Tingelstad quits after vote

by Sue Austreng
Staff Writer

March 5 marked what Anoka-Hennepin administrators hoped to be the end of months of tension, angry public opposition and exhaustive mediation. On that day, school board members agreed on a settlement to a lawsuit filed against Anoka-Hennepin School District last summer that alleged persistent bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation.

Moments after casting the only opposing vote on Anoka-Hennepin School District’s agreement on harassment lawsuits, School Boardmember Kathy Tingelstad announced her immediate resignation. “Like a target of bullying, I choose to leave the situation by resigning instead of fighting back against the out-of-state bullies,” she said. Photo by Sue Austreng

However, the satisfaction of the settlement was short-lived when, moments after casting the only opposing vote, Boardmember Kathy Tingelstad resigned her position, effective immediately.

“With the school district’s limited legal resources, Anoka-Hennepin has been dealing with lawsuits – brought by 19 lawyers from mostly out-of-state organizations…  My concern about the… settlement is the reason why I am now resigning as an Anoka-Hennepin School Board member,” Tingelstad said.

In her resignation letter, Tingelstad cited three reasons she voted no on the settlement: costs, governance issues and precedent.

Tingelstad expressed great concern regarding the cost of the settlement – $270,000 lump sum paid to the six student plaintiffs plus $500,000 in costs to hire an equity consultant, a Title IX/equity coordinator and a mental health consultant and to expand the district’s harassment-prevention task force.

“It will require the school district to hire several additional staff people and consultants,” she said. “In addition, it makes significant monitoring and reporting demands with limited staff, which will lead to additional staff hours and costs.”

She feels that taking that money from the health and safety levy will leave fewer funds for other priorities, Tingelstad said.

Tingelstad’s concerns about government issues related to the settlement have to do with the federal government’s role (the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) in prescribing legal resolution, “which may be overstepping its authority in regards to local control school board governance issues,” she said.

Finally, Tingelstad’s resignation was also due to the precedent the settlement created.

“I am concerned about the statewide implications of this lawsuit settlement, and its far-reaching precedent for other public schools in Minnesota and across the country,” she said.

Tingelstad did not expand on what she felt that implication might be.

After announcing her resignation Tingelstad acknowledged her concern about retaliation from the non-local organizations which have “drug (Anoka-Hennepin School District) through the mud.”

“Like a target of bullying, I choose to leave the situation by resigning – instead of fighting back against the out-of-state bullies,” she said.

She hopes by bringing public attention to the situation “others will deal appropriately with the people and organizations who have been bullying Anoka-Hennepin School officials,” Tingelstad said.

Replacing Tingelstad

When asked Tuesday to describe the timeline and procedure that would be followed to replace Tingelstad on the school board, Superintendent Dennis Carlson said it was too early to comment.

Community service

From 1996 to 2008, when she did not seek re-election, Tingelstad served as a Republican member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, serving district 50B, which after the 2002 redistricting became known as District 49B. That district covers portions of the cities of Andover and Coon Rapids.

As representative, Tingelstad served as chairperson of the Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee during the 2005-2006 biennium and was a member of the Capital Investment, Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Human Services, Redistricting, and Rules and Legislative Administration committees and of various committee incorporations and subcommittees relevant to each.

In January 2009, Tingelstad was appointed to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, filling the seat vacated by her successor in the Legislature, Rep. Jerry Newton.

She was elected to a full term on the school board in the November 2009 general election.

Tingelstad’s current full-time day job has her serving as intergovernmental coordinator for Anoka County, which includes working as chief lobbyist for the county at the Minnesota Legislature.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]

  • Lee Dunniski

    Take your ball and go home, Kathy. You supported the stupid policy that brought about this lawsuit.

    • Kat

      agree 100%, and also with the poster below. Kathy’s comments re: her reason for leaving could be very hurtful to the KIDS who were actually TRULY bullied and their families. She comes across as making a mockery of this to them.

    • Jay McHue

      The only thing that brought about this lawsuit was the almighty dollar sign.

