Rep. Michele Bachmann’s congressional district has long been known as a GLBT youth disaster area. With a terrifyingly high rate of teen suicide, the Anoka-Hennepin school district has for the last eighteen years implemented a policy known locally as, “no promo homo.” The details of this policy made it impossible for teachers to intervene in the event of bullying when the victim was gay, or perceived to be gay. In fact, one survivor of routine abuse and bullying at school was told by her principal to retort to being called a “fat dyke” by saying, “I can lose the weight, but you’ll always be ugly.” The principal was unable to even use words that described homosexuality or homosexual slurs.
Finally, many suicides and countless events of horrific and institutionalized bullying later, the Anoka-Hennepin school board has finally lifted the policy. They have replaced it with the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum policy, which allows teachers to have conscientious discussions with their students in “a balanced and impartial manner.”
While this is a huge victory for the victims of anti-gay bullying in one of Minnesota’s largest school districts, the language of the new policy is still troubling. It implies that by being “pro-LGBT” a teacher might, somehow, be able to turn their students gay. It might allow for the freedom to help students in need, but it is indicative of a prevailing attitude of the same homophobia that led to the disastrous policy eighteen years ago.
This is a huge step for the Anoka-Hennepin school district, but it is not enough. Hopefully it will not be another eighteen years before they learn to accept their LGBT students and faculty without bigotry or bias.
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