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Are LGBT Kids About To Be The Losers In SPLC’s Anoka-Hennepin Battle?

by Scott Rose on February 9, 2012

in Analysis,Civil Rights,Discrimination,Education,News,Scott Rose

Post image for Are LGBT Kids About To Be The Losers In SPLC’s Anoka-Hennepin Battle?

The Southern Poverty Law Center is failing to bring a strong enough action against the Anoka-Hennepin School Board. That failure not only results in continued poor conditions for LGBT students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, but also for LGBT students in hostile school districts nationwide. If the SPLC, instead of holding tea parties, would actually go to trial against the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and win compensatory and punitive damages for the student victims, a strong and effective message would be sent to gay-bashing school boards nationwide.

READ: An Open Letter To All LGBT Students Of The Anoka-Hennepin School District

Those unfamiliar with the School Board-authorized gay bashing in Anoka-Hennepin may get an overview of the matter here.

The SPLC has been engaged with Anoka-Hennepin since at least May 24, 2011. And, it did actually file this lawsuit in federal court (the case is number 11CV1999). Guardians of student victims are named as Plaintiffs; the Anoka-Hennepin School District, School Board, Superintendent and other administrators are named as Defendants.

Read the pleading (link is PDF, a copy is below, and excerpt in the image above,) to learn of what allegedly was inflicted on the student victims; it is spine-chilling.

The problem is that instead of going ahead to trial, the SPLC has been having tea parties with the gay-bashing Anoka-Hennepin School Board. After at least six months of engagement in the matter, the SPLC actually was going to allow a “Controversial Topics Curriculum Policy” to replace the previous, reprehensible “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy.” For gay human beings in public schools to be stigmatized as “controversial topics” obviously is not a move in the right direction. As of this writing, the next iteration of the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s codified gay-bashing is to have the euphemistic title, “Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy.” Do not hold your breath, expecting for it to allow the teaching of the subject of Michelangelo’s love sonnets to another man. (The Michelangelo Sonnets were set as a song-cycle by the out gay composer Benjamin Britain. Here, you can hear them performed by Britain at the piano, with his gay male life companion Peter Pears tenor).

That the entire community of the Anoka-Hennepin School District has not yet been sent a strong enough message regarding the theocratically-based, bullying non-acceptance of gay human beings is manifest in insane bigots’ recent demands for the district to demonize gay people and to promote praying to Jesus for them to be “changed” into heterosexuals. Make these theocratic anti-gay bullies pay money for their violations of gay students’ constitutional rights, (right out of their local School Board’s tax-payers-funded budget) and just see if they continue to pull their nonsense.

The SPLC advertises its involvement in Anoka-Hennepin on its website pages with “Donate Now” buttons. Thus, it can exploit its involvement to ask for dollar donations, even as it is not going ahead with its filed lawsuit against the school to win so much as one penny for the victims named in the federal court pleading. Why was this lawsuit filed in a federal court, if the SPLC did not intend to go ahead to trial with it?  If you had been a victim of horrendous gay-bashing and unconstitutional, illegal abuses in a public school, including criminal harassment and assault, would you want your attorneys to make money off your case, without winning a penny for you?

The SPLC — as happens — has dithered about whether to place the so-called National Organization for Marriage on its list of anti-gay hate groups.  Supposedly, the SPLC designates as a hate group an organization that perpetuates documentable lies against a minority. NOM’s founder and chairman emeritus Princeton Professor Robert George has built his career and fan base largely on telling lies against gay human beings. Speakers at NOM-sponsored hate rallies tell mobs of political gay bashers that homosexuals are “worthy to death.” So you can see where the SPLC would hesitate to classify NOM as an anti-gay hate group.

Some of the local Anoka-Hennepin groups with pretty names — for example, the Anoka-Hennepin Gay Equity Team — might be making it harder for the victims named in the lawsuit to see justice done. Katrina Plotz of the GET, for example, excoriated this reporter through Facebook for having criticized the SPLC in this petition. Plotz additionally harangued me for the petition allegedly containing things about Superintendent Dennis Carlson that, according to her, are not true. Yet, the SPLC law suit names Carlson as a Defendant, and if the SPLC case against him would go ahead to trial, the Court would sort out which evidence could be presented, and Carlson could be held accountable to the victims. Plotz and the Gay Equity Team appear to be standing in the way of that happening, by making excuses for the SPLC.
Anoka-Hennepin School District Complaint

New York City– based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT– interest by– line has appeared on Advocate .com, PoliticusUSA .com, The New York Blade, Queerty .com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.

