At long last, under pressure from the Federal government and a suit brought by six of its students, the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota has voted to change policies that many believe encouraged the harassment of LGBT students and contributed to a spate of youthful suicides in the community. The vote to approve the settlement was 5 to 1.
This is the same school district that I’ve discussed in earlier postings here and here. It is the largest school district in the state of Minnesota and has about 39,000 students enrolled in more than 35 schools north of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Under the agreement, which must still be signed by a Federal judge, the school district approved a long list of measures designed to help address and prevent sex-based harassment at its middle and high schools. The district’s insurance carrier will reportedly pay the six current and former students named in the lawsuits a total of $270,000. The district will apparently use about $500,000 of its own funds to implement the agreement.
One report I read quoted Dylon Frei, a ninth-grader who identifies himself as gay, as follows: “I see change coming and I’m real excited for it.” Frey also said things have been getting better for him in recent months as the debate about the need for change unfolded.
More details regarding the settlement can be found in this article in the New York Times. If you read the story, you’ll see that those promoting bigotry and hatred have not been silenced or shamed. They’re still out there doing their best to make life difficult for LGBT students.
The bottom line is that we will have to see just how well the school district implements the proposed changes. Fortunately, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education will monitor the district for five years under the agreement.
Given the history in this community, that should help.
Update: I just ran across a brief but excellent article that provides more information about the problems in this school district and the settlement that has been reached. You can read it here.