At a forum just before the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, students from the Edina High School Gay - Straight Alliance confronted the legislators from Edina, and Rep. Keith Downey in particular, about their position on the bullying of GLBT students.
Rep. Downey claimed that a bill offered last session, and advocated for by the student group, would replace a general prohibition against bullying with protection for specific classes, which Downey opposed. Everyone ought to be protected, says Downey.
But as the spokesman for the group, Gabe Aderhold, said, the Safe Schools for All Act (SF494) would NOT repeal the general prohibition against bullying, but rather supplement it by referring to several specific groups IN ADDITION to the general prohibition, groups like the GLBT kids, the disabled, religious minorities, etc.
Here's the pertinent language of SF494:
By January 1, 2012, a school board must adopt a written policy that prohibits harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence based on, but not limited to, actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical characteristics, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. The policy shall address harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence in all forms including, but not limited to, electronic forms and forms requiring Internet use. [emphasis added]
Keith Downey was fibbing, and that puts it charitably.
Downey's position is aimed at permitting and protecting districts like the Anoka-Hennepin school district -- which fought tooth and nail to protect its "neutrality policy, also know as "No Say Gay" or "No Promo Homo" -- from having to adopt policies to protect GLBT students specifically.
Downey's animus towards gays and lesbians is well known.
On March 5, 2012, however, Anoka-Hennepin agreed to a settlement of a federal lawsuit and civil rights investigation in a consent decree over its "neutrality policy" (a policy that was anything but neutral in operation) that could probably have been avoided with a better state-wide policy against GLBT bullying.
Update: Gabe Aderhold is the Edina High School student who confronted Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty at the Iowa State Fair over their anti-gay views when they were there campaigning to be president [chortle]. He's also the one who organized the protest and boycott that chased Bradlee Dean's card table evangelists out of the Edina Car Wash last fall.
Further update: Here is a letter sent to the Edina Sun Current by Edina resident and -- now former, I think -- member of the Edina Human Rights Commission, Arnie Bigbee. It was published on May, 18, 2011:
To the editor:
On Thursday, April 14, many constituents of Edina visited Sen. Geoff Michel, Rep. Keith Downey and Rep. Pat Mazorol about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality issues. Michel, while pleasant, has shown by his subsequent votes that he does not favor all his constituents having fair and equal treatment in Minnesota.
Downey was argumentative and brought up opinions and points of view that reflected ignorance of science and facts. He displayed his personal (religious?) beliefs in a way that conveyed insulting disrespect for our group including four Edina High School students. It was painful for me to witness the behavior of an elected leader causing all the youth in our group to leave in tears.
Mazorol, while stating that he opposed GLBT equality, would not elaborate on his opinion.
The Edina City Council has unanimously approved a domestic partnership ordinance. It is clear that Downey and Mazorol along with Michel are not listening to nor fairly representing all of their constituents.
Arnie BigbeeAnd yet another Update: There has been some intimation that Rep. Downey was set up, either by me or by Gabe, or both. Ha. You're thinking of James O'Keefe or Andrew Brietbart (RIP). I think there is a little projection going on here.
If it had been a setup, the video would have been a LOT better. I was actually there to see what the Deputy might have to say, it being his first public appearance since being stripped of his epaulets and brass buttons by the Senate Republican caucus. He was pretty quiet, but Rep. Downey made up for it.
I didn't even know Gabe before that evening. And I didn't know much about the Safe Schools for All Act at the time, or I would have chimed in, too. I did take a little video of the group afterwards; I asked them to stick around for that.
And before the meeting started, Downey came up to me and introduced himself in that friendly politician way. I told him who I was, and that I was one of his principal detractors -- those were the words I used. So there was no doubt as to who I was.
The Deputy didn't do that; he didn't have to do that to find out who I was. He already knew.