Schools notebook

School Board strengthens LGBT protections

As its last action before welcoming newly elected members, the School Board passed a resolution Jan. 11 strengthening protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

The resolution called on district leaders to create a more robust system of tracking and reporting harassment and bullying of LGBT students. A spate of teen suicides linked to antigay harassment — including the deaths of several teens in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the state’s largest — focused attention on the issue in recent months.

Among other measures, the resolution requested Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson create a subcommittee “to ensure the inclusion of LGBTQ students, staff and families in all aspects of the school district.” (The resolution’s text used a less-common version of the LGBT acronym, adding “Q” to include students questioning their sexual identities.)

Other sections of the resolution call for the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation to be included in the district’s sexual health curriculum; that resources for LGBT students, staff and family members be made available in schools and on the district’s website; and that the district create and award credit for a course on LGBT history.

Just before approving the resolution unanimously, board members praised their outgoing colleague, Chris Stewart, who worked with district staff to craft the resolution.

Outgoing Board Member T. Williams described the resolution as a part of that board’s “legacy,” predicting that it would “have a significant impact on the lives of young people in our schools and their families.”

Board Member Peggy Flanagan, who also was leaving the board that night, said the resolution approved by her colleagues would “leave Minneapolis a more welcoming and inclusive place.”

Five new School Board members sworn in

Five new School Board members — including the first person born in Somalia to be elected to public office in the state and possibly the nation — were sworn in Jan. 11.

New Board Member Hussein Samatar first addressed the large audience packed into the boardroom in Somali before continuing his remarks in Spanish and then English. He promised to be a strong voice for English Language Learner students on the board.

“I come here to represent the best interests of all our children, but I do understand that I represent the rising voice of the new Americans,” Samatar said.

Also sworn-in were new board members Richard Mammen, Rebecca Gagnon, Jenny Arneson and Alberto Monserrate. Monserrate, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the first Latino member of the board.

Leaving the board were members Chris Stewart, Peggy Flanagan, T. Williams and Tom Madden. More members joined the School Board than left because the body is undergoing a voter-approved expansion that will continue when the next election is held in 2012.

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Make-up for snow days is March 11

Minneapolis Public Schools will hold classes March 11 to make up for one of the back-to-back snow days in December.

The district originally scheduled no classes for March 11 to allow for elementary school staff professional development and parent-teacher conferences in high schools. The professional development day was rescheduled for May 9, and high school parent-teacher conferences were moved up on the calendar to Feb. 18, when elementary school parent-teacher conferences also will be held.

District officials cancelled classes Dec. 13–14 following one of the largest snow events on record in Minneapolis, a storm that dumped 17 inches of snow. At the time, district officials cited bitterly cold temperatures and potential bus delays due to unplowed streets for the cancellations.

Before December, the district had not called a snow day in a decade, and no one could recall the last back-to-back cancellation of classes due to snow.