June 22, 2011 – In recent years, schoolyard bullying has become a focus of concern in America, and this concern has spilled over to workplace bullying.
Now Minnesota’s biggest school district is being sued for allegedly enacting policies that discriminate against homosexual students in its Anoka-Hennpin School District. As a result, the lawsuit alleges, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and those “perceived as LGBT have been subjected to a constant torrent of slurs and have been physically threatened or attacked by peers.” See complaint here.
The suit objects to the school district’s “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy,” which allegedly prohibits staffers from acknowledging the existence of LGBT people and, according to the suit, prevents teachers from effectively intervening when they see bullying taking place. The policy states: “Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.”
The lawsuit states three distinct causes of action:
- U.S. Constitution Amendment XIV, Denial of Equal Protection on the Basis of Sexual Orientation
Defendants, acting under color of state law, have deprived plaintiffs of the rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in that Defendants, without justification, have Treated plaintiffs differently than other similarly situated students and student groups on basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation.
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq.Discrimination Based on Sex
The School District and each school within the District attended are recipients of federal financial assistance. The acts and omissions of Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights under Title IX by discriminating on the basis of sex. Defendants had actual notice that harassment based on sex was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it created a hostile climate based on sex that deprived Plaintiffs of access to educational programs, activities, and opportunities.
[Note: Title IX states that “no person” (which includes workers!) in the United States “shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance … .” ]
- Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. § 363A.13-.14 Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation
The acts and omissions of Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights under the Minnesota Human Rights Act by discriminating against their full utilization and benefit of an educational institution on the basis of sexual orientation. Defendants aided, abetted, and incited discrimination against Plaintiffs based on sexual orientation that prevented her full utilization of and benefit from an educational institution.
The suit was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the law firm of Faegre & Benson.