District to Become Slightly Less Homophobic in Wake of Teen Suicides

Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district has become infamous for its policy of "neutrality" regarding LGBT issues — teachers aren't supposed to tell students that gay people deserve equal rights, or that they're not. After two lawsuits and a cluster of student suicides, the district has finally changed the policy. But the new one isn't that much better.

Anoka-Hennepin has been on the map since a series of teens committed suicide, one of them Justin Aaberg, who was allegedly a victim of homophobic bullying. Last year, students sued the school over its neutrality policy. And this month, a lengthy Rolling Stone profile criticized the district's "extreme anti-gay climate." Now, the AP reports that officials are taking baby steps toward changing that climate. Here's what they've settled on instead:

The new policy says when contentious political, religious, social matters or economic issues come up — it does not specifically cite sexuality issues — teachers shouldn't try to persuade students to adopt a particular viewpoint. It calls for teachers to foster respectful exchanges of views. It also says in such discussions, staff should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

So basically, teachers are supposed to uphold everybody's "dignity and self-worth," but when debates come up about whether or not being gay is an abomination and gay relationships should be discouraged for the protection of society, they're still not supposed to take a position. It'll be interesting to see that in action. One student who led a petition against the old policy is skeptical. Also, homophobic parents remain un-mollified. Says one, Barb Anderson,

We are at a crossroads. You either cave in to the demands of the homosexual activists, an action that will make our schools unsafe for all kids, or you stand firm and protect the children.

The kindest word I can think of for someone who can say this after nine student suicides in two years is: delusional. And the fact that folks like Barb exist in the district pretty much ensures that gay students won't be truly safe for a long time to come.

Minn. school board ends policy blamed for bullying [AP]