Anoka-Hennepin School District proposes change to bullying policy

Andrea Kimball, in-depth editor

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board will vote on a change in the district’s bullying and harassment policy in upcoming meetings this January after discussions in December.  The current bullying policy states that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) issues are best discussed at home.  The change would clarify the policy to say that while teachers can discuss these controversial topics, they should not advocate for their personal views.

The Anoka-Hennepin harassment policy has been widely criticized after six students committed suicide in the past two years.  Two federal lawsuits have been filed against the school district concerning the current harassment policy. The Anoka-Hennepin School Board has said that the proposed change is not in response to these lawsuits, but merely a clarification of the policy.

In a press release, Anoka-Hennepin district spokesman Brett Johnson explained, “If a student is gay and comes out to a teacher — how is that teacher supposed to respond?  Do they think of the neutrality policy first, or do they think of the appropriate response?”  The new policy would allow teachers to simply “attend to the student,” Johnson said.

Brian Tommerdahl, a member of the committee that helped draft the current policy, said in an interview with MPR, “Some people will consider traditional marriage as controversial. Somebody will look at gay marriage as non-controversial or controversial. So who’s going to determine those controversial topic matters?”