In a front page story, the New York Times explores the problem of bullying and a controversial school policy concerning sexual orientation in a school district in suburban Minneapolis.
The piece details a long struggle between advocates for homosexual students and Christian conservatives over how sexual orientation should be taught in schools. It also reports on a lawsuit filed against the Anoka-Hennepin School District claiming, in part, that district policy requiring teachers to be “neutral” on the question of sexual orientation has helped to bring about a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students and therefore increasing the number of incidents of bullying.
The suit was brought on behalf of the students by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. News of the suit comes after reports that the Department of Justice is in the midst of a civil rights investigation of on-going harassment of gay and lesbian students in the the district of some 38,000.
The issue has been further heightened in the district because eight students have committed suicide in the past two years. Both sides are in disagreement, however, over whether bullying and the sexual identity of the students had anything to do with their deaths.
The Times story also points out that this area north of Minneapolis is solidly in Michele Bachmann’s congressional district. Mrs. Bachmann, a Republican candidate for president, has not made any statements about the suicides or the district’s policy over sexual orientation. She has in the past, however, expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs, according to the paper.