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{ 15 comments }

AHGET_Parent February 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm

As parents and tax-payers in Anoka Hennepin, our focus has always been our own school district. GET has no paid employees. We all volunteer our time to advocate for students in our district. I'm not sure why the author wants to hurt the parents in our district who have worked tirelessly for over 2 years to create change in our district.

The children involved in the lawsuit and Southern Poverty Law Center deserve support in their decision to pursue their case in the way that they feel meets their needs. Only the litigants know what they feel would be compensation for the terrible things they went through. If the families feel that they don't want to drag their children through a trial, that is their perogative and no one has the right to judge them for that decision. Some of the things said in this article is very hurtful for those families.

SPLC is working in the best interest of their clients and what their clients want. To say that Southern Poverty Law Center is soliciting donations by using the situation in our district is absolutely ridiculous. The donate button is on almost all of their webpages, standard for non-profits.

AHGET_Parent February 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm

The author started a petition supporting the revocation of Superintendent Denny Carlson's licensure. Firing Denny Carlson or having his license revoked will do absolutely nothing to change the policies in our school district. The board would simply hire another 'Denny' to do their bidding. It is ultimately the school board that is to blame for creating policies that have negatively impacted our schools and students.

One of our members reached out to Scott Rose in private message and asked him to remove the petition he started because it contained inaccurate information about who is responsible for creating policy in our district (the board) among other errors and shared that the petition's circulation was not actually helpful to our cause at this particular time and in fact could jeapordize what we are trying to accomplish.

AHGET_Parent February 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm

As part of GET, and a parent of 5 children, all of whom have been students in the Anoka Hennepin District, I would like readers to know the truth about Anoka Hennepin Gay Equity Team (GET).

Over two years ago parents and tax-paying citizens, alumni and teachers and staff of the district, came together to fulfill 2 objectives – move the district in the direction of LGBT inclusiveness and get better accountability and transparency from the school board. Our specific goals included getting the board to rescind the SOCP which prevented inclusive curriculum from ever being approved and singled out LGBT students specifically because of their sexual orientation. We also wanted the board to enumerate the Bullying and Harrassment policy, and get comprehensive mandatory training for staff and teachers on LGBT issues.

We have succeed in getting the bullying and harrassment policy enumerated.
A WIN for all LGBT students!

We are on the precipice of having the SOCP eliminated so that LGBT students are not singled out and clearing the way for inclusive curriculum recommendations to be made just like all the other curriculum is recommended in our district.
A WIN for all LGBT students!

Scott_Rose March 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

The ultimate settlement that was negotiated in this case only got $45K for each plaintiff. Each of them deserved a lot more. Each of them deserved to have set up in trust through a settlement, for example, health care coverage that would have allowed them to consult with the therapists of their choice for at least the next ten years. With $45K less the taxes, one could barely live for two years on a shoestring and still less could one consult with the therapist of one's choice. Do you deny that the plaintiff/victims in this case deserve to be able to consult with the therapist of their choice for at least the next ten years? Do you deny that the psychological harm inflicted on them was inflicted on them through the school's malicious negligence? The attorneys in this case, furthermore, allowed the school to settle without any admission of wrong-doing, meaning that should any of the surviving parents or guardians of the Anoka-Hennepin bullycide victims decide to bring civil suits against the school, it will be a lot harder for them to do so than it would have been had the school made an express statement of admission to wrongdoing. While the negotiations towards the settlement were going on, LGBT students in the school district were still be subject daily to heterosupremacist persecutions. One proposal accepted by the board in that period included stigmatizing the gay students as "controversial" and they and any subject touching on their identity, basically was not to be discussed. No other minority group's history and/or identity was singled out that way in the agreement. I'd like to know one good reason why DOE and DOJ couldn't have ordered a strict plan of improvement for the school, with attorneys going ahead to trial the school to get real compensatory and punitive damages for the victims, and to bring out in open court board members' and certain others' culpability and liability in this nightmare.

AHGET_Parent February 9, 2012 at 10:54 pm

As the founder of GET, I am extremely troubled that although Scott Rose was messaged privately, he chose to respond by publicly launching a personal attack against one of our members, grossly misrepresented the communication, and has managed to hurt parents, citizens and students in this district who have been working for a better school climate for our kids.

