Anoka-Hennepin teachers say training test requires them to support controversial policy

Some staff members in the district say they can't pass a training test without essentially backing a policy that critics say puts students in danger.
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Some teachers in Anoka-Hennepin schools say they're failing a training test because they refuse to say that a controversial policy protects students.

Some staffers tell City Pages the test requires them to back a policy that limits discussions on gay and lesbian issues. The district says it won’t punish teachers who fail the test. Still, some staff members say they’re in a hard spot.

The policy has sparked a culture war and drawn national attention after a rash of student suicides that some say were triggered by bullying. The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued the district on behalf of five students, and the Department of Justice has launched an investigation.

Critics tell the New York Times the district’s stance creates a hostile atmosphere and prevents staff from reaching out to students who may be targeted by bullies.

The district has told MPR there’s no evidence that its policy is linked to the suicides.

The Minnesota Independent looks into the roots of the controversy.

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The school district's proposed policy is a response to accusations of harboring anti-gay sentiment. The measure would bar teachers from taking a stance on "controversial topics." The language of the policy is similar to the district's current one, which has some teachers calling the effort "redundant" and "unnecessary."

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The Associated Press reports Education Minnesota overwhelmingly supports the district's new policy, which would replace the district's controversial "neutrality" rule. And the school district responds to an article in Rolling Stone magazine about the rash of suicides among gay students in the schools.

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A district-wide policy asking teachers to remain neutral on issues that arise from a student's sexual orientation has come under fire. Critics say the policy breeds hostility toward students who are gay or perceived as gay.

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Teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin School District aren't happy about the old policy or a new one that could replace it. Union reps voted Monday against any policy that would dictate or limit classroom conversations on gay and lesbian issues. Some people who support the policy fear teachers otherwise would push a "gay lifestyle" on students. Critics say the policy leaves students at the mercy of harassment and bullies.

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The district had plans to replace its current policy, which requires that staff stay neutral on topics of sexual orientation, with another set of rules that would ban teachers from advocating their personal beliefs on the subject. But after hearing a outpouring of opposition to the new proposal, the district is headed back to the drawing board again.

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