School District Rethinking Policy on Gender Orientation and Identity Issues

Over the last two years, six students in the Anoka-Hennepin County Schoool District committed suicide, it is believed, after being bullied or harassed for their gender orientation. This is the largest school district in the state of Minnesota. Up to this point, the district has had a strange kind of “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding gender orientation. According to this policy, if a student walks into a councilor’s or trusted teacher’s office with concerns about his or her gender-identity related situation … e.g., the student is being bullied in the teacher’s class … the teacher is required to pretend that they know nothing about gender identity and to say nothing and do nothing. Or, to be more precise, the staff or faculty member is requires to “remain neutral” in the matter. It is against policy to be sympathetic, to emphatic, to express concern or, in short, to stand up for the student.

The new policy allows staff and faculty to get more involved in the issue but does not allow staff or faculty to express their own personal opinions or beliefs in the matter.

The old policy sucked, and the new policy probably does too.

“I’m glad to see we’re looking at changes. I think that’s a wise choice,” said Blaha, who first saw the proposal Wednesday evening.

Blaha said the current policy was causing confusion for teachers.

“If you ask five different teachers what the policy means, you get five different answers,” she said.

Tammy Aaberg of Champlin, whose 15-year-old son Justin killed himself last year after enduring anti-gay bullying, said at first glance the proposed change “sounds worse than neutral.”

“That wording makes it sound even more demeaning, I guess, being that you’re controversial,” said Aaberg, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Who you are, who you are born to be — why should that be controversial?”

One of the reasons this policy is being looked at is that the gender-issues related suicide rate has brought the attention of federal investigators. The suicides are likely linked with hate crimes, or at least, very severe bullying on the verge of hate crime status.

The school board is also looking at changes in bullying related policy.

source Do go look at the comments on that article. Might be a good idea to chime in.

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6 Responses to School District Rethinking Policy on Gender Orientation and Identity Issues

  1. Sas says:

    I’m confused about the wording here. The source article describes the situation in terms of sexual orientation and gay students, not gender identity and trans students. Is there another source that indicates gender identity is being considered by the investigators or school board? (I googled but found only opinion pieces, nothing solid)

  2. Greg Laden says:

    Sas, the level of sophistication and nuance in your comment is at least an order of magnitude beyond the level of this discussion on the ground.

  3. That wording is supposed to clarify anything?!?

  4. Greg Laden says:

    Actually, when I google it, my second hit yields this:

    “Gay and lesbian student advocates complained Monday that the state’s largest district — Anoka-Hennepin — is not doing enough to protect them from harassment.

    Gathering at the district’s Coon Rapids administration building, they said the district’s “neutral” policy toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students encourages mistreatment of such students and discourages teachers from intervening to help them and to offer positive messages about their sexual orientation.”

    http://www.startribune.com/local/north/103902163.html

    I would also note that it may not be appropriate to shoehorn younger folks into a particular category in the GLBTQAW spectrum.

    The actual school board is probably unable to utter words like “transsexual” or “lesbian” without blushing. The distinction between trans gender and lesbian and gay etc. etc. are pretty much not part of this discussion. In these parts, if you are not on the football or other major sports team you are either a fag or a girl.

    This district includes much of the most populous county in the state MINUS the very progressive and liberal urban Minneapolis, plus working class suburbs, and NOT the wealthier suburbs in that county, plus a county that has dense conservative working class towns and very not-dense upper-upper areas all the kids go to private schools we are not even allowed to know about.

    This school district corresponds to a large portion of the congressional districts of Michele Bachmann and her clone Erik Paulsen.

    I would not be on even slightly thin ice to suggest that the majority of parents with kids in this district are just plain anti-gay, many of the students (I hope they are a bit more liberal than their parents) and quite possibly a large number of the teachers as well.

    The head of the school board was backed by the Minnesota Family Council and is generally liked by local anti-gay groups.

    There is a reason that federal authorities are poking around in AHSD.

  5. How can you hold a neutral stance about gender identity issues? I mean seriously…

  6. NancyNew says:

    I know someone who is a counselor in one of the high schools in that area, and she is beside herself with frustration over this. When I was in the Twin Cities last spring (my daughter graduated from Macalester!), she was participating in pro GLBT activities–but as someone employed by the school system, she couldn’t wear anything that identified her as an employee during such events; she’s sweating over coming up with ways to uphold the letter of the law while circumventing the spirit of the law.

    The suicides are horrible for all concerned, and lack of funding support makes addressing the problems worse for the school districts. While I was there, she went to a local middle school for roughly 2 days because the school needed additional support for a suicide there, which, of course, means she couldn’t be at her normally-assigned school, dealing with the problems there.

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