NEW YORK, February 13, 2012 - The following is a statement from GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard about the "Respectful Learning Environment" curriculum policy on which the Anoka-Hennepin School District is preparing to vote later today. This is the second revision to the district's curriculum policy that replaced the district's original "gag policy," which prohibited staff from discussing issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
GLSEN released a research brief in June 2011 based on findings from Minnesota LGBT students who participated in the 2009 National School Climate Survey. The brief found that 84 percent of Minnesota LGBT students had been harassed or assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 61 percent because of their gender expression. The full brief on school climate in Minnesota can be downloaded here.
Statement from GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard:
"Today, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board will vote on proposed revisions to the Respectful Learning Environment curriculum policy. GLSEN has been actively monitoring the developments in the Anoka-Hennepin School District and we remain deeply concerned by the revised policy put forward for consideration.
"Community members have worked diligently, and with great resolve, to advocate for strong and clear district-wide policy designed to ensure a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. The revised Respectful Learning Environment curriculum policy reflects a desire to find common ground, but falls short in serving the needs of every student including LGBT students and students with LGBT families.
"The revised policy remains confusing, and may convey a harmful message that any discussion of LGBT people and events is contentious and inappropriate for the classroom. The contradictory language calls upon educators' to affirm every student, yet it fails to address how to do so in instances where very different opinions are presented, stemming from family background and beliefs. GLSEN remains disturbed that the policy presented in its current form will continue to leave educators ill-equipped to address a wide range of social issues in the classroom, including those pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
"Put in the context of the district's recent history, however, the impact of this proposed revision is even worse. At this point, the persistence of any kind of 'curriculum policy' in Anoka-Hennepin does little beyond reminding district students, parents and personnel that some in the community once sought to eliminate any discussion of LGBT people from their schools. Given the grave challenges facing the young people of Anoka-Hennepin, including LGBT students, it is distressing that one political faction within the community would continue to hold enough power to require the continued existence of a policy with such hurtful origins and dubious impact."
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.