Sixth student sues Anoka-Hennepin school district over gay bullying [UPDATE]

Categories: GLBT
Thumbnail image for samantha.JPG
Samantha Johnson's is one of at least four suicides blamed on bullying.
The Anoka-Hennepin school district has been slapped with yet another lawsuit over gay bullying in its schools and its policy of "neutrality" on issues of homosexuality. The plaintiff, a 15-year-old former Jackson Middle School student, is being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The new suit shares many of the same allegations of discrimination as the one filed by five district students in July. However, this particular complaint also names teachers and incidents in which they did not help the girl when she sought refuge from bullies.

Update: Anoka-Hennepin school district spokeswoman Mary Olson responds

According to the complaint, the student -- named only as E.R. -- came out as a lesbian to her mother when she was 12 years old. But the harassment didn't start until she transferred to the Anoka-Hennepin school district as an eighth grader.

justingoofy.jpg
Justin Aaberg, one of the district students who committed suicide after gay bullying.
The complaint says that from her very first day of school in fall of 2010, other kids called her a "dyke" or a "he/she", and made comments such as, "You fucking faggot -- get out of our school." When standing in the girl's line at lunch, other students told her she didn't belong there. One boy even allegedly punched her in the stomach.

The suit goes on to describe incidents when teachers did not intervene on the student's behalf: When other girls told her she shouldn't be in the ladies locker room, rather than disciplining her tormentors, the teacher told her to change in a separate room. The complaint claims the associate principal Anita Udager did not inform the girl's mother she was being bullied, even though she complained to teachers about it constantly. Finally, it claims that not only were E.R.'s bullies never punished, she was punished instead:

By approximately January, school officials further stigmatized E.R. by instituting a requirement that E.R. walk through the hallways at a separate time from other students, accompanied by a paraprofessional. They also eventually prohibited her from eating lunch in the cafeteria with the other students. School officials made it clear that these steps were taken as disciplinary measures against E.R., and never suggested that these steps were intended to protect her from harassment. In April, school officials cut E.R.'s class schedule to a half day.

Read the entire lawsuit here.

"They increased and accelerated the stigma and made her a greater target," says Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The lawsuit blames harassment and teacher apathy on the climate created by the Anoka-Hennepin school district's "neutrality policy," which instructs teachers to remain "neutral" when issues about homosexuality come up in class. This is the same claim made by a lawsuit filed by five students in July, saying the policy is a "gag order" that prevents school staff from counseling distressed gay students, and is even being blamed for student suicides.

"It is very clear that the district's censorship policy -- which really operates as a way to stifle any conversation or discussion about LGBT contributions, issues, history -- is a key root cause of the harassment," says Kendell.

She says that this new suit will likely be combined with the other five students' claim, and handled together, in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center. She says their firm has heard from other students in the district, but isn't sure yet if more lawsuits are on the way.

No one was available from the district to comment yesterday afternoon, but when contacted about the initial lawsuit in July, district spokesperson Mary Olson told City Pages the district would defend itself in court. She also released a statement saying, in part, "The district takes strong exception to the outrageous media statement the district is not concerned about the safety of its students."

Update:

"We were told there would quite likely be other students participating in litigation. It was not a surprise to us," says Olson today. "We're continuing as we were before, looking into the situation, preparing."

Olson reiterated that the district investigated the first five students' cases and found that school staff acted properly. The same kind of in-house investigation will take place in E.R.'s case.

She says that because disciplinary action against students is private data, it can be "confusing" for victims and their families, and appear as though nothing was done.

"I don't know that everyone will agree that the action was appropriate," says Olson. "But it fit our policy. We responded properly in these situations."

Previous coverage:


My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
AlvinPiterson
AlvinPiterson

This is a lot of abuse, and sometimes it was a physical bullying, but it never planned to kill himself rather than a friend. The fact is that not any one know for its decides to take.

Online Counseling

Zach Pasdoe
Zach Pasdoe

I was picked on and I also dished it out.  At times I was literally scared to go to school because I knew the same kids would be there waiting to attack me and/or my friends.  There was plenty of name calling and sometimes it was physical bullying (hence the reason I was scared), but I never contemplated suicide nor did my friends.  That being said, don't most kids go through some sort of bullying at some point in their young lives?

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

You don't think it might be a sign that its a little different type of bullying when multiple children have committed suicide?    Kind of seems like when you have multiple dead children and their loved ones are blaming the schools crappy policy something might need to be done.  