Robin Mavis
Founder, Anoka Hennepin Gay Equity Team

Scott_Rose March 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm

What in my "attack" was untrue?

LocalGay February 10, 2012 at 10:50 am

<div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-288843070"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(288843070)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" target="_new" href="http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fthenewcivilrightsmovement.com%2Fare-lgbt-kids-about-to-be-the-losers-in-splcs-anoka-hennepin-battle%2Fdiscrimination%2F2012%2F02%2F09%2F34285#IDComment288843070&t=I%20just%20commented%20on%20Are%20LGBT%20Kids%20About%20To%20Be%20The%20Losers%20In%20SPLC%E2%80%99s%20Anoka-Hennepin%20Battle%3F%20%7C%20The%20New%20Civil%20Rights%20Movement&quot; style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(288843070)">Close MessageI'm a former teacher in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and have at points been very involved with what's going on in the district. The way Mr. Rose presents GET and SPLC is very different than the reality of the situation. The locals, who are intimately involved with the situation, see this situation very differently than Mr. Rose does, who has no discernable connection to the situation and lives 1,500 miles away. Please consider that when reading the piece. Also know that the board, as a result of the work of SPLC and GET, is voting to replace the SOPC on Monday with a good policy – one that has passed a very vigorous vetting process. Giving the timing of this vote, Mr. Rose's timing for a call to arms is a bit confusing.

Peter Gokey

Scott_Rose March 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm

The replacement policy which Mr. Gokey is referring to actually still stigmatized LGBT students by calling everything about the history and culture of gay human beings "controversial" and essentially putting it off limits as a teaching and discussion subject. The replacement policy also failed, in saying that faith-based gay-bashing was of equal value to the inherent dignity of LGBTers, and that school personnel would have to allow faith-based gay-bashing to go on in the schools.

Katrina_Plotz February 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Scott Rose jumps to sweeping conclusions here that are not based on facts. The petition he started on change.org demanding the revocation of the district's superintendent license contains many inaccuracies, exaggerations, and misconceptions. When he posted and re-posted it several times on the Anoka-Hennepin Gay Equity Team's Facebook page, I messaged him privately and respectfully asked him not to use our group's page to promote the petition. I politely tried to provide a more complete picture of what's happened in our school district and help him understand how his petition could actually undermine our work at this point.

Katrina_Plotz February 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm

But rather than respect the efforts of local citizens who've been working on this issue for over 2 years, Scott inexplicably seems intent on barreling ahead with misinformation and unfair accusations. He has no facts or knowledge of the situation to support his claim that the SPLC is exploiting our students. I have yet to hear that sentiment from any of the students or families currently being represented by the SPLC. Scott's claim that the SPLC is having "teaparties" with the district shows that he lacks a basic understanding of how lawsuits work. The vast majority of lawsuits are settled before they reach a trial and settlements almost always include financial compensation. I'm not sure where Scott is getting the idea that the victims "won't see a penny" but that assertion is almost laughable. I don't know what the final result of the lawsuit will be, but it's very likely that a settlement will include a large payout in addition to a mandate for comprehensive LGBT staff training and the repeal of the Sexual Orientation Curricululm Policy (which is already poised to happen).

Scott_Rose March 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

The students got peanuts in this settlement, relative to the harm inflicted on them. $45K each? That doesn't sound like compensatory and punitive damages to me. Each of the plaintiffs deserved to be able to consult with the therapists of their choice for at least the next ten years. $45K doesn't remotely provide for that. Not a single administrator admitted to wrongdoing in the settlement, meaning that the surviving parents and/or guardians of the Anoka-Hennepin bullycide victims will have a much harder time bringing civil suits against the school, should they want to do so. Not a single administrator was held accountable and stripped of their license. I sure as heck wouldn't want you as my attorney in a case like this.

Katrina_Plotz February 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

In a week when students and families from the Anoka-Hennepin community are celebrating the many signs of progress we've seen, it's hurtful that Scott Rose would use this platform to disparage the work of local people who have put their heart and soul into this struggle, as well lash out at the SPLC who have admirably stood up for the rights of our LGBT students and families. Every member of GET who has tried to reach out to Scott Rose has been attacked or rebuffed, but you can trust the previous comments you see here. I'm not sure why he's picked this fight with us, but readers should know that local residents who've advocated strongly on behalf of our students know the facts a lot better than this outsider, looking in and judging us from New York City.

