Minnesota school board meeting with anti-LGBTQ+ hate group protested

Becker, Mn. – The Becker School District Board has signed a plan to allow the [Minnesota] Child Protection League, (MCPL), to make a presentation at a special board meeting on Monday, March 14. The MCPL, formed in 2013 and based in Anoka, Minnesota, is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group for its propaganda, lies and misinformation it spreads about LGBTQ+ people.

The group, along with the defunct Minnesota Parents Action League, lobbied to prevent the passage of Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which eventually passed and more recently fought to prevent inclusive school policies statewide. The group is also adamantly opposed to legislation that a Minnesota House panel advanced earlier this monthbanning the practice of conversion therapy in the state.

Under the bill, mental health professionals would be prohibited from providing conversion therapy to vulnerable adults and clients under the age of 18. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order last year to ban conversion therapy and called on state lawmakers to pass legislation to make the ban permanent.

The MCPL’s timing for its presentation to the Becker School District Board comes as legislation banning conversion therapy is being drafted in the statehouse, including a companion bill. in the Minnesota Senate. waiting for action.

Prior to the start of the current academic year, statewide LGBTQ+ rights organization Minnesota Frontmade a presentation to the Becker School District Board, addressing concerns raised by LGBTQ+ students regarding equity, equality, and inclusion within schools in the district.

Nearby St. Cloud’s local newspaper, the St. Cloud Times, reported this week that tensions and issues regarding the LGBTQ+ student population in district schools were a recurring situation. In an article published on March 10, the Times noted:

Earlier in 2021, someone posted a rumor on a Becker Community Facebook page that pride flags were going to replace American flags in the school. The claim was false, said Becker Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Schmidtbut garnered “thousands” of comments, said Joe Rand, GSA adviser, speech coach and theater manager.

“But those comments mostly included hate speech, negative feelings towards LGBTQ+ people,” Rand said.. It was like “shouting fire in a crowded room”, he added, and it raised tensions in the school.

At one point, a student posted anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in response to the false pride flags claim on social media. Other current and former students have taken to posting screenshots of the post to their social media accounts in opposition to the sentiments. Someone reported the student to his future college, said Dr. Heather Abrahamson, social studies teacher at Becker High School and GSA counselor.

Becker Police Chief Brent Baloun began contacting students who shared the screenshots, advising them to remove them “or risk civil and/or criminal prosecution,” according to a June report. ACLU of Minnesota letter to school board members.

“To that end, the ACLU of Minnesota strongly encourages the Becker Police Department to stop abusing its authority as law enforcement to chill the First Amendment right to free speech of current students. and Becker Public School alumni; specifically, the Chief of Police should immediately cease contacting these individuals to urge them to delete their private, constitutionally protected social media posts,” wrote ACLU of Minnesota Legal Director Teresa Nelson. , in the letter. “The ACLU of Minnesota also urges Becker Public Schools to stop allowing Becker Police to use school property to question students about private, constitutionally protected speech,” a- she added.

Following the messages, a group of students began lining up their trucks at the edge of the school parking lot on Tuesdays displaying American flags, the Gadsden Flag a.k.a the Don’t Tread on Me flags favored by right-wing extremist groups and Donald Trump’s campaign flags, although they said it was unrelated to what was happening on social media, Rand said . The school eventually banned the Trump and Gadsden flags at school, Dr Abrahamson. noted.

KQ Quinn, Education Equity Youth Coordinator for Minnesota Front noted that Minnesota’s education equity gap is one of the worst in the nation for LGBTQ+ students. “We need to keep working together so that every student can get what they need,” Quinn said.

OutFront clarifies that defining educational equity means finding what each student needs to succeed – academically, socially-emotionally, and everything in between – and getting it for them.

The process is complex, dynamic and ongoing: owning flaws and biases, engaging in courageous conversations to challenge bias and discrimination, creating environments where students feel safe to share what they need and break all the systems that create obstacles. Students who feel valued, seen and celebrated are the ones who will succeedsays the OutFront website.

Becker School District Superintendent Jeremy Schmidt confirmed someone from the Child Welfare League would be able to present to the board on March 14 the Times reported. The newspaper then noted that two community members attended the March 7 school board meeting and spoke during the public comment period, expressing their interest in having the school board make a presentation in response to the presentation. of August from OutFront.

When a board member asked the rest of the board if there was any objection to the March 14 special meeting, no one objected.

Rand told the Blade on a phone call on Saturday that there really aren’t two sides to this problem. People who lobby against LGBTQ+ rights say their rights are being violated, but students feel they are the ones who are excluded from these conversations to the point of being marginalized and intimidated.

Anti-LGBTQ+ activist and lawyer Betsy Armstrong once confused LGBTQ+ equality rights with critical race theory on the school board and was among those who demanded that the anti-LGBTQ+ hate group be allowed to make his presentation, Rand told the blade.

Armstrong, who lives in Becker, believes the “progressive agenda” adopted by Minnesota schools would teach students to define themselves by ethnicity and teach students that white people are guilty of systemic racism.

She has also been highly critical of the acceptance of GSAs in schools and opposes the display of pride flags to designate “safe spaces” in some school classrooms in the district.

Rand said students are prepared for Monday’s presentation and will attend to ensure board members are aware and understand the real danger to LGBTQ+ students from such hateful messages.

About Jessica J. Bass

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