Alex Merritt, now 18, was repeatedly harrassed by two TEACHERS in his high school in the 2007-2008 school year. He ended up having to transfer to a different school. The Anoka-Hennepin School District just settled the lawsuit last week, giving Alex's family a $25,000.- settlement.
In the aftermath, the school district has refused the offer of OutFront Minnesota, a local GLBT advocacy group, to help train staff in the district's new policy on discussing sexual orientation.
In fact, until February of 2009, the old policy directed
staff members to refrain from discussing homosexuality "as a normal, valid lifestyle" in health education classes.
Clearly, this policy led to an environment where prejudice and intolerance were not only tolerated, they were SANCTIONED.
His "fence swings both ways," teacher Diane Cleveland said during a class, according to the investigation by the Human Rights department. Another teacher, Walter Filson, said that Merritt "enjoys wearing women's clothes."
Merritt said he had Cleveland's class before lunch, and Filson's class afterwards. If Cleveland made fun of him for something, he said, she told Filson about it at lunch. Merritt would be teased for the same thing in a new class after lunch.
Can you imagine? The Teachers conspired with each other, exchanging notes on which insults they used and coordinating their attacks!
And Diane Cleveland suggested to her class,
on learning the student [Alex] was doing a report on Benjamin Franklin, that the student had a "thing for older men."
And these teachers are STILL teaching there!!!
This is an outrage. $25,000.- does little to recompense a ruined High School experience. And what was the lesson taught to ALL those other students in those teacher's classes? To the entire school, when Alex was forced out?
And how can anyone figure out the stuff of adolescence (or learn anything from school) in the midst of such obstacles?
Alex, I am so ashamed of those adults for treating you with such a lack of respect. Adults should do better. Be better.
And that school district, that school, and those teachers, have some serious work to do.
My thanks to Brian F. for sharing this story with me, so I could share it with all of you!
The photo of Alex and the top quotes are from this overview article at startribune.com here.
The Benjamin Franklin quote and more info on the teachers and the whole story is available at this KSTP TV online article here.