Teachers accused of harassment say alleged victim made it up



Two Anoka-Hennepin School District teachers accused of harassing a student denied the allegations, the Pioneer Press reported Monday, saying they were fabricated by the student, Alex Merritt. Jodi Merritt, Alex’s mother, says the claim by Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson – that her son falsified the harassment in retaliation against the teachers – is a lie.

Cleveland’s lawyer, Philip Villaume, told the paper that statements said in the classroom were “exaggerated or misconstrued” and that “she didn’t engage in any harassing or discriminatory conduct.”

Villaume said that Merritt was retaliating against Cleveland because she reported him for saying he planned to bring a gun to school.

“That is totally a lie,” Jodi Merritt, Alex’s mother, told the Pioneer Press. “The whole idea of that is just crazy. If someone brought a gun to school, don’t you think that would be all over the paper?”

The school district said it could not confirm Villaume’s claim that Cleveland reported Merritt for planning to bring a gun to school.

In a letter in support of Filson, six former students told the Pioneer Press he didn’t harass Merritt. And Filson himself denied the allegations saying that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights never questioned him in regard to the investigation.

“The Department of Human Rights never spoke to me or the other teacher, or the other students in the classes,” Filson told the Pioneer Press. “In 28 years in law enforcement, I don’t think I ever closed an investigation without at least attempting to talk to the accused.”

The department instead used reports from the district’s own investigation of the allegations to reach their conclusion.

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