Anoka-Hennepin school board kills the neutrality policy
|Moments after the final vote.|
In front of a standing room-only audience, five of the six Anoka-Hennepin school board members voted to retire its controversial Sexual Orientation Curriculum policy. The so-called "neutrality policy" or "no homo promo" has been rewritten and passed as the "Respectful Learning Environment" policy, which bears almost no resemblance to the original version written 18 years prior. The neutrality policy has gained the district unfavorable attention from the New York Times, Mother Jones, and most recently, Rolling Stone, and set off an ongoing lawsuit. Its demise, say gay rights advocates, is a step in the right direction.
However, not everyone was ready to see the policy go gentle into that good night.
The neutrality policy -- which stated that district staff had to remain "neutral" on all matters pertaining to homosexuality -- was a descendent of a more harshly-worded version from 1995, which read that no curriculum material could acknowledge homosexuality as a "normal, valid lifestyle."
One of the authors of the '95 policy -- former board member Mark Temke -- was in attendance to speak out against watering down his words.
"Homosexual acts are dangerous, high-risk behaviors," he said. "It's described by doctors as a medical horror story."
One of his co-authors, Parents Action League founder Barb Anderson, also threw mud at the gay community.
"Polyamory is the end game," she said. "This is sexual anarchy."
Other long-standing figures in the debate -- such as Julie Blaha, head of the teachers' union, and Jefferson Fietek, district teacher -- spoke in praise of the new policy, which states, in part, that "district staff shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students."
Board chair Tom Heidemann closed the comment portion before the vote saying, "I'm going to support the new policy, and believe I'm doing it using intelligence as a guide."
The vote was called and the new policy passed 5-1, to grateful applause from (some) of the audience.
Moments after, a statement went out from the Southern Poverty Law Center attorneys suing the district on behalf of six students who they say were discriminated against because of the neutrality policy.
"Today is the first day in nearly 18 years that Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District no longer has a harmful policy that singles out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students," the statement reads. "Although we would have preferred for the District to have repealed this stigmatizing policy without replacing it, we are pleased that the new policy expressly requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, including LGBT students."
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