Last night, Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School Board voted to approve a “Respectful Learning Environment” curriculum policy that will finally allow faculty and staff to affirm LGBT students’ identities. It replaces the troublesome “neutrality” policy that prevented school officials from discussing sexual orientation, thereby creating a toxic environment for students who went unprotected from anti-gay bullying.
The Southern Poverty Law Center praised the change, but said it plans to proceed with the suits it has filed on behalf of students who were subject to harassment under the 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. Although we would have preferred for the District to have repealed this stigmatizing policy without replacing it, we are pleased that the new policy expressly requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all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.
The repeal of this policy is an important first step, but the District must do much more to create a safe, welcoming, and respectful learning environment for all students, including LGBT and gender non-conforming students, and those perceived as such.
Rolling Stone magazine recently profiled the district and the trauma students have experienced, particularly losing friends to suicide. School officials called the portrayal “grossly distorted” and attempted to downplay the negative environment, refusing to take any responsibility for the impact of the “neutrality” policy. The Parents Action League, a radical group of conservative parents that promotes ex-gay therapy and calls AIDS a gay disease, continues to object to the school “caving” to the “demands of the homosexual activists.”