Anoka-Hennepin invites comment as it reworks proposed controversial topics policy

by Sue Austreng
Staff Writer

Determined to maintain a safe learning environment for all students, the Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 has begun to craft a new policy and the school board will review it at its Monday, Jan. 23 meeting.

Administration will present the respectful learning environment curriculum policy for discussion and review during that meeting.

The new policy will be shaped from the proposed controversial topics curriculum policy, a policy intended to replace the district’s sexual orientation curriculum policy.

The controversial topics policy has twice been presented to board members and drew criticism from both sides: those who say the current policy contributes to a hostile environment for real or perceived GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) students and those who want to keep the sexual orientation curriculum policy.

The proposed controversial topics curriculum policy states that teachers “shall not advocate personal beliefs or opinions regarding controversial topics…”

That term – controversial – hits a hot button with gay rights advocates, who believe the policy labels as “controversial” GLBT students.

The lack of a definition of “controversial issues” is one that concerns both camps: those who worry that it would marginalize GLBT students and teachers by labeling them “controversial,” and those who believe that losing the neutrality policy would open the door to gay activists hoping to influence what goes on in the classroom.

The board welcomes public comment on the respectful learning environment policy, which can be delivered during the open forum portion of Monday’s meeting.

A vote will not be taken on that policy during that meeting; however, the board will review it as it will be presented for discussion only.

In presenting the policy to the board, administration will consider staff and community input from board meetings and e-mails and suggestions from board members.

“We hope the result will be language that is more clear on the school board’s intent and which will be embraced more positively by our community,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]