A student filed suit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District on Monday alleging that the school district did not do enough to protect her from bullying. Filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the new suit alleges that a lesbian student was repeatedly harassed, both verbally and physically, and that the school undertook disciplinary action against the student instead of her tormentors. The suit follows a similar lawsuit against the district filed in July and brings the number of students suing the school to six.
A student at Jackson Middle School in Champlin, identified in the complaint only as E.R., endured bullying from the first day she transferred to the school as an 8th grader, according to the complaint. She was “subject to severe and pervasive harassment in gym class,” the complaint states. “When E.R. attempted to use the girls’ locker room for the first time, other female students openly mocked her, saying things like, ‘That’s a boy – there’s no boys allowed in here,’ and calling her a ‘he/she.’”
Instead of reprimanding the offending students, the complaint alleges, E.R. was told by school staff that she must change her gym clothes at a separate time as the others students.
“Predictably, further isolating and stigmatizing E.R. served only to increase the harassment,” the complaint contends. “The other students continued to mock her in class, saying that she had to use the locker room separately from other students because she ‘doesn’t know what locker room to use’ and calling her slurs like ‘he/she’ and ‘faggot.’”
The harassment extended beyond gym class to other areas of the school, according to the complaint: School administrators prohibited E.R. from eating lunch with other students and instructed her to walk through the hallways at times when other students were present.
“School officials made clear that these steps were taken as disciplinary measures against E.R., and never suggested that these steps were intended to protect her from harassment,” the court filings state. “In April, school officials cut E.R.’s class schedule to a half day.”
E.R.’s claims are similar to those of five other district students who are suing based on civil rights violations. The lawsuit’s claim that a discriminatory policy based on sexual orientation, dubbed the “neutrality policy,” has hindered staff from addressing anti-LGBT bullying and created an atmosphere that isn’t safe for LGBT students or students perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual.
“This is yet another incredibly distressing example of how the district’s shameful policy has hurt kids,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in a statement. “The district has to stop turning its back on children, and recognize that its illegal policy that singles out those who are LGBT is the reason that so many children in their schools continue to be tormented — verbally, physically, and emotionally — every day.”