Bachmann is urged to condemn bullying

  • Updated: September 16, 2011 - 12:08 AM

Mother of an Anoka High suicide victim was one of those who delivered a petition to the lawmaker's staff.

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Tammy Aaberg with a photograph of her son, Justin, who hung himself in July 2010, at her home in Anoka. After his death, she learned from his friends that he had been outed as gay in the eighth grade and was sometimes shoved and called names by other students.

Photo: Allen Brisson-Smith, Associated Press - Nyt

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Tammy Aaberg, mother of a gay Anoka High School student who took his life last year, called on Rep. Michele Bachmann on Thursday to publicly denounce the kind of harassment in the Anoka-Hennepin School District that Aaberg says led to her son's suicide.

The Anoka-Hennepin district, which is in Bachmann's congressional area, is the target of a pair of lawsuits stemming from its "neutrality policy" regarding issues of sexual preference and identity. It also is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, sparked last fall by allegations of bullying over sexual orientation.

Aaberg and five others met with Bachmann staffers at the congresswoman's office in Waite Park, near St. Cloud.

They also delivered a box containing more than 130,000 petition signatures from around the country, calling on Bachmann to condemn harassment of gay students in her district.

About 500 of the signers came from Bachmann's district, according to Becky Bond, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Credo Action, a for-profit mobile communications company that directs some of its profits to progressive causes. It also offers opportunities for users to generate and sign petitions.

The hourlong meeting with Bachmann staffer Deb Steiskal included Aaberg; Edina senior Gabe Aderhold, who heckled Bachmann during an Iowa State Fair appearance last month; his mother, Audrey Kingstrom; Edina classmate Graham Luterbach; Justin Anderson, a gay graduate of Blaine High School, and constituent Denny Smith, a St. Cloud resident. They shared their stories and views as Steiskal took notes and asked questions.

Bachmann representative Becky Rogness issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that Bachmann will review the petition and respond later. Although Bachmann is a GOP presidential contender, Rogness noted that her congressional office could not respond on that level.

Aaberg said that she felt confident Steiskal will deliver their message to Bachmann, but that she was skeptical the congresswoman would take a stand.

"I wanted to give her a chance to do the right thing," Aaberg said.

MARIA ELENA BACA

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