Tragedy in Minnesota
Over the past two years, seven students have committed suicide in the Anoka-Hennepin County School District in Minnesota. Most of them were bullied because they were either gay, perceived to be gay or failed to conform to gender stereotypes. Seven deaths is seven too many. Finally, CNN comes around with a report.
Anoka-Hennipin is the largest school district in Minnesota and it has a so-called “neutrality policy” when it comes to homosexuality. The policy states that teachers are not supposed to take sides on any issue relating to being gay. Focus on the Family, represented in the CNN Report as favoring the neutrality policy, admits that the policy bans teachers from saying, “It’s ok to be gay.” It muzzles teachers from addressing the root cause of the seven suicides, i.e., students being attacked because of sexual orientation, sexual nonconformity or perceived sexuality, because teachers are not allowed to sit down with the attacker and explain to him that being gay is ok and is no reason to be subject to harassment. The only thing teachers can do is say bullying is bad. It would be like trying to teach physics while forcing teachers to be neutral regarding gravity: The apple falls to the ground, but I cannot tell you why.
In fact, the neutrality policy is anything but neutral — it represents a value judgment that the word “gay” is off limits at any age and that teachers cannot be trusted to address incivility, discipline and discrimination in their own classrooms. The policy is an overreaction, steeped in Focus on the Family’s offensive, yet oft-repeated canard that accepting gay kids for who they are is indoctrination or, inexplicably, forced teaching of gay sex in public schools.
If peer-to-peer harassment is based on sexual orientation, and we have endless evidence of the striking connection, the neutrality policy prevents us from solving the problem:It gives tacit and sometimes explicit permission to continue discriminating against victims based on sexual orientation by forcing the exclusion of sex and sexual orientation from the equation. If you can’t tell a bully that it’s wrong to beat up a gay kid because being gay is ok and instead can only say it’s wrong to beat up other kids, how does the bully learn that it’s ok to be gay?