NEW YORK, July 21, 2011 - The following is a statement from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard about the announcement today from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center that they have filed a lawsuit with Faegre & Benson, LLP challenging the pervasive anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) harassment in Anoka-Hennepin School District and the district's "gag policy" that prevents staff from discussing issues related to LGBT people.
GLSEN released a research brief last month based on findings from Minnesota LGBT students who participated in the 2009 National School Climate Survey. The brief found that 84 percent of Minnesota LGBT students had been harassed or assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 61 percent because of their gender expression.
Statement from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard:
"Today's filing by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Faegre & Benson, LLP is an important moment in a long journey for the families of Anoka-Hennepin. We are grateful to our colleagues in legal advocacy for the critical role they play in standing up for students. But it is a sad day as well - when these cases end up in court, it is usually a sign that much has already been lost, and that something has gone seriously wrong. In Anoka-Hennepin, the best interests of students who are most at-risk have lost out to prejudice codified in district-wide policy. Every student deserves to go to school free from fear and able to learn and fulfill their full potential. For schools to live up to their responsibility to every student, they must be prepared to address anti-LGBT bias and behavior to clear away a barrier to learning. In Anoka-Hennepin, the barriers persist. When all other efforts fail, regrettably, lawsuits are necessary to force school districts to follow the law and provide equal opportunity to all students.
"These issues do not have to end up in court. GLSEN has provided resources, trainings and support to schools and school districts for more than 20 years to ensure that they employ evidence-based interventions to improve school climate for all of the students in their district. Districts from Maine to Nebraska to Idaho to California to Hawaii are currently using GLSEN materials and trainings to take proactive steps to provide a safe and effective learning environment for every student who walks through the doors. We offered similar support to Anoka_Hennepin but were refused. Sadly, as GLSEN's research brief on the experiences of LGBT students in Minnesota demonstrates, Minnesota students who need support the most are the ones who suffer because of the district's decisions and policies."
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.