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Advocates say anti-bullying clarifications not enough

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Advocates for gay students say the Anoka-Hennepin school district only took small steps in voting last night to clarify its policies regarding sexual orientation.

The district's school board voted to include more specific wording in four policies.

Superintendent Dennis Carlson said the district is always looking to better clarify such matters and communicate those changes to teachers and staff. 

"With all these policies, they're only as good as they are carried through in the buildings, with staff," Carlson said. "So the one thing we're going to try to do is make sure when we clarify policies and roll them out that we take that opportunity to say 'here's the policy, here's what it means.'"

Rebecca Wagner, with OutFront Minnesota, said it's a good move, but the district also needs to address its so-called neutrality policy on sexual orientation in curriculum. Wagner said it's vague and keeps teachers from addressing non-curriculum matters like harassment.

"Eliminating any policy like the neutrality policy sends a very clear message that all students count, that all students across the board count," Wagner said. "That's what we're moving toward; that's what we want to help Anoka-Hennepin move toward."

The district's move comes as the federal government issues its own guidance to clarify to schools when student bullying might violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. 

District leaders say the clarification approved last night will be explained to teachers and staff. They say the curriculum policy should never be confused with an employee's obligation to act if they see any student bullied or harassed.