Minn. School District Agreement a "Blueprint" for Antibullying Efforts
March 06 2012 6:12 PM ET
The proposed legal settlement between a Minnesota school district under federal investigation and a group of bullied young teens will help to ensure that “the dignity of LGBT students will be affirmed and will no longer be thought of as controversial” nationwide, attorneys for the students said Tuesday.
Following an investigation launched last year by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, the Anoka-Hennepin School District has agreed to a list of remedies that one Justice Department official calls a “blueprint” for curbing systemic bullying of students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The discrimination, described in a federal complaint as “severe” and “pervasive,” resulted in a 2011 lawsuit filed on behalf of six students by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The groups argued that the district’s “neutrality” policy on gay issues amounted to a gag order against teachers and administrators from speaking out against harassment.
“No longer will [school policy] be guided by ideology or political forces,” Celeste Culberth, one of the attorneys representing the students, said in a Tuesday news conference in Minneapolis.
The agreement between the six students, the school district, and the government is still subject to approval by a federal judge. Stipulated in the agreement is a $270,000 lump sum to be divided among the aggrieved students as well as implementation of the following steps to address anti-LGBT bullying:
· Retain an expert consultant in the area of sex-based harassment to review the district’s policies and procedures concerning harassment;
· Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student sex-based harassment at middle and high schools;
· Enhance and improve training of faculty, staff, and students on sex-based harassment;
· Hire or appoint a Title IX Coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district’s sex-based harassment policies and procedures and district compliance with Title IX;
· Retain an expert consultant in the area of mental health to address the needs of students who are victims of harassment;
· Improve the district’s system for maintaining records of investigations and responding to allegations of harassment;
· Conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluations of antiharassment efforts; and
· Submit annual compliance reports to the departments.
The agreement, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a Tuesday conference call, “is a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform that will enhance the district’s policies, training and other efforts to ensure that every student in the district is free from sex-based harassment.” Further, Perez said, the agreement “will build on the district’s existing antiharassment efforts to help to create an environment where all students feel safe in school, are free from harassment, and can be themselves.”
After the jump, Perez’s full remarks.
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