Five students suing Anoka-Hennepin schools over gay bullying

Categories: GLBT
Thumbnail image for justin aaberg.JPG
Justin Aaberg committed suicide after years of bullying.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are suing the Anoka-Hennepin County School District on behalf of five current and former students, claiming that the district's hands-off policy on sexual orientation has allowed years of bullying for gay students.

The suit, which comes on the heels of the Department of Justice announcing an investigation into the same issue, is seeking to change the district policy that discourages discussion of sexual orientation in classrooms, and maintains an officially "neutral" viewpoint of homosexuality.

The district responded with an offer for increased teacher training, but the school district communications director Mary Olson said it was also preparing to defend itself in court.

"Well, if we're sued," she said, "I guess we have to."

The complaint alleges that district students have been picked-on, verbally assaulted and worse, including claims of "being urinated on, being stabbed in the neck with a pencil, being choked, being pushed into walls, being shoved forcefully into lockers, having objects thrown at them in class, and having books knocked out of their hands."

The district responded to the lawsuit through a statement released yesterday:

The Anoka-Hennepin School District is reviewing the complaint initiated today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The district takes strong exception to the outrageous media statement the district is not concerned about the safety of its students.

Anoka-Hennepin awaits a response from the SLPC and NCLR on its invitation to help the district train and prepare for the upcoming school year. Anoka-Hennepin has been recognized as a pro-active leader in the state of Minnesota on bullying prevention. "We are always willing to improve upon our practice as it relates to the safety of students," said Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

SPLC's Sam Wolfe, the lead attorney bringing the suit, told City Pages the "invitation to help the district train and prepare for the upcoming school year" isn't enough to stop the suit.

"We don't see it as a serious offer at this point," Wolfe said. "As long as the policy is in place, this type of offer is not meaningful."

The policy that the suit seeks to abolish governs the discussion of homosexuality in public school classrooms.

"Teaching about sexual orientation," the policy reads, "is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations."

Wolfe says that policy, which has been in place since 2009, replaced an even stronger policy that dated back to the mid-1990s, which stated that teachers should not encourage homosexuality.

The Department of Justice's investigation is looking into the suicides of four students in the district which are blamed on the students' issues with their sexuality, including two cases where bullying may directly have led to suicide.

The civil complaint against the district is demanding that the district abandon its policy altogether. Wolfe said the complainants would consider a revision of the policy, but that probably wouldn't be sufficient to settle the suit.

"I doubt there's any way to repair this policy," Wolfe said. "It just needs to go."

Along with the policy change, the five students who are bringing the suit are seeking monetary compensation for their suffering. Wolfe said in similar cases with only one or two students involved, juries had awarded as much as $1 million to gay students.

The students and their families will consider a settlement offer, Wolfe says, but SPLC is readying itself for the courtroom.

"The ball is really in their court now," Wolfe said. "We're willing to litigate this all the way through trial."


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15 comments
novenator
novenator

Good. Something HAS to be done about this school district, in fact all of the school districts in the new Republican central Minnesota (think Bachman-land) have an epidemic of bullying against LGBT students. So much for "conservative tolerance"! They are showing what they are really about with all of their hateful anti-equal rights fake-Jesus crap. There have been 2 or 3 suicides resulting from this in the last year alone.

Johnny
Johnny

It is not the purpose of the courts to make people 'feel good' about themselves.

Guest
Guest

Kirk has a point though... IF they were singled out to be picked on.. there not the only ones being picked on.. EVERYONE in scool gets picked on.. If your too small, too fat, too wierd, too smart, too dumb.. anything you can think of... kids are mean.  It just sucks these kids feel they have to end their lives.  Things do get better after High School, they just had no one to tell them that.

omgurdens
omgurdens

I don't think it's any big surprise that there's a lot of homophobia in the super redneck northern suburbs in general.  When the students are driving trucks with confederate flags, and many of the staff is from the area, can we really expect much gay-bullying enforcement?  The north side is about 30 years behind the rest of the metro as far as being civilized.  Sorry hometown but its true.

O'Doyle
O'Doyle

I think Kirk has a point because just looking at the picture of this kid gives me at least five reasons why I want to smack him.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Has anyone ever proven Justin Aaberg absolutely commuted suicide due to this bulling?   Or is that just the position the liars (lawyers), have taken because it will make them rich?

from above-  "The complaint alleges that district students have been picked-on, verbally assaulted and worse, including claims of "being urinated on, being stabbed in the neck with a pencil, being choked, beingpushed into walls, being shoved forcefully into lockers, having objects thrown at them inclass, and having books knocked out of their hands."

I saw this stuff happen to people who were not gay all the time in school while growing up.Now how could that be?Because the liars (lawyers), want us all to believe, this activity only happened because they chose to take on a lifestyle in which GREATLY increased their chances of getting aids.Was 1/4 of my high school gay?1/4 of the people in my high school had the EXACT same things happen to them.Hmmm....

green23
green23

I think the point here is that the district has implemented a policy that seems to make it "okay" to bully gay students, in contrast to other students. Kirk more or less supports this by casting homosexuality as a "choice", and these students as fair game for abuse due to that "choice".

Chandler Thomas Wilson
Chandler Thomas Wilson

While I think there might be some truth in your statement, that attitude of "The north side is about 30 years behind the rest of the metro as far as being civilized" is never going to get this anywhere.

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Wow, you are demented.  You're probably really fucking fat too.  You probably have the worst shit ass hair cut also.  You probably ate at Mcdonalds today.

green23
green23

Kirk wrote:"Has anyone ever proven Justin Aaberg absolutely commuted suicide due to this bulling? "

Did you miss the part where this is being INVESTIGATED by the DOJ? Maybe that's also why there is a LAWSUIT, Kirk. So that a court can determine if there is sufficient proof.

It's ridiculous that you quote the article where it says "the complaint alleges", and then wonder if there is proof. Because, until a court renders a decision, any amount of evidence is mere allegation.

Aside from that, it doesn't matter if Aaberg committed suicide due to this bullying. The lawsuit revolves around the allegation that "the district's hands-off policy on sexual orientation has allowed years of bullying for gay students." Hey, that's a quote from the post. You missed that, Kirk. The district is being sued for their POLICY, not for the suicide. The DOJ is investigating the suicides.

I learned this from the post, where it says:"The Department of Justice's investigation is looking into the suicides of four students in the district which are blamed on the students' issues with their sexuality, including two cases where bullying may directly have led to suicide."

Reading the post can often illuminate these questions that seem to constantly arise in your mind. Do you understand the difference between the DOJ and civil litigation attorneys?

Yet another example of Kirk's total lack of reading comprehension. He continually seems to be missing the point, repeatedly and at length.

Kirk wrote:"they chose to take on a lifestyle"Idiot. People don't choose to be gay, any more than you chose to be black.

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

Posts like this just proves that kirk is a hateful evil vile person.   Good people see children suffering and they want to change the world so its not so bad.   kirk sees children suffering and he gets happy.    you are a terrible person if you don't feel compassion about someone's dead child. 

jww
jww

Unlike being a smug, insensitive fuckface... being gay is not a choice.

Guy
Guy

You're not a very compassionate person, are you?

Guest
Guest

Guy - you must be new here.  Kirk's name says it all.  Probably another 10 year old in the basement trying to troll.  

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