July 21, 2011,Melanie Nathan,
NCLR and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the “gag policy” at Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District that prevents school staff from talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, and creates an environment where LGBT students are relentlessly bullied.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five past and present students, who each faced severe harassment because they are LGBT or other students perceived them as LGBT. The lawsuit describes numerous incidents, including a student who reported chronic anti-LGBT harassment to school authorities for more than two years, only to have school officials suggest that he leave the school because they could not protect him.
NCLR and the SPLC began investigating reports of pervasive anti-LGBT bullying in Anoka-Hennepin—the state’s largest school District with 38,500 students—in 2010 after several LGBT students from the District died by suicide. We quickly discovered that the issue of bullying was affecting families and young people across the District, and that the hostile environment was clearly rooted in and encouraged by the discriminatory gag policy. No other school District in Minnesota has such a policy.
In May 24, 2011, SPLC and NCLR sent a letter to the District demanding that officials immediately repeal the gag policy, and take action to address the bullying and harassment that LGBT students in the District regularly face. The District announced yesterday that it is sticking by the gag policy, and as a result, NCLR and SPLC filed suit today, along with the law firm of Faegre & Benson.