The Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota is the subject of investigation by the United States Department of Justice after accusations of teachers bullying LGBT students and the district imposed a "don't say gay" policy preventing teachers from speaking to students about LGBT issues (that's "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender," for those of you who don't speak the language), and evidence has emerged suggesting that anti-gay bullying may have been connected to the deaths of several students and recent graduates who took their own lives. A private lawsuit has also been brought against the District by the parents of some of these students. The District is represented in the U.S. Congress by Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has refused to discuss the issues.
With all of this swirling around it, the District swung into action on July 27, putting up a website, "GLBT ISSUES, TRAINING AND AWARENESS."
It didn't help that the Anoka-Hennepin Gay Equity Team, a group advocating for students, charged that the site was riddled with misleading and false information and the district acknowledged making "mistakes", which grossly overstated the district's efforts in stop bullying. You can read the details here. The website was hastily revised. But even after revision, it still makes fascinating reading. Here then, is the "SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL" policy website, along with my translation.
Defining Neutrality in Anoka-Hennepin's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy: An Overview for Schools
Anoka-Hennepin is the subject of media reports and national interest group pressure on issues related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students.
(Translation: Anoka-Hennepin is a victim of a sensationalist media and coastal gay special interests who hate the heartland. We're not the subject of a federal investigation.)
Anoka-Hennepin is a public school system and we accept every student regardless of real or perceived sexual orientation. We also do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, socioeconomic status, marital status or for any other reason outlined in our Equal Educational Opportunity Policy, which you can download here.
(Translation: We have to take every single creepy weirdo that presents themselves to our doors. We don't want these strange little creatures, but there's no way around it. We also have to take a lot of other trash, but we have a real nice paper that says how we don't bother 'em one bit.)
Anoka-Hennepin is made up of more than 6,000 employees (full-time, part-time and casual) who choose to work here because they care about the success of young people and they care about their community.
(Translation: We have a lot of mouths to feed here, and we aren't about to let some gay outsiders come in and take down our school district, which might result in breaking up the district into smaller units, and then all our top brass will be out of jobs.)
This section contains statements that recount Superintendent Dennis Carlson's commitment to preventing harassment of GLBT students as well as background information on this issue.
(Translation: We been working working real hard to stop those little weirdos from gettin' what's coming to them, and the Super has been saying for months to stop picking on the freaks.)
School Board Policies pertinent to this issue are:
Harassment, Violence and Discrimination
Bullying Prohibition, including Cyberbulling
Sexual Orientation Curriculum, which asks teachers, when in the classroom setting, to address sexual orientation in a fact-based, age-appropriate manner and to ensure it is connected to the curriculum.
(Translation: Look how fancy we is, we got memos an' ev'rything, y'know, on the "Cyberbulling" and even one that tells teachers they can talk about "sexual orientation" in the classroom. Well, as long as they don't say nuthin we don't like. I mean, if they do, they're fired. But they can say whatever they like, oh yessiree, we said so in a paper. We gave them the paper, but we also gave 'em a look, y'know what I mean, heh heh?)
In a brochure, Creating Safe Spaces for All Students, teachers have guidance from their union on how to respond appropriately to GLBT issues. Some of this information is mirrored in the district's sexual orientation harassment presentation provided to all secondary staff in fall 2010 (see sidebar).
(Translation: The union also wrote something up so they wouldn't get fired, maybe, and we even cribbed a few sentences for our own policy. Now shut up, okay?)
So there's the website text. But there's more. There are several documents linked on the site. Those are even more delicious. Here's a good one from the "TRAINING AND SUPPORT" section of the site.
Defining Neutrality in Anoka-?Hennepin's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy: An Overview for Schools
The Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy relates to curriculum and classroom
discussions - it is separate from Anoka-Hennepin's harassment and bullying policies. Staff are not to remain neutral when they see or hear harassment or teasing (including during class) - they are to intervene, stop the harassment, explain that the language/behavior is not tolerated in school and, if necessary, refer the student to the school office.
You can't discuss anything "gay" in class, but you can say that harassing the "weird" kid is not tolerated until your back is turned.
Key provisions in the policy:
Discussions in class should be fact-based, age?appropriate and relevant to the class. Examples of handling instances when GLBT-related topics come in class (with a focus on the secondary level) will be provided at a later date, after district officials have sought input from teachers and school administrators.
You can't say anything gay in class, and we'll tell you later what that means, probably after you get fired.
Some examples of what is neutral and what is not
The list below contains a few examples, but it is not exhaustive. Direction from district
leaders (including building leaders) will never cover every instance or situation involving our schools and GLBT issues. The overarching concern for every employee should be
the safety of each student and the ability of every child to get an education in a school
free from harassment.
Here's some confusing directions, but you can't be sure that you won't be fired, even if you think you're following the rules. Good luck!