Minn. schools agree to fight LGBT bullyingThis Week, Around the Nation Monday, March 19th, 2012
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – A settlement has been reached among the federal government, LGBT students and the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, resolving complaints of sex- and sexual orientation- based harassment of students. Minnesota’s largest school district has agreed to adopt a wide-ranging plan to protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment, in a settlement that will resolve a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lawsuit.
The SPLC sued the Anoka-Hennepin district in July on behalf of five students who faced a constant torrent of anti-gay slurs due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Students were also physically attacked – in some cases choked, shoved, urinated on and even stabbed with a pencil.
The lawsuit charged that the school district’s “gag” policy – which hampered the efforts of teachers to address the harassment – stigmatized gay and lesbian students and helped perpetuate the abuse. In several cases, officials told the harassed students to “lay low” or “try to stay out of people’s way.”
A consent decree has been approved by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board in suburban Minnesota.
The consent decree requires the district to take steps to prevent and address bullying experienced by LGBT students, including the appointment of an equity coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district’s sexual orientation-based harassment policies and procedures. While the consent decree requires the district to revise its gag policy, which barred teachers and administrators from addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, the school district had already revised the policy in mid-February.
“This historic agreement marks a fresh start for the Anoka-Hennepin School District,” said SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe. “Unfortunately, this district had become notorious for anti-LGBT hostility and discrimination. This consent decree sets the stage for Anoka-Hennepin to become a model for other school districts to follow.”
“No one should have to go through the kind of harassment that I did,” said Dylon Frei, one of the plaintiffs in the SPLC case. “I am happy this agreement includes real changes that will make our schools safer and more welcoming for other kids.”
“This settlement is a wakeup call for school districts that are ignoring bullying and harassment of LGBT students,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
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