Rep. Michele Bachmann responded Monday to a petition that urged her to publicly address gay bullying.
"Bullying is wrong," she says, according to the blog Dump Bachmann.
Two weeks ago, Tammy Aaberg, whose son Justin committed suicide last July, met with members of Bachmann's staff to request that the congresswoman denounce the anti-gay bullying that Aaberg said led to her then-15-year-old son's death. She presented a box carrying 141,000 petitioning signatures, The Advocate reported.
A few days later, a Costa Mesa, Calif. rally attendee asked Bachmann about how she will address school bullying in her district.
"That's not a federal issue," she said, according to CBS News.
Bachmann's official response to the petition Monday notes that she is "very aware and concerned about the cases of bullying and suicides that have occurred" in Anoka-Hennepin Schools -- Minnesota's largest school district that falls in Bachmann's Congressional district. The blog Dump Bachmann published the full statement.
"In response, my office has been in communication with both school officials and with individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide," the statement reads. Bachmann also notes that she is just one of the members of Congress who represent the Anoka-Hennepin school district.
Over the last two years, nine teens in Anoka-Hennepin Schools have committed suicide. Several of those students were gay and reportedly acted as a result of being bullied, according to 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.
Monday's response marks the first public statement Bachmann has issued that address gay bullying in Anoka-Hennepin Schools. As the stories and lawsuits against the district unfolded through the summer months, Bachmann stayed silent on the system's teen suicides.
But at a 2006 Minnesota Senate committee hearing on bullying, Bachmann said, "I think for all us our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies, always have been always will be," according to a recording posted by the Dump Bachmann blog.
"Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? Will it mean that what form of behavior will there be, will we be expecting boys to be girls?" She asks. "I just don't know how we can realistically expect a zero tolerance of bullying behavior."
Recently, the death of Jamey Rodemeyer has cast a national spotlight on gay bullying in schools, particularly the complex emotional and social issues that lead to extreme measures like 14-year-old Rodemeyer's suicide.
The teenager killed himself after posting a viral "It Gets Better" video, and his case drew further national attention when Lady Gaga vowed on Twitter to make bullying illegal -- even going to the president himself to address the issue.
The Morning Email helps you start your workday with everything you need to know: breaking news, entertainment and a dash of fun. Learn more