July 20th, 2011
09:30 AM ET

Feds investigate Minn. school district after civil rights complaint

Editor's note: For more on this story, watch AC360 tonight at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. For a full investigation into the Anoka-Hennepin student suicides, watch "CNN Presents" on Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m. ET.

(CNN) - Federal authorities are investigating "incidents involving harassment and bullying" in Minnesota's largest school district, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed in an email to CNN.

The civil rights investigation is currently underway in the suburban Minneapolis school district, Anoka-Hennepin, a community already embattled in a culture war over homosexuality in the classroom.

The Justice Department together with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights are looking into "allegations of harassment and discrimination in the Anoka-Hennepin School District based on sex, including peer-on-peer harassment based on not conforming to gender stereotypes," according to a district memo provided exclusively to CNN.

The party filing the complaint was not named due to privacy concerns.

The district said the joint investigation included interviews with staff members by federal authorities.

"The Department is committed to investigating allegations to determine whether there are violations of federal civil rights laws and will use the enforcement tools at our disposal to protect the safety of students," wrote a Justice Department spokeswoman in an email to CNN.

The federal investigation comes after a string of seven student suicides in less than two years, which stirred public debate over the district's sexual orientation curriculum policy.

Parents and friends say four of those students were either gay, perceived to be gay or questioning their sexuality, and they say, at least two of them were bullied over their sexuality.

It's unclear whether the suicides or the policy are a significant part of the federal investigation. The controversial policy, adopted in 2009, states that staff must "remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation" and that "such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations."


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Gay & Lesbian Issues
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Nicolas Mudge- Ramsey, MN

    Anoka High is not a place that you would consider "good" for a variety of teens. I know, I dropped out in 1996 as a result of the overall climate. I am also a homosexual whose heart goes out for every one of these kids that decided to straight up leave rather than simply walk away.I only hope there is justice that can be found.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  2. danny judd

    this is exactly whats wrong with country !!!!!!!!!!!!! why arent parents suing that there not saying the pledge of the alliegance in the schools their !!!!!!!!!!! its not ok to talk about ones god,but its ok to talk about being gay !!!!!! talk about not helping kids find their way !!!!!!! im not opposeing talking about being gay im opposeing being censord for anything,the government cannot dictate whats ok to talk about and whats not !!!!!!!

    July 20, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  3. Toby

    If you can keep religion out of our schools, why can't you keep sexual orientation out of our schools too. I agree with the school's district neutrality on the issue. The school has no right or business discussion that in the classroom. Just as with religion, they should leave that to the parents. What the school can teach is to accept everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation or religion. That's it. These gay right activist are just being what they are, activist and stirring up drama where there is none.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  4. Becky Hyatt

    I consider myself as an Independent,I see both sides. I do however question why Real gov. cuts would not address
    the unearned income tax? Why does anyone get tax refunds(which are HUGE) over $9000 dollars , and paid in
    less than $1000. I get it, I understand, but people work for less than a mth. just to get the refund. As a middle class
    worker,that just seems unfair,and why doesn't the gov. consider cuts such as that and leave s.s. alone.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm |