State’s largest school district ends anti-gay policy

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For more than a decade, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board had a policy that forbade teachers and students from speaking about homosexuality, except to describe it as abnormal or invalid. But the board Monday approved a more inclusive policy after years of work by community members to make the district more accepting of all students.

The old policy, enacted in 1995, read, “Homosexuality [will] not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle.” The policy originally applied just to health classes but eventually came to pervade all aspects of class instruction and extracurricular activities. The board’s vote to eliminate the policy earned praise from GLBT groups.

“The implied message to GLBT students, staff, and families was that they are ‘invalid’ or ‘abnormal,’” says Stephanie Hazen of Rainbow Families, a group that advocates for GLBT families. “This was an incredibly harmful and discriminatory message to send, and contributed to a school environment in which GLBT students, staff and families felt marginalized.”

The old wording was replaced with a policy that directs school teachers and staff to treat LGBT subjects “in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum.”

“We hope that this language will finally allow the Anoka-Hennepin district to address GLBT-related issues in a forthright manner, and foster a climate conducive to success for all students,” said Phil Duran, staff attorney for OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest GLBT advocacy organization. “This change of direction is refreshing and the culmination of several years’ work by dedicated community and board members.”

Anoka Hennepin School District is the largest district in the state, serving 40,600 students in more than a dozen communities in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis, including Anoka, Champlin, Coon Rapids, Andover, Blaine, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Dayton, Fridley, Ham Lake, Nowthen, Oak Grove and Ramsey.

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