School board member throws down the gauntlet in Anoka-Hennepin

Finally some leadership! A school board member in the state’s largest school district threw down the gauntlet this week with a list of policies, practices and funding choices that need to change before he and his colleagues will vote to approve the next budget. Anoka-Hennepin School Board Member Matt Audette publicized the list in a Facebook post identifying “policies, procedures, processes, or practices that must come to an end in our Anoka-Hennepin schools.” The district is facing a $20 million budget shortfall after agreeing to a teacher contract settlement that will cost an additional $64 million (see Circle of Education Funding here).

According to the Sahan Journal, school district staff responded to Audette’s list with an 11-page memo detailing references to state law and school district policy that can be summed up in four words: you can’t do that. The memo sets up a fascinating dynamic that will be played out over the next few months by a school board that is split 3-3 along ideological lines. Audette won election to the board in 2021 and helped two others win election last year, falling just short of a working majority. The board is now governed by co-chairs, with new member Zach Arco representing conservatives and Kacy Deschene representing liberals.

Audette’s list includes getting rid of the districts diversity equity and inclusion staff, including a director who receives a salary of $125,000. He also demands the district eliminate all practices, policies and training regarding social-emotional learning, DEI, pronouns, anti-racism, land acknowledgements, student surveys and flags or symbols in the classroom besides the US flag. The list also cuts funding for implementation of Minnesota’s new social studies standards, which Audette says is “obviously slanted and biased toward a single world view that is decidedly negative in what it teaches about our country.”

So that our children will not be indoctrinated by divisive, dehumanizing ideologies and world views, we cannot support:

1) Use or promotion of divisive programs, teaching, or concepts with students (instruction / learning) or staff (staff development or other), such as:

-Systemic racism


-Whiteness / De-centering whiteness


-Critical race theory

-Gender identity issues:

-Reference to pronouns, gender identity, sex assigned at birth, etc

-Requiring or asking students to identify their gender, preferred pronouns, etc

-Referring to names or genders without parental knowledge and consent


-Culturally responsive teaching

-View that meritocracy, work ethic, or devotion to duty are racist or sexist, or were created by one race or sex to oppress another race or sex

-View that one race is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive

-View that the United States is fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist

-1619 Project


-Land acknowledgment statements or principles

-Oppressor vs. oppressed

-Social justice

-Ascribing character traits, values, morals, ethics, privileges, status, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of his or her race or sex

-Claims that by virtue of their race or sex, a person is inherently racist or sexist, or are inherently inclined to oppress others

2) Social Emotional Learning

-Elementary and Middle

-Leader In Me and Character Strong

3) Professional Development for our teachers and staff with a focus other than classroom instruction. (Staff continue to report being subjected to mandatory professional development sessions including divisive topics such as anti-racism and white privilege).

4) The district’s Equity Achievement Plan and Related programs, instruction, and staff

-Plan itself must be modified to focus on achievement

-Director, DEI

-Student Achievement Advisors (these are roles that are focused on DEI and ‘equity’)

-Affinity groups / grouping students or staff by race / by sexual orientation / by gender / other

5) Social Studies Curriculum

– Adoption of 2021 MN Standards (halt the process). We cannot adopt a curriculum that is obviously slanted and biased toward a single world view that is decidedly negative in what it teaches about our country.

So that our children may learn in an environment free from unneeded and unwanted sexualization, we cannot support:

6) Policy document 102.0 G – EEO policy guidance document (see district policy 102.0)

-Rescind the guidance document on June 16,2024

7) Student surveys, requests for information, or data collection, whether formal or informal, from or about students not approved by the School Board

So that student behavior and discipline may be restored, and academic rigor will be strengthened, we cannot support:

8 ) The ‘expulsion waiver’ process / student discipline issues

-Restorative justice practices in place of suspensions or expulsion

-Expulsion waivers

9) Standards-based Grading

-Grading system itself (being implemented in middle schools and high schools)

-Credit Recovery process: system enabling a student to receive credit for a course via alternative examination or assignments when extraordinary circumstances do not exist

So that our children may learn in an environment free from the distractions of political ideologies and the imposition of belief systems and world views (which is not the proper role of schools), we cannot support:

10) Learning environment distractions, such as:

-Displaying non-school related groups, ideas, themes, trademarks, symbols, brands, ideologies, emblems, or flags (other than American flag) in school or classrooms

-School-specific statements of mission, purpose, values, beliefs

-Teacher-specific statements of mission, purpose, values, beliefs

-Any statements of mission, purpose, values, or beliefs not approved by the School Board

The district memo responding to Audette’s list makes the argument that many of these policies can’t be eliminated because they are required by state law. But if that’s true, why even have local school boards? These state laws are being interpreted 400 different ways across the state by local independent school districts.

For example, state law says schools must adopt the new social studies standards. But to what degree? How? Which curriculum should be used? These are local decisions and Audette is arguing against a complete overhaul of Anoka-Hennepin’s curriculum that is slated to cost $3.35 million over the next few years.

School districts are required by law to offer professional development to teachers, but the content and priorities of that training is up to local districts. Audette is arguing for a stronger focus on academics and less focus on diversity. Surely that can be accomplished within the confines of state law.

The district staff also pointed out where Audette’s list conflicted with school board policy. It didn’t occur to them that school board members can simply change school board policy?

As my brother the attorney always says, everything is negotiable. Audette and his newly elected colleagues were elected on a platform to get rid of these distractions and return the focus of the district to academic achievement. The staff and the other board members should work together in a creative way to fulfill the wishes of the voters while staying in compliance with state law. It’s not that hard.  As he put it:

“It is time to put a stop to the spreading of divisive, one-sided views, training, and learning that go against the values and beliefs of many families, students, and staff in our community.”

This is what leadership looks like. Bravo!