Anoka-Hennepin considers changing controversial policy

7:12 AM, Dec 13, 2011   |    comments
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COON RAPIDS, Minn. -- Fifteen-year-old Mike Thurston used to go to school in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, that is until this school year.

"It was really hard. And very difficult thing to go through every day," said Thurston.

He left after he was bullied to a point he didn't want to go to school there anymore. Although he's not gay, he says bullies thought he was, calling him names and throwing him against the locker on a daily basis.

"You're just thinking how can you say this, how are you supposed to go out and learn," he said.

It's why he and his parents are cautiously optimistic to hear the Anoka-Hennepin school board is on the cusp of changing a policy that prohibits teachers from talking about homosexuality in the classroom.

"I want to be hopeful that things can move forward for gay students, but I'm worried too if that's still going to be stopped," said Mike's mother, Cindy Thurston.

At a standing room only school board meeting, district officials introduced a new proposal Monday night that in theory allows teachers to discuss homosexuality. It's part of what is being called the "Controversial Topics Curriculum Policy."

But the policy does not specify what those 'controversial topics' are. Some believe the proposal should explain exactly what is deemed controversial.

In fact, many people were still confused about what can or cannot be discussed in the classroom, which is why they urged the board to clarify the proposed policy before voting on it next month.

And then there's the issue of the policy's official title.

Tammy Aaberg, whose son Justin was one of a several Anoka-Hennepin students who committed suicide over the last two years after being bullied, wasn't too thrilled about calling the policy 'controversial'.

"I read the policy and my heart started breaking all over again. Because now we're going from neutral on sexual orientation to labeling LBGT kids as controversial," said Aaberg.

Others however want the current policy to stand.

"We were a model for the nation at protecting kids from homosexual propaganda. The sexual orientation curriculum policy is an excellent policy," said one woman.

But district officials believe they're making progress.

"Am I totally happy with it, absolutely not but I think we're moving forward to satisfy and clear up some misunderstandings in our school district and create a safer school for our students," said board member Scott Wenzel.

As far as Mike Thurston is concerned, he's enrolled at a performing arts school, happy he can be himself, hoping the same for the students he left behind.

"There was still a lot of hate everywhere," he said of the school district when he left.

The board read through the policy Monday night, and will read through it one more time before they make a final decision in January.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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