's what a few kids have been put through in the Anoka-Hennepin school district:
Kyle Rooker, 14, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the district of failing to protect gay students, sank into a severe depression last spring after constant harassment by students who perceived him as gay. His parents moved him to a school in another district where, they said, the atmosphere has been friendlier.
Brittany Geldert, 14, another plaintiff, has called herself bisexual since seventh grade and said she had repeatedly been called “dyke” while teachers looked the other way. Her grades plummeted, her poetry took a dark turn and she has been hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal thoughts. She is staying in the district and hopes things will be better in high school.
Damian, 14, whose parents did not want his last name used, says he has been called names and shoved because he is the adopted son of gay parents, and called gay himself because he is a gymnast. Jason Backes, one of his fathers, said that the family had complained repeatedly to the school without relief and that officials had responded in a way that embarrassed Damian—having him leave classes several minutes early to avoid hallway encounters. “The opponents say we want to teach about gay sex in the classroom, but that’s the last thing we want,” Mr. Backes said. “We’re not asking them to promote anything,” he said. “But if a kid has gay parents, or is gay or lesbian, why can’t the school say, ‘You’re O.K.’?”
Teachers and administrators can't tell a gay kid that he's okay, or that his family is okay, because that would violate Anoka-Hennepin's "neutrality" policy. That policy also prevents teachers and administrators from telling bigots and bullies that what they're doing—not what they're thinking, not what they believe, but what they're doing—is wrong:
Gay children, and some parents and supporters, say these efforts are undercut by what they call the district’s “gag order” on discussion of sexual diversity.... district staff members, when they witnessed or heard reports of antigay harassment, tended to “ignore, minimize, dismiss, or in some instances, to blame the victim for the other students’ abusive behavior.”
Now there's an effort to change Anoka-Hennepin's neutrality policy—which has resulted in teachers not intervening when they see LGBT kids being bullied (because that means taking the side of the bullied kids, and that wouldn't be neutral)—and this effort is being hotly opposed by "Christian" parents. These "Christian" parents insist that Anoka-Hennepin's current "neutrality" policy provides "a model for the nation in protecting kids from classroom homosexual propaganda," and that any change will "flood the classroom with homosexual propaganda." Only someone who delights in the deaths of children would describe a policy that has contributed to eight suicides in two years as a "model for the nation."
And the proposed change these "Christian" parents are working so hard to block? It's every bit as cowardly, indefensible, and offensive as Anoka-Hennepin's current policy. CNN:
The Anoka-Hennepin School District's sexual orientation curriculum policy, adopted in 2009, bars teachers from taking a position on homosexuality in the classroom and says such matters are best addressed outside of school. It's become known as the neutrality policy. During Monday night's hearing, the school board will propose replacing that policy with a "controversial topics curriculum policy" that, according to the proposed wording, "recognizes the importance of providing information about controversial topics in a democracy."
LGBT kids are not "controversies." They are children. They are children who are being bullied and brutalized and driven out of Anoka-Hennepin's schools—and sometimes driven to suicide—by bigots and the children of bigots.
The Anoka-Hennepin school district must stop pandering to the kind of "Christians" who look at a pile of eight dead children and see a "model for the nation." (This might be a good time to speak up, NALTS.) Contact info for the Anoka-Hennepin school board here.