MN school district investigated for anti-LGBT anti-bullying policy

school desksAnoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota is one of many districts in the country that has what they call a “neutrality policy” in their anti-bullying rules when it comes to LGBT students — in other words, they ignore them. But considering the district has also experienced seven student suicides in less than two years, this policy may be much more problematic than that.

This is why the U. S. Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is in the process of an investigation into the district to further research what they report as “allegations of harassment and discrimination [...] based on sex, including peer-on-peer harassment based on not conforming to gender stereotypes,” reports Michael Hamar at Bilerico.

These kinds of “faux neutrality” policies are implemented in a number of states, and fervently pushed by “family values” organizations such as Focus on the Family. The seemingly harmless language of neutrality within this district’s policy tells school authorities to “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation” and that “such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches or community organizations.” But to me, this sounds like it effectively makes schools exempt from addressing anti-LGBT bullying altogether; in other words, complaints by bullied LGBT students can be be more or less ignored.

And that is what seems to be happening across the board (just a couple of examples are in Hamar’s piece), which Sam Wolfe of the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “gag policy.” This not only further marginalizes LGBT students more than they already are, but leaves them to be bullied with little to no action taken.

Conservatives’ argument time and time again around anti-bullying policies is that they merely want to “protect the children” from The Big Gay Agenda. But let’s be real: The only thing these policies are protecting is their and their children’s bigoted and harmful actions. And to potentially sacrifice youth’s lives for that? That, to me, is criminal.

Pic via

Join the Conversation

  • davenj

    The problem with “neutrality policies” is that they aren’t actually neutral when compared to other policies. If a school elects not to protect the rights of LGBT groups, or to remain “neutral” in this regard, everyone with a brain can discern that, given other policies that do protect groups from harassment or discrimination, a school’s treatment of LGBT youth isn’t really neutral.

    It’s like the “Doll Test” brought forth during Brown v. Board of Ed. Inaction applied to specific groups can and does amount to discrimination. If a school will intervene against race-based, but not LGBT-based, bullying, and LGBT student will surmise that they are of less value to their school community, and rightfully so.

    People are entitled to their convictions, but they’re not allowed to harass people with them. I don’t eat shrimp or pork, but if I berated a kid in the school cafeteria for eating a ham sandwich I’d be punished. What groups like Focus on the Family are trying to do is use the tyranny of the majority to target behavior that they believe is immoral for religious reasons, as opposed to moral reasons. That is wrong, and ought be stopped. Schools cannot be neutral about this.

  • Emily Mitchell

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing.” Neutral, my ass.

  • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    A lot of people seem to think “neutrality” is automatically more fair, but this is a clear case of how it’s twisted to allow them to do nothing and uphold the status quo. The line about how it’s better dealt with in the home, community, and churches is basically them saying “Not our problem. Let someone else handle it.”

    Sometimes taking a stand means taking a side.

    • davenj

      Neutrality is a side, anyway. It’s a side that says that it’s not important for schools to handle the issues LGBTQ youths face. That’s a side!

      In the greater context it’s a position, too. If a school has other non-discrimination policies, but they don’t exist for LGBTQ students, that’s a tacit acceptance of the “LGBTQ students are immoral” position.

      • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

        Yes, it is a side in and of itself, but it seems a lot of people who take the “neutral” stance–on this or any other issue–don’t see it that way. They often think of themselves as being “fair”, “impartial” “open to all points of view”, etc.

        After all, Fox News uses the slogan “Fair And Balanced” for themselves!

        • davenj

          I agree. Most “neutral” positions are really just unexamined positions, as it is extremely difficult to not support one side of an issue or challenge more than the other.

  • Critter

    Great post. All these neutrality policies say is that the “right” of people to teach their children hate and bigotry trumps the rights of LGBT kids. Frankly I think poisoning a child’s mind with anti-gay sentiments (especially under the guise of “religion”) is a form of child abuse…it should be criminal.