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Anoka-Hennepin School District Agrees To Anti-Bullying Settlement

Jim Burroway

March 6th, 2012

A school district outside of Minneapolis agreed last night to a settlement in which the district will implement specific anti-bullying measures to address a rash of suicides at the school district over the past few year. In a 5-1 vote, the Anoka-Hennepin School District agreed to settle a Justice Department civil rights investigation and a lawsuit filed by six former and current students.

The settlement creates a five year partnership between the school district, the Justice Department and the Department of Education to establish new policies and programs to address school bullying generally and anti-LGBT bullying in particular. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the settlement will:

  • Retain a consultant on sex-based harassment to review its policies and procedures.
  • Develop and implement a plan for preventing and addressing sex-based harassment of students in middle and high school.
  • Enhance training of staff and students on the issue.
  • Retain a mental health consultant to address needs of students victimized by harassment.

“This partnership will strengthen the support that the district provides to all students, including students who are gay or perceived to be gay,” said school board Chairman Tom Heidemann. He added that the consent decree builds upon the work the district already has done to step up its anti-bullying efforts, including staff training.

The settlement comes after more than a year of controversy in which the school board initially denied there was a problem despite nine suicides taking place over the previous two years. Not only that, but the board also instituted a policy backed by Focus On the Family and a local conservative parents group requiring teachers to remain “neutral” in any discussions on sexual orientation, a policy which effectively prevented teachers from adequately addressing anti-gay bullying in particular. At one point, the Parents Action League demanded that ex-gay therapy be presented to students as a means of making what they thought the real problem was — the existence of gay kids — go away.

The lone dissenter in last night’s vote, school board member Kathy Tingelstad, resigned after casting her no vote.

Comments

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Lindoro Almaviva
March 6th, 2012 | LINK

The lone dissenter in last night’s vote, school board member Kathy Tingelstad, resigned after casting her no vote.

And she will be sorely missed, by all the rightwing nuts who believe it is their God-given right to victimize anyone who does not conform to their views; while in the same breath, claiming that they are victims of the big gay oppression because they can not call the spade a spade.

For the rest of the kids in that district, her absence is cause for celebration.

Ravenbiker
March 6th, 2012 | LINK

Amen, Jesus!

F Young
March 7th, 2012 | LINK

If the settlement is focused only on stopping the bullying and supporting its victims, I doubt that it will stop the suicides.

I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that the suicides are not due to bullying alone, but also to low self-esteem and isolation.

To stop the suicides, the self-esteem of LGBT’s needs to be supported through positive information in the curriculum and positive role models (by encouraging and supporting teachers to come out, by exposing students to famous living LGBT people and decensoring the sexual orientation of historical LGBT’s).

Supportive networks of parents, teachers and students must also be developed through GSA’s and PFLAG.

Coxhere
March 7th, 2012 | LINK

Is the compound word, “sex-based” actually in the settlement? Let’s hope not. Such language perpetuates the myth that Gay people are abominable sex machines and are not human. It perpetuates the myth that Gay people have no other meaning and purpose except participating in various sex acts. The word “sex-based” needs to be addressed in the training of faculty and students. Using such words is definitely a part of the problem.

Priya Lynn
March 7th, 2012 | LINK

Coxhere, when I read “sex-based” I interpreted it as “gender-based” which I felt didn’t explicitely include sexual orientation.

Timothy Kincaid
March 7th, 2012 | LINK

I had the same impression as Priya Lynn.

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