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Bullying: a cautionary tale

February 21, 2012

A disturbing article in Rolling Stone this month chronicles a rash of suicides in a Minnesota school district. The article links the suicides to a toxic climate for gay and lesbian students, intense bullying and a school district policy that required teachers to remain “neutral” on the subject of homosexuality.

According to Rolling Stone, the policy was so confusing that it became a de facto gag rule on anything related to homosexuality. Teachers and administrators often appeared to ignore serious incidents of bullying, and students who were the victims felt left out in the cold.

Nine students in the Anoka-Hennepin school district have taken their own lives in the last two years, and as the suicides mounted, mental health issues like eating disorders and cutting began to rise in the general school population. The district, the largest in Minnesota, denies that its policies had anything to do with the suicides, and one has to wonder how any school – with or without a neutrality policy – could allow bullying that severe to continue unchecked.

School officials in Anoka-Hennepin recently voted to change the “neutrality” rule. The policy was originally adopted to assuage the concerns of some conservative and religious christian parents, who see homosexuality as a “dangerous lifestyle choice” and did not want their children to be taught otherwise in school.

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