  • Robin Mavis

    Ms. Tinglestad’s statements were some of the most shallow and insensative things I have ever heard. These are children who were relentlessly harrassed and in some cases physically assaulted and she wants to compare what these dear children experienced to something that could have been completely avoided had she and the board listened to parents and citizens of the district 2 1/2 years ago. We’ve lost children to suicide where bullying greatly contributed to their deaths and she wants to cheapen their lives and negate the grief their families will carry with them the rest of their lives. Shameful.
    And who are these ‘people and organizations’ (the parents, the children, citizens of Anoka Hennepin School district) that she refers to and what exactly does ‘dealt with appropriately’ mean. Is that a threat; a wish for misfortune?
    And she doesn’t like the implications the settlement sets? You mean like expecting schools to be safe for kids? You mean expecting that you can send your kid to school and not have them kill themselves because the climate is so toxic they just can’t take it anymore? You mean like expecting school boards to face reality and not stick their heads in the sand or to cowtow to a tiny group of anti-gay people who are more concerned about spreading lies about people and trying to get them fired because really they are just vindictive and will do ANYTHING to be able to push their bigotry within the schools.

    • Jay McHue

      Yeah, they should kowtow to an even tinier group of pro-gay people who are more concerned about making a buck than anything else.

  • M Cook

    ““I am concerned about the statewide implications of this lawsuit settlement, and its far-reaching precedent for other public schools in Minnesota and across the country,” she said.

    Tingelstad dis not expand on what she felt that implication might be.”

    She could have done herself a big favor by fleshing out her thoughts on this some more.

  • eric z

    My understanding is Tingelstad submitted a resignation letter, and I would hope ABC Newspapers makes the effort to obtain a copy from her or the board, and posts it in updating this report.

    Given her day job, lobbying the legislature on behalf of Anoka County, Tingelstad has to be sensitive to any AH District terms of settlement being precedent if a bullying situation arises in another Minnesota school district – she would not want bad feelings against her, the AH District settlement, or such to interfere with her representing County interests where individual legislators may form grudges based on unreasonable presumptions.

    I do not know if that was any part of Tingelstad’s concern, but with her having served in the legislature, knowing the nature of some thought processes there, I expect she was sensitive to what we, lacking the experience, might not think likely.

    That’s only a guess. I would like to be able to read what she wrote, in its entirety, as helpful to understanding her stance.

  • JBL

    She and the rest of the board had the opportunity to avoid all of this two years ago with a simple policy change and some training for teachers. They fell on their swords for a bad policy and she has the audacity to complain about cuts?

  • Dan H

    As far as being ‘drug through the mud by out of state organizations’… Is she implying that groups should only be able to fight for equal rights IF there is a large enough support group within said state to back them up? And that if such a support group does not exist, then the the citizens must try and take it on themselves? That doesn’t really seem like a logical or fair approach to getting results. Then again, based on some other comments, I’m not convinced that logical and fair approaches are her main concern when it comes to the safety of the students.

  • Dan H

    In addition to cheapening and negating grief for those who died, she seems to imply that walking away from a bully who is physically harassing you, in a building and classroom that you are required to be in, is as easy and the same as resigning from an elected position. With a thought process like that, I have to wonder if she was either never bullied, or was a bully herself.

  • R.Hill

    Most of the commentator’s here on this story are being hypocritical. Kathy using her words said “Like a target of bullying, I choose to leave the situation by resigning – instead of fighting back against the out-of-state bullies,” she said. Now those of you that support”no Bullying” should help her not feel bullied. The deaths that happened are tragic,sad, and were preventable, however to say that Kathy statements were ” some of the most shallow and insensative things I have ever heard”.is unfair and shows little respect towards the toxic atmosphere that bullying is. You are all being bullies!.There is no doubt “Christian” children are being bullied at the schools. When you all start bashing those bullies Your comments will be taken as they are…Bullying.

  • Nelly

    I have always respected Meadow Creek Christian school, and had noticed on occasion they stressed no bullying policy right away from nursery school up. Very sad the public school did not implement a higher standard to begin with and that it had to come to this. (As far as the law suit) as tax payer I just hope this does not set a precedent for other public schools as a neg result I could see people voting against school levy’s that are already a $ financial burden on our community.

  • Jay McHue

    The implications are pretty clear. Any current or former students of any school in the nation who wants to make a quick buck can now sue their schools claiming they were bullied and the school didn’t adequately respond. 30 years ago, I was bullied. It was bad. You get over it. No amount of money will make your history go away.

  • Rod

    Kathy should not have any kind of job in education or government. Hopefully the school district will appoint someone better qualified to lead our schools. Schools should not be a place where like minded right wing-nuts can spoil our schools and kids.