Discriminatory Gag Policy Perpetuates Hostile Anti-LGBTQ Environment on School Campuses
(Minneapolis, August 9, 2011)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Minneapolis on behalf of a sixth student, an out lesbian, who experienced severe harassment while attending school in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, where a discriminatory gag policy prevents staff from addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, including bullying.
The lawsuit is a companion case to Doe v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11, the federal lawsuit that NCLR and partner organizations filed July 21, 2011 on behalf of five other district students who experienced similar harassment. Both lawsuits charge that Anoka-Hennepin’s gag policy contributes to a hostile environment in which LGBTQ students and those perceived as LGBTQ are subjected to anti-LGBTQ slurs and physical threats on a daily basis by their peers. While many of these abuses occurred in front of teachers or were reported to school officials, school personnel almost always took insufficient action to stop the abuse due to the gag policy.
The sixth student, who is referred to by her initials of E.R. in the complaint because she is a minor, started attending Anoka-Hennepin’s Jackson Middle School in September 2010 after her family moved into the district. Beginning on her first day in school, she faced a constant, daily barrage of taunts from other students, who called her names like “faggot,” “dyke,” “he/she,” and “it.” While she regularly reported the harassment to teachers and administrators, they did not protect her. A staff member once told E.R. that she had heard other staff talking about E.R. in the office, saying that they wished the school could “get rid of her.”
“This is yet another incredibly distressing example of how the district’s shameful policy has hurt kids,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “The district has to stop turning its back on children, and recognize that its illegal policy that singles out those who are LGBTQ is the reason that so many children in their schools continue to be tormented—verbally, physically, and emotionally—every day.”
E.R. is represented by NCLR and the law firm of Culberth & Lienemann, LLP. The attorneys will be working closely with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Faegre & Benson, LLP, who are co-counsel with NCLR in Doe v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11.