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Minn. school district sued over gay policy

Kyle Rooker, who said he was bullied for years, is suing over the district’s policies on discussing sexual orientation. Kyle Rooker, who said he was bullied for years, is suing over the district’s policies on discussing sexual orientation. (David Joles/The Star Tribune/Associated Press)
By Associated press
July 22, 2011

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CHAMPLIN, Minn. - Several current and former students sued Minnesota’s largest school district yesterday, saying its policy requiring staff to remain neutral when sexual orientation is discussed in the classroom prevents teachers from effectively protecting youths perceived as gay from bullying and harassment.

The five plaintiffs contend the Anoka-Hennepin School District failed to protect them from severe bullying and harassment. Three of the plaintiffs identify themselves as gay or bisexual and two do not.

“This policy sends the message to kids that who they are is not OK,’’ said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of two advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota.

The students are asking the court to block the policy, order effective protections including better training, and award them unspecified damages.

“For the last three years kids have been calling me names and shoving me into lockers, desks, and walls, just because they say I am different,’’ plaintiff Kyle Rooker, 14, told reporters.

The policy came under criticism after six students in the district committed suicide in less than two years. The district says its investigation found no evidence that bullying contributed to the deaths, but it changed its antibullying policies last October.