Wednesday, August 19, 2009

School District Will Pay $25K to Settle Gay Harassment Suit

The Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota recently agreed to a $25,000 settlement in response to a student's claims that he was verbally harassed by two of his teachers because they believed he was gay (additional press is here and here). According to a report by the Minnesota Human Rights Commission, which investigated the claims, a teacher named Diane Cleveland "singled him out on nearly a daily basis by making jokes, comments and innuendos about her perception of his sexual orientation" -- for example, that the student's "fence swings both ways," and that he had a "thing for older men." The second teacher, Walter Filson "would repeat, add his own jokes, and allow other students in the class to joke about the boy's perceived sexual orientation." The Commission also found that district did little to curb the harassment even after the student's mother complained. Filson was not removed from the classroom even after the district confirmed his participation, while Cleveland was only reassigned for a week and completed only 1 day of her assignment to work on curriculum development and "reflect on equality and diversity in the classroom." The student ended up transferring to another district, 25 miles from his home.