Another gay harassment lawsuit filed in Minnesota

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Another lawsuit has been filed against a school district in Minnesota, which has been accused of allowing homophobic bullying.

Last month, a suit was filed on behalf of five students in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, where a number of LGBT teen suicides have been reported.

The students said school officials failed to protect them and that a “gag policy” restricting teachers’ ability to discuss gay and lesbian issues made the problem worse.

The latest lawsuit was filed by a lesbian middle-school student who claims teachers did nothing to prevent her from being abused and attacked. It is a companion suit to the first, and school district officials are said to be aware that more may be filed.

According to the first action, filed at the US District Court for the District of Minnesota, the students faced daily abuse, threats, violence and humiliation, including “being urinated on, being stabbed in the neck with a pencil, being choked, being pushed into walls, being shoved forcefully into lockers [and] having objects thrown at them in class”.

The complaint adds that many attacks took place in view of school officials but no action was taken. Instead, the bullied students were told to “ignore” the harassment or were even told they were to blame for it, through their behaviour or appearance.

Both lawsuits demand the end of the district’s ‘neutrality policy’ on gay and lesbian issues, as well as damages for the plaintiffs.

Anoka-Hennepin school district’s policy says that “in the course of their professional duties [teachers must] remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.”

While the school district argues that this is a “neutrality policy”, gay rights campaigners call it a “gag clause” which prevents teachers from supporting LGBT students and stops them acting fully to prevent homophobic bullying.

After a spate of suicides, the US Justice and Education departments began investigating the district last November.