Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota continues to serve as a shining example of what not to do to support LGBT students who are being bullied. For years, the district had some version of a “don’t say gay” or “neutrality” policy that prohibited teachers from affirming LGBT students — or interrupting the bullying they were suffering. After a Rolling Stone article profiled the school’s negative climate for the nation to see in February, the superintendent tried to claim that bullying had nothing to do with the spate of student suicides the district experienced, changing his tune just two weeks later.
In March, the Department of Justice completed its investigation, finding that Anoka-Hennepin had not properly protected its students from harassment. In fact, detailed narratives showcased the many ways administrators allowed it to persist. The DOJ required that the district implement a new model policy for supporting LGBT students and reducing bullying. The Parents Action League, a vile anti-LGBT hate group that seems to exist solely to reinforce stigma in the community, insisted that its rhetoric — including promotion of ex-gay therapy and references to AIDS as “GRID” (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) — be included in the new policies moving forward. Now it seems they might just have that opportunity.
Truth Wins Out points out that Anoka-Hennepin has made some troubling choices in who it has appointed to its new anti-bullying task force, and who it has rejected. Tammy Aaberg, whose son Justin was one of the students who committed suicide and who has since dedicated her life to anti-bullying efforts, was rejected from the task force. So too was Jefferson Fietek, an anti-bullying trainer who serves as the faculty advisor for the local Gay-Straight Alliance. But the task force has appointed Parents Action League spokesman Bryan Lindquist, an anti-equality activist who has described homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” and who was the primary proponent of promoting ex-gay therapy in the school.
School Board Chair Tom Heidemann explained that the board is “firmly committed” to addressing bullying and harassment, and believes that Lindquist’s appointment will ensure that the task force reflects “very diverse points of view.” Apparently, Anoka-Hennepin School District believes that maintaining bullying and reinforcing stigmatization is an important perspective to have on an anti-bullying committee.