Some schools promote a gay-positive environment, while others (for example, religion-based institutions) may not support gay rights. But one school district is drawing flack for its gay “neutrality” policy.
Last month, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Centre sued Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin school district, on behalf of five current and former students, who say they were harassed due to their sexual orientation, reports Jezebel. Another lesbian student filed a companion lawsuit against the district last week.
According to the newer suit, the middle-school student was called “faggot” and “dyke,” and was punched in the stomach, but teachers and administrators did nothing to protect her after she reported the bullying.
The earlier suit claims that students “endured slurs, getting stabbed with pencils, pushed into walls, shoved into lockers and even being urinated on by classmates because of real or perceived sexual orientation,” reports Minnesota-based The Star Tribune .It alleges the district and school officials’ response to the abuse was “grossly inadequate,” and that in some cases, administrators told students to “lay low,” “ignore” the harassment and “stay out of people’s way.”
While district officials say they have implemented anti-bullying policies, they say schools must maintain a “neutral” stance on sexual-orientation issues to avoid offending area-residents who are divided on the gay-rights debate. The policy still allows teachers to discuss these issues in the classroom, officials add.
LGBT advocates condemn the policy as one that allows harassment to persist, and prevents teachers from defending or advocating gay rights. The district has previously been criticized over its handling of LGBT issues after a spate of suicides last fall were thought to be linked to gay bullying, according to The Star Tribune.
Health official have labelled Anoka-Hennepin a “suicide contagion” area due to the high number of suicides and suicide attempts, reports Jezebel, and advocates say gay teens comprise a large percentage of that group.
Other U.S. states that require public schools to remain gay “neutral” include: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
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