NEW YORK, March 9, 2012 - The following is a statement from GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard about the consent decree reached with the Anoka-Hennepin School District over the bullying lawsuits filed by six students in the district represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Departments of Justice and Education reached an agreement with all parties resulting in a comprehensive proposed settlement to the lawsuits. The consent decree must be approved by a federal judge.
"This consent decree is a tremendous victory for students and educators in the largest school district in Minnesota who will now see the Anoka-Hennepin School District take concrete and evidence-based steps supported by GLSEN to make district schools safer and more affirming for LGBT and all students. We hope this development will not only provide the necessary closure for families who have been affected by bullying and harassment in the district, but also offer the community an opportunity to re-imagine a future where all students at Anoka-Hennepin are able to receive an education free from bullying and harassment. We congratulate the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center for their work that led to this settlement.
"The Department of Justice and Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education should once again be commended for intervening on behalf of students who are experiencing bullying and harassment and committing resources to work with the six private student plaintiffs and the Anoka-Hennepin School District in achieving a settlement that will go on to benefit more than 40,000 students in the district. The joint efforts of the Departments of Justice and Education have resulted in a comprehensive agreement that includes clear directives for addressing gender-based and homophobic harassment in Anoka-Hennepin schools.
"Within existing law, this partnership between the Departments of Justice and Education, which also resulted in a similar settlement with the Tehachapi School District in California, illustrates how far the federal government has come in tackling anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. GLSEN has been championing this shift in Washington for the past decade to ensure our mission to ensure safer schools is a federal priority. Today, we know our efforts have translated into measurable impact when reprehensible cases involving bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression can be resolved with federal support and assistance. GLSEN will continue to invest its resources into federal legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act that protect all students in school from bullying and harassment."
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.