Alex Blaze

Lesbians Sue School for Homophobic Discrimination: How Is this 'Neutral'?

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 31, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Anoka-Hennepin, bullying, Justin Aaberg, lesbian, Minnesota, schools

Anoka-Hennepin school district made the news last year when Justin Aaberg committed student-discriminated.jpgsuicide following bullying that the school is accused of refusing to have stopped. Teachers at the school claim that the district's conservative "neutrality policy" on homosexuality prevents them from stopping anti-gay bullying:

Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.

Anoka-Hennepin is back in the gay news, and not for being too neutral. Two lesbian students filed suit last week alleging that they were told they couldn't walk together as royalty at a pep rally because they're both girls:

A lawsuit was filed in federal court Friday afternoon over the Anoka Hennepin School District's refusal to allow a lesbian couple to walk together in the Snow Days coronation ceremony at Champlin Park High School. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the two students by the Southern Poverty Law Center, alleges that the school district violated the students' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to documents filed with the court, Desiree Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom campaigned for and were elected to the Royalty Court of the Snow Days celebration. In past years, the elected royalty walk in procession in male-female pairs, and two male students agreed to walk side-by-side so that Shelton and Lindstrom could walk in as a pair.

According to the complaint, Mathew Mattson, Assistant Principal for Activities, said, "[E]ven if the male couples stated that they were comfortable with the decision [to walk in as a pair] now, they may not be three months from now and when a picture of them processing together surfaces and rumors get started that they are gay." [Because everyone knows that only gay boys walk with other boys. Straight boys always walk either alone or with a female escort. -Ed.]

The school district initially decided to allow the royalty to walk in single file, but, after conversations with the two students, decided to cancel the procession and instead have the royalty simply sit on stage.

To me, this doesn't seem neutral at all. It seems like school officials are sending a pretty strong message here about homosexuality, a message that isn't at all positive.

These sorts of neutrality policies, written (like here) or unwritten (like when a school refuses to do anything about homophobia because they think it's inappropriate for schools) are just a facade for homophobia. Here we have a school official directly taking an anti-gay stance in the name of making everyone comfortable.

There's no such thing as neutrality on the question of whether same-sex love and attraction as just as valid and valuable as opposite-sex love and attraction. Either they are or they aren't.

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And I posted an update to this post. I'm glad the school caved to the right side instead of pulling a Constance McMillen and holding the real pep rally elsewhere.

Brad Bailey | February 1, 2011 1:48 AM

"There's no such thing as neutrality on the question of whether same-sex love and attraction as just as valid and valuable as opposite-sex love and attraction. Either they are or they aren't."

It's neither the purpose nor the responsibility of public schools to make that value judgement unless they are directed to do so by the local community. And that won't happen in our lifetime.

This specific schools, and most schools (like my high school back in the day), are already making lots of value judgments about gay people. Whether or not it's their purpose or responsibility, it's impossible to avoid.

I wonder how their students are getting the idea that suicide is a viable option? Jeebus.