School District Makes Case for Anti-LGBT Bullying Prevention Nationwide
March 6, 2012 by Paul Guequierre
A grim situation in Minnesota found its silver lining today. The Anoka-Hennepin School District, just outside the Twin Cities, became the epicenter of anti-LGBT bullying in recent years, but a settlement reached between the federal government, LGBT students, and the School District yesterday finally resolved complaints of sex- and sexual orientation- based harassment of students. The resolution is due to incredible work by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education and the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center that represented six student plaintiffs.
The consent decree, filed yesterday in the U.S. District court for the District of Minnesota, 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. The consent decree also cements the revision to the district’s dangerous gag policy, which barred teachers and administrators from addressing sexual orientation and gender identity. After years of complaints from students, families, and the LGBT community, the school district revised this policy last month.
But the settlement in the Anoka-Hennepin bullying case serves as a sad reminder that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment remains a dangerous problem across the country. HRC calls on schools districts everywhere to change their ways and implement sound anti-bullying policies. HRC can help.
Our “Welcoming Schools” program provides a comprehensive guide for elementary schools with tools, lessons, and resources to embrace family diversity, avoid gender stereotyping, and end bullying and name-calling. Currently, 74 schools in 24 school districts across the country are implementing the Welcoming Schools program. For more information, visit www.welcomingschools.org.
Steps must be taken now. Nationally over 85 percent of LGBT students report being harassed because of their sexual or gender identity and the suicide rate for LGBT students continues to be three to four times higher than that of their straight counterparts. Currently only 14 states have enacted laws prohibiting harassment and/or bullying of elementary and high school students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Thirty others have laws prohibiting bullying in schools but list no categories of protection. Last week, hundreds of HRC members went to the U.S. Capitol to advocate for passage of both the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, bills that address bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools.
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