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The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) have demanded that Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District take immediate action to stop the bullying of LGBT students by dropping its so-called “neutrality” policy.

Since November 2009, at least four LGBT students in the District have died by suicide.  And an ongoing investigation by SPLC and NCLR has found a pervasive atmosphere of anti-gay hostility in Anoka-Hennepin schools. Many students have been pushed out of school or experienced emotional and physical trauma as a result of constant bullying. In one incident, a teenage student was violently assaulted and called "faggot" as a teacher and students stood by. He later dropped out of school.

So far the District is standing behind its policy. It seems it would rather waste time and money defending an unconstitutional policy that puts LGBT students at risk than create a safer environment for all of its students. SPLC and NCLR will file suit if the District does not act immediately to repeal the “gag” policy and enact effective anti-bullying policies, including training for students and teachers to prevent anti-LGBT bullying from happening in the first place.

Tell the District to do the right thing today: drop the “gag” policy and protect the rights of all LGBT students. 

Letter to
School Board Member Tom Heidemann
Director of Student Services Dr. Mary Fonken-Holden
Anoka-Hennepin School District Superintendent Dennis Carlson
and 3 others
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michelle Lanenfeld
Board of Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius
School Board Member Scott Wenzel
Mr. Dennis L. Carlson
Superintendent
Anoka-Hennepin School District
11299 Hanson Boulevard NW
Coon Rapids, MN 55433

Dear Mr. Carlson:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) have investigated the pervasive harassment experienced by Anoka-Hennepin School District students because of their actual or per¬ceived sexual orientation or gender expression. The investigation confirms that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and those perceived as LGBT within the District attend schools in a hostile and alienating environment, which can have dire consequences.

LGBT students have been pushed out of the District altogether; many have experienced emotional and psychological scars as a result of constant bullying; and, as you know, since November 2009, at least four LGBT students in the District have died by suicide.

At the heart of the problem is the District’s so-called “neutrality” policy – or “gag” policy – that prevents teachers from acknowledging the existence of LGBT people, creating an atmosphere in which LGBT students are iso¬lated and feel unprotected. That policy discriminates based on sexual orientation in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Please protect all students including LGBT students by rescinding the “gag” policy today and making real changes to ensure that LGBT students are protected from harmful bullying and harassment. Don’t wait for SPLC and NCLR to file a federal lawsuit or allow another day go by while students and families suffer. Make it a priority to create safe schools for all students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District now.

Thank you very much for considering this important issue. Please respond promptly.

Sincerely,
Concerned Citizen