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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Minneapolis school board passes stringent anti–gay bullying, pro-LGBT curriculum

By Andy Birkey -

In a unanimous vote by outgoing board members Tuesday evening, the Minneapolis School Board passed a resolution that significantly beefs up its LGBT curriculum and anti-bullying efforts. The resolution directs the school district to enhance its tracking of anti-LGBT bullying incidents as well as include LGBT themes in school curriculum.
The resolution directs the district to include educational materials about the safety of LGBT students and to offer yearly trainings for all district staff from administrators to bus drivers. It will mean that sexual health curriculum will include LGBT issues and an elective course will be created that centers on LGBT history.
The resolution also provides for the funding of these programs with either outside fundraising or district funds, and requires that the costs and effectiveness of the new programs be tracked.
Carla Bates, board treasurer and the first LGBT person to be elected to the board, said that the anti-bully measure would not add to the budget. “I want to assure the taxpayers of Minneapolis that a lot of the safeguards in terms of reporting that were enumerated in this are already done. This would just add the LGBTQ category to that reporting,” she said. “It’s not like we are creating any new expensive structures. We already have those structures in place.”
She thanked school board member Chris Stewart, who worked for months researching and drafting the resolution. “I really appreciate director Stewart’s leadership in this. It’s not something that would have happened four years ago, and it’s something I’m definitely surprised about.”
That set a celebratory tone for the board as many members weighed in on how important the resolution is.
Board member Jill Davis said, “It’s a wonderful way to leave the board because this is a great resolution.”
Member Peggy Flanagan added, “What an incredible thing to be able vote on as our last vote as the current board to leave Minneapolis a more welcoming and inclusive place. I feel blessed that this is my last vote I get to take as a board member.”
Member T. Williams called it “a legacy type vote”: “It puts something in place that can and will have sign impact on the lives of the young people in our schools and their families.”
School superintendent Bernadeia Johnson praised staff member Jesse Tebben, who compiled much of the research for the resolution.  “Not all other districts are doing this work,” she added. “When we are out at the Pride Parade, when you talk to our youth, we hear how proud they are that they have a district that acknowledges them and cares about their safety.”
She said students from outside the district have told her, “Gosh, I wish my school board and superintendent would acknowledge us the way you are.”
Board member Stewart, who crafted the resolution said, “In four years on the board, all I really wanted to say was that I did something that mattered. I will be able to feel like I came here and I did something.”
The vote for the resolution was the last action by the outgoing board, and and was followed directly by the swearing in of newly elected members.
Two years ago, the school district came under heavy fire by religious conservatives over a Welcoming Schools curriculum developed by the Human Rights Campaign and implemented in two area schools.


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