2nd Anoka-Hennepin suit alleges GLBT students bullied

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER
  • Star Tribune
  • August 10, 2011 - 8:12 PM

A second lawsuit has been filed against the Anoka-Hennepin school district alleging harassment of students based on sexual orientation.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, alleges that an unnamed student who is a lesbian was subjected to slurs after she began attending Jackson Middle School in Champlin in September 2010. The suit, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), is a companion to one filed July 21 on behalf of five current and former students by the NCLR and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The suits were filed jointly with a local law firm.

"We were told when the original lawsuit was filed that there may be more, so this is not a surprise," said district Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

The newer suit alleges that the middle school student was called "faggot" and "dyke," among other slurs, and even was punched in the stomach once. When she reported the harassment to teachers and administrators, the suit says, they did nothing to protect her.

The earlier suit alleges that students endured slurs, getting stabbed with pencils, pushed into walls, shoved into lockers, and even being urinated on by classmates because of real or perceived sexual orientation. It claims that district and school officials' response to such harassment was "grossly inadequate," and that administrators told the students in some cases to "lay low," "ignore" the harassment, and "stay out of people's way." District officials have countered that they have anti-bullying policies in place that address such issues.

Both suits target the district's "neutrality" policy, which allows teachers to discuss sexual orientation issues in the classroom, but requires them to maintain a "neutral" stance on those issues. GLBT advocates argue that policy merely allows the harassment of GLBT students to continue. District officials argue that the policy is appropriate because district residents are divided on GLBT issues.

It's been a year of scrutiny for the district over its handling of GLBT issues. Last fall, after a number of student suicides in the 38,000-student district, GLBT advocates argued that some deaths stemmed from bullying because of real or perceived GLBT orientation.

Later last fall, two federal agencies began an investigation after officials received reports of bullying based on sexual orientation in the district.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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