Sunday, July 31, 2011

Anti-gay bullying in Anoka-Hennepin School District

Amidst everything else, I've recently become aware of a horrendous issue in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District. It seems that the district has a "neutrality policy" in place that prevents teacher's and other staff from discussing LGBT issues.
 Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. 

 This has contributed to an atmosphere of bullying in the district that has led to seven suicides attributed to bullying and harassment based on perceived sexual orientation or failure to conform to gender stereotypes. The school district does have an anti-bullying policy in place, and believes that is sufficient. Clearly, they are wrong. As Dale Schuster, a former student in the district, put it back in September 2010, “How do you stop the anti-gay rhetoric without explaining why it’s wrong in the first place?”

That's exactly it. It may seem like a good idea to avoid the issue by not talking about it, and to leave contentious issues such as LGBT lifestyles and rights to parental upbringing, and I can sympathize with the idea. It's the same basic thought that exists in many groups and families "We don't discuss politics or religion, and thus avoid fights." But this isn't a small private group or family, and the results of not talking about it are playing out under the noses of the staff. It's all well and good to say that bullying is bad, and as long as its reported we'll deal with it. But it won't be reported, not always, not even most of the time. If they bother to think back to their own days in school, staff knows this.

There's stigma attached to being a "tattle-tale." It's ridiculous, it shouldn't exist, but its there. While we can attack that stigma as well, we must still deal with the source and root of the harassment and bullying, and we can only do that by being willing to talk about it.

Here's the website for the Anoka-Hennepin School District that they've put up to deal with this. I suggest contacting them.

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