Anoka-Hennepin Makes Anti-Bullying Rules Even Clearer

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 at 6:01 am

The board of the Anoka-Hennepin School District changed the anti-bullying and harassment policies on Monday (Oct. 25) night to clearly list the protected classes, including race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, age, poverty and sexual orientation. The measure passed unanimously. This was done after a public outcry over a gay student who killed himself because of being bullied for his sexuality.

The aforementioned classes were already covered by district policies, but the point was to make things even clearer. District officials decided those policies weren’t as clear as they could be because finding the list required the reader to look into another document, the “Equal Educational Opportunity Policy.”

The district drew attention after Justin Aaberg, 15, of Andover, Minn., hanged himself in his room in July. His friends told his mother he had been a frequent victim of anti-gay bullying.

The Associated Press reports that five other district students have also killed themselves since last year, and gay-rights advocates say anti-gay bullying may have played a role in two of those cases.

The district has been caught between gay-rights supporters, who insist that any anti-bullying program must include specific policies aimed at protecting gay youth, and conservatives who say such an edict would be unnecessary and biased toward homosexuality.

The district has told its staff to remain neutral when discussing matters of sexual orientation, while also ordering employees to step in if they learn of any harassment or bullying.

Justin’s mother, Tammy Aaberg, told reporters the board didn’t go far enough with the changes it made Monday. She said she wants the district’s neutrality policy changed as well.

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