Zach Pasdoe
Zach Pasdoe

A bully is a bully is s/he not?  Or are you saying certain type of bullies are worse than other bullies?  Did bullies have something to do with it?  Perhaps.  Did the school district's "crappy" policy have something to do with?  Maybe. There are a lot of other questions that must be asked before blaming a school district for a kid's decision to take her/his own life.  I'm not trying to be insensitive, but there is probably a lot more to the story than what we are being fed.  For example, how supportive were the families of these gay students?  How supportive were their close friends?  Had any of these students been in a relationship?  Were any of them already suffering from depression?  The fact is neither you nor I know what is going on in the minds of those who decide to take their own lives.  To sit and question why one would go to such extremes or to blame others is also counterproductive.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

This is perfect!  Perhaps this is what it takes to get rid of union teachers with tenure.   We should break this school district into smaller districts.  It currently is the largest in the state.  Ya I know, liberals think biger government is better government.

Does anybody else go to Anoka/Hennipen district meetings?  Or are ya all a bunch of armchair quarterbacks?

vitajex
vitajex

Yep.  This issue of gay bullying and anti-homosexual policies is DEFINITELY budget-related...

The school district has too much money and that's why they're having these problems.  We should cut taxes so we can cut expenditures on public education.  That will make all schools a MUCH less appealing target for lawsuits, because we all know that the only reason anyone ever sues anyone is because they want money in their pocket.

Plus, we have the added bonus of having a whole generation of uneducated idiots who can grow up to be good conservatives.

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

That's how Fascist states are created.  They rely on the uneducated.

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

People with some college education voted for Obama 51%-47%.   People with college graduation or better voted for Obama 53%-45%.    How educated are you kirk?  You have told us that you almost make $30,000 a year so I'm curious where your big brain comes from.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Like the people of Minneapolis? 1/4 of those 26 years old and older do NOT have a high school diploma or equivalent.  (per the 2009 census) I wonder if that is part of the reason 80% of Minneapolis votes democrat.

80%+ of people WITHOUT a high school diploma VOTE DEMOCRAT.85%+ of people with a felony would VOTE DEMOCRAT90%+ of people in state prison would VOTE DEMOCRAT

Fun stats, are they not?

-----------------------------

Factfinder census. gov (take out the spaces) - to get the 2009 census resultsThis will give you education rates of cities, states and the U.S.Turns out the areas that vote predominantly Democrat, are amongst the most uneducated in the state. Check it out!

And voting stats can figured by percentages a candidate receives in their district.(republican or democrat) These are obtained through the Minnesota SOS website.

Of course felons and inmates cannot vote, but there has been many surveys to get such results. Sorry, CP doesn't allow the posting on links, or I could make opening your eyes very easy.

Retribution
Retribution

That's also how liberals operate - they rely on the uneducated to soak up their BS and regurgitate it by going to the polls to vote for those who keep them in permanent bondage.

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

if conservatives are all about smaller government, why are they governing who can and cannot get married?  why are they governing so heavily on abortion?  You understand that breaking a large school like that into many districts would force there to be smaller class sizes, MORE union teachers to teach these students, and more schools in general, sounds counterproductive to the typical conservative ideology.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Um what?There already is a Anoka High School, Coon Rapids High School, Blaine High School, Fridley High School, etc, but the all belong to the same school district.

There is not one big happy indoctrination center where the kids go as you may think.  This is why I find it funny that Anoka-Hennepin is mostly mentioned, in place of the individual school.  Break it up!  Stop the redistribution of funds!

Squirrelchucks
Squirrelchucks

Just read Demonic, Laugh that you think Ann is anything but a fiction author who promotes her work with authority.  You pay her way and think her ideas are your own.

Retribution
Retribution

They're typically against abortion, but, relax, if you, or someone you know, wants to extinguish the life growing inside of them, there's plenty of "family planning" centers, aka death factories, that will perform them for you. Also, they don't like the idea of upstart deviants callously destroying the definition & institution of marriage for their poisonous agenda.

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

Hey City Pages if you had called this article "Sixth black student sues Anoka-Hennepin school district over gay bullying" you might have gotten a link from totally not racist Matt Drudge.   Then we could have had a reasonable discussion about how there is no such thing as racism no matter what the whiny black people say.  Now we will have to settle for kirk making fun of the dead children.   Conservatives are so classy and compassionate.

Retribution
Retribution

No one forced the girl to kill herself, idiot.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...