A petition to oust anti-bullying task force member Bryan Lindquist was presented to Anoka-Hennepin District 11 School Board members during the open forum portion of the board’s Monday, Dec. 10 meeting.
Lindquist is one of 26 members of the task force, a group of District 11 parents, students, staff and faculty members appointed in mid-October to help the district shape policy on school climate.
The anti-bullying task force was established as part of the consent decree that resulted with the district settlement of a federal civil-rights lawsuit back in March.
School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann last month spoke about the selection of task force members.
“We looked for a broad, cross-section of people for this task force,” Heidemann said. “We have GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) parents, conservative Christians, Jewish, parents of special needs students, doctors, the county attorney for juvenile crime… It’s pretty broad.”
Lindquist has identified himself as a conservative Christian.
School Boardmember Mike Sullivan said last month he is a proponent of the people on the task force. “It’s critical to have opposing points of view,” he said.
Lindquist, a member of the Parent Action League (PAL), has come under fire due to statements he has made that indicate a belief that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation and that the district should distribute information about gay conversion or “reparative” therapy.
The online petition (found at www.change.org) states, “Remove Bryan Lindquist from your taskforce because if you look at his record, he is an anti-equality activist who has described homosexuality as a ‘lifestyle choice’ and who was the primary proponent of promoting ex-gay therapy in the school.”
Speaking in support of Lindquist, Tiffany Strabola said during the Dec. 10 open forum, “Bryan Lindquist is deeply committed to protecting all students from bullying.”
Strabola then spoke of the irony of bullying demonstrated by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.
“Bigot, gay-basher, hater… That’s what the LGBT community labels those who oppose them,” she said.
Jefferson Fietek, a theater arts teacher at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, spoke during the Dec. 10 open forum in support of removing Lindquist from the task force.
Fietek said that Lindquist’s statements and behavior clearly demonstrate harassment against LGBT students.
“This appointment is a clear violation of the district’s anti-bullying policy,” Fietek said. “How can the district make such strong statements about harassment and bullying, but then appoint someone who has a history of harassing and bullying behavior to its Anti-Bullying Task Force?”
Fietek went on to say he personally received harassing letters from Lindquist to such volume that he reported the harassment to his principal and Joel Milteer of employee services.
The petition was presented to board members by district resident Melissa Thompson and has some 2,462 signatures, she said, many from around the country and even overseas.
Speaking in support of the task force, Laurie Thompson of Andover, said, “The members are from a diverse background. Let everyone appointed remain and get their work done.”
The anti-bullying task force has already met a couple of times in meetings that are closed to the public and to the media.
As is standard policy in regard to issues presented during open forum, school board members did not respond to the petition or take any action at its Dec. 10 meeting.