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Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota School District, Faces Another Lawsuit Over Alleged Gay Bullying

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GAY BULLYING
Kyle Rooker, 14, speaks during a news conference announcing a lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin school district Thursday, July 21, 2011 in Champlin, Minn. Several current and former students are suing Minnesota's largest school district for its sexual orientation policy. | AP

Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District is facing another lawsuit over alleged bullying of a student for sexual orientation and gender nonconformity.

The lawsuit, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, alleges that a 15-year-old student at Jackson Middle School was the victim of harassment and physical assault when she started going to school there last September. NCLR argues that school officials failed to help the student or intervene.

The suit alleges that the student, identified in the document as E.R., was subjected to anti-gay slurs.

"Predictably, further isolating and stigmatizing E.R. served only to increase the harassment," the complaint reads. "The other students continued to mock her in class, saying that she had to use the locker room separately from other students because she 'doesn't know what locker room to use' and calling her slurs like 'he/she' and 'faggot.'"

The complaint further alleges that when E.R. complained to teachers, school officials isolated her by only allowing her to walk in the hallways when no one else was around and not permitting her to eat lunch with other students.

This suit comes after five former and current students from Anoka-Hennepin, the state's largest school district, sued the district last month. The plaintiffs argue that the district's policy that staff must remain neutral on topics of sexual orientation keeps teachers from being able to protect students who are perceived as gay from bullying.

Over the last two years, nine district students have committed suicide, several of whom were gay and reportedly acted as a result of being bullied, according The Minnesota Independent.

The situation in Anoka-Hennepin Schools is so bad that Minnesota public health officials have deemed the area a "suicide contagion" because of the unusually high number of suicides and attempted suicides, according to the school district's website.

Critics have turned to blaming the district's representation, Oval Office contender Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and anti-gay activists.

The Justice Department and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights have launched an investigation into allegations of civil rights laws violations and complaints of discrimination based on gender nonconformity.

"We were told when the original lawsuit was filed that there may be more, so this is not a surprise," district Superintendent Dennis Carlson told the Star-Tribune of the latest lawsuit.

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell says the district's inaction violates the Minnesota Human Rights Act, among other legal rights, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

"The facts are chillingly similar and also heartbreaking," she told MPR of the lawsuits. "These are students who were called all sorts of names [and] faced a daily barrage of anti-gay slurs directed at them."

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