The bullying-riddled Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota might finally replace its don’t-say-gay “neutrality” policy with one that actually respects and protects its LGBT students. Replacing a problematic alternative that would have treated homosexuality as a “controversial topic” that teachers could not discuss, the newest proposal calls for age-appropriate discussions that “affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students,” regardless of their sexual orientation or gender. Four of the six school board members have already indicated their support for the new alternative, the Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy:
The Board is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to providing an education that respects all students and families.
It is the professional responsibility of the teacher to follow the Board-adopted curriculum, which is designed to meet Minnesota state standards.
Political, religious, social, or economic issues may become contentious in a learning environment in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people in our schools, our community, and the nation.
It is not the District’s role to take positions on these issues. Teachers and educational support staff shall not attempt in the course of their professional duties to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues.
Curricular discussions of such issues shall be appropriate to the maturity and developmental level of students; be of significance to course content; and be presented in an impartial, balanced and objective manner, allowing respectful exchange of varying points of view. Lessons shall be designed to help students think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.
In the course of discussions of such issues, district staff shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex/gender, marital status, disability, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, age, family care leave status or veteran status.
This policy is definitely a big step forward for the district, but it may not yet be perfect. Requiring an “impartial, balanced, and objective” presentation on sexual orientation could open the door to the kind of harmful and unscientific views that a conservative group of parents support. The fringe group, the Parents Action League, favors maintaining the troublesome “neutrality” policy, but also seeks to promote harmful ex-gay therapy and teach that homosexuality is “unhealthy behavior.” Even if the new policy has gaps, calling for all students to be affirmed makes a lot more sense than pretending that some of them simply don’t exist.
The board will vote on February 13.