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Anoka-Hennepin students, parents rally after board member threatens to vote down budget over diversity programs

Anoka-Hennepin parents, students rally to support diversity programs
Anoka-Hennepin parents, students rally to support diversity programs 02:20

ANOKA, Minn. — Students and parents from the Anoka-Hennepin School District rallied together because of three school board members who say they'll vote down a budget unless changes are made in the district.

Board member Matt Audette wrote in a Facebook post this month that he and two others want to "put a stop to the spreading of divisive, one-sided views," which he said includes systemic racism, reference to pronouns, equity and social justice.

Some teachers and students in the district say the board members' views don't represent how most people feel.

"It's really important for us to give a voice to students, staff, families in the district that feel threatened right now," said Vanessa Perry, a parent and teacher.

Students flooded Monday's board meeting after holding a rally outside the district.

"Diversity and equity is not something that's part of the Anoka-Hennepin District that you can remove. Equity and diversity is Anoka-Hennepin," said Ishmael Kamara, a junior at Blaine High School.

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"They don't want us to go to school and feel welcomed or even feel included," Champlin Park High School sophomore Trinny Mogaka said. "If we can't be ourselves at home or if we can't be ourselves at school, then where can young people feel safe?"

If a budget isn't approved by July 1, the district says it'll have to shut down, meaning no salaries being paid and potential delays to the start of next school year.

Complicating a path toward resolving all of this is many of the things the three board members want to eliminate are required by state law.

"What they're trying to do is illegal, it's wrong and we don't condone it," Perry said.

In a statement, a conservative group called the Anoka-Hennepin Parents Alliance said in part, "We know a large portion of the community is not supportive of the ideological imbalance that has overtaken the district... The district should show respect for our diverse community by presenting ideas for compromise within the law."

"The three board members who are in favor of this are doing what their constituents elected them to do," said Tiffany Strabala. "I want to encourage the board to come together and find common ground. Keep the social justice issues out of the classroom and focus on academics."

Requests for comment from the three board members weren't immediately returned.

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