NCLR and SPLC file suit against Anoka-Hennipen for “neutrality policy”

Earlier this morning, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and
the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the
Anoka-Hennepin School District. The suit was brought on behalf of
several students from the district who claimed they had been
harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. If
successful, the suit will force the school district to repeal its
“neutrality policy,” which currently requires teachers to remain
“neutral” on the subject of sexual orientation. Unfortunately, this
policy in action is anything but neutral, often keeping teachers
and school staff from providing any support to students facing
bullying based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation,
gender identity or association with someone with these
characteristics. The current policy breeds a climate of harassment
and puts LGBT students and their allies at risk every day. It is
suspected that the policy may have contributed to at least some of
the 7+ student suicides in the district over the past two

NCLR and SPLC filed their case after a push by a coalition of LGBT
groups – including Family Equality Council – to get the
district and its school board to repeal the policy on its own. The
district, claiming that the policy applies only to curriculum and
not to reports of bullying or harassment, refused to repeal or
amend the policy. While district administrators and school board
members may believe their policy causes no harm to students,
teachers and school staff have come forward to say otherwise.
Teachers find the policy unclear in scope and intent, and many are
choosing to keep silent about the bullying they witness rather than
risk their jobs by inadvertently violating district policy.

Anoka-Hennepin’s decision to knowingly ignore the number of
students, parents and staff who have spoken out against the
“neutrality” policy and the real effect it has on bullied
students is negligent and reckless. The district’s superintendent
has expressed doubt that the school board will repeal the policy,
even under threat of suit. With this “neutrality policy” in place,
students will continue to face bullying at Anoka-Hennepin schools
without any support, resources or safe places to seek help.