Group accuses Anoka-Hennepin of manipulating website info

The latest dust-up in the Anoka-Hennepin school district is over a website the district created last month to address issues related to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students.

That website was first publicized in an email to media on July 29, eight days after two national civil rights groups (Southern Poverty Law Center & National Center for Lesbian Rights) filed a federal lawsuit against Anoka-Hennepin over a policy they say contributes to a hostile environment for gay students.

The goal of the website, according to district officials, is to offer a place for the public to seek out information and "answer questions about actions taken by the district in the areas of training and support." The site includes links to various district policies, including the sexual orientation curriculum policy. That's the policy the lawsuit seeks to have thrown out.

This morning, a group called the Gay Equity Team accused the district of posting several "misrepresentations" and "falsified information" on that site. Their issues were outlined in a ten-page document. The Gay Equity Team is a group of families, students, staff and other community members that has spoken publicly in opposition to the neutrality policy.

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One example they cite is that the Anoka LGBT site links to a transcript of a recorded message sent to staff by superintendent Dennis Carlson on Sept. 24, 2010. Carlson discusses suicides of students in the district during that call. The audio of the message varies from the transcript that's posted on the LGBT site. "Disturbingly, they have taken twisting the truth to an even lower level of deceit: documents have been manipulated to deceptively improve the district's image," reads the statement from the Gay Equity Team.

But the district refutes any claim that it's posting misleading information. Spokesman Brett Johnson said any difference between the audio recording and the text stems from the fact that Carlson often edits the final script before recording the message, and sometimes those changes don't get changed in the written version.

There's no effort to mislead the public, Johnson added. "We deal with the truth and the facts, and if something is inaccurate and it's brought to our attention, we'll correct it," he said. "But in no way does anything we're trying to do stray from known facts."

The lawsuit, which has put national media attention on the state's largest district, seeks the removal of the sexual orientation curriculum policy, as well as monetary awards for the five current and former students named in the suit, who claim the district failed to address harassment and bullying they were enduring.