Five students are suing Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District, alleging that administrators have allowed an environment hostile toward students who are LGBT or perceived to be.
The federal suit, announced Thursday morning, was filed on behalf of the students by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the law firm of Faegre and Benson, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The five say they have been subjected to antigay harassment.
After a rash of student suicides in the district last year, it has been the target of complaints and investigation over treatment of LGBT students. Administrators contend that most of the suicides showed no links to antigay bullying, and on Wednesday they announced that the district would not change its policy of requiring teachers to be neutral when discussing issues regarding sexual orientation. They said, however, that they were willing to worth with NCLR and SPLC as well as the U.S. Department of Education, which has been investigating the district, to develop training materials for students and staff on dealing with such issues.
"Rather than focusing on litigation we would prefer to invest in
materials that would provide a positive outcome for students for years
to come," school superintendent Dennis Carlson (pictured) said Wednesday.
That did not satisfy officials with the two civil rights groups. "There is a great sense of urgency that this problem needs to be addressed," said Sam Wolfe, an attorney with SPLC, in announcing the lawsuit. "We can't really wait for the federal government to go through their process. It's important with school starting again ... that we really need to move forward now."
The district, which covers several suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, is the largest in Minnesota, with 38,000 students.