Scott_Rose May 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

All of my criticisms of the Anoka-Hennepin settlement are proving to have been correct. Barely months after the settlement was announced, reports are coming of continuing abuses and persecutions of minority students in the Anoka-Hennepin schools; many of the students beg for their complaints to remain anonymous, because they are fearful of retaliation. At the link below in this comment, scroll down, and you will be able to read a letter of appeasement that Anoka-Hennepin School Board President Heideman sent to a gay-bashing bigot. The settlement 1) did not win compensatory and punitive damages for the plaintiff/victims; 2) did not hold administrators, teachers and staff accountable for violations of student's human, civil and constitutional rights; 3) did not put in place any effective measure to protect students against gay-bashing aggression from crazed gay-bashing Jesus freaks, and in many other ways is completely unacceptable. Something Katrinza Plotz doesn't want the public to know is that due to her flimsy advocacy, the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit received threats from the school district's attorneys. Here's that link where you can read Heideman's post-settlement letter of appeasement to a gay basher: http://anokacountywatchdog.com/email/2012/03.30.1

Scott_Rose October 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Here's how much good the settlement did: In October, 2012, a head of an anti-LGBT hate group was appointed to the school board's anti-bullying task force:
Hate Group Appointee To Bullying Task Force Attacks Gay Families With Faulty Study http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/25/1093171/

Scott_Rose May 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Here is the full text of Anoka-Hennepin school board president Heideman's post-settlement letter of appeasement to a gay-bashing bigot. Readers may judge for themselves whether the settlement appear adequate to stop gay-bashing in the school district:
Dear Mr. Hamilton,

You have recently published an article in your newsletter questioning the action of the school board. I would like to take this opportunity to provide information relative to the settlement and information relative to the legal action against Anoka-Hennepin by the Department of Justice, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and two local law firms of Faegre, Baker Daniels LLP and Culberth & Lienemann LLP.
It was a very difficult decision to agree to the settlement but it was the best we could do given the circumstances the school board was faced with. In my opinion we preserved several core principles:

The Board maintained the intent of the sexual orientation curriculum policy while making it defensible in future legal challenges.

The Board did not make any changes to curriculum and did not allow the federal government authority over classroom curriculum.

The Board maintained local governance rights in the agreement.

It took us eight months to mediate because we could not give on those core principals.

This was a complex litigation with two key parts, the Department of Justice/Education and student plaintiffs.

For the Department of Justice/Education portion we would have lost in court and the core principals would not be maintained and all actions would be managed and directed by the federal government rather than the compromise partnership language we worked to get in the negotiated settlement. It should be noted that the consent decree actions are built on programs already in place at Anoka-Hennepin.

For the lawsuit with plaintiff students our legal counsel believed we would have won after spending about $2 to $3 Million of tax payer money. We would have won the right to proclaim that our teachers and staff did take appropriate action. Coming from the business world it is hard to dollarize and set a value on the ability to make that statement. We can make it anyway even in a settlement.

There was a risk that if we had lost just one case or a portion of a case we would have been responsible for plaintiff attorney fees as well which could have been another $3 Million of taxpayer money. Our insurance company made a business decision and negotiated a monetary settlement of $270,000 to move on. That left us in a tough position since taxpayers would have to fund the additional costs and accept the cost risk of a loss in order to continue the legal defense.

To this point the insurance company has paid the entire district's legal costs including paying the $270,000 settlement they negotiated. In our public statement we made it clear that we believe staff took appropriate action (See attached public statement).

In the end, the Board fought hard to negotiate a minimal interference in local control by the federal government. The negotiation process was long, labor intensive by staff/board and very contentious taking over eight months to complete. One of the cornerstone goals was to maintain our local governance rights, which we did. The DOJ role, in approval, is to determine only if our policies are in compliance with Title IV and Title IX. In addition, we have methods for measuring the effectiveness of the consent decree action allowing the ability to course correct should they not meet the intended purpose of reducing Harassment and Bullying in the schools. It is my expectation that we will pursue federal grant moneys to offset the added $500,000 of new actions required by the consent decree.

If you are interested, I would be willing to sit down and provided more detailed information relative to this tough fight that resulted in the legal settlement we have today.

Tom Heidemann

Board Chairman

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