The mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide last year arrived at Rep. Michele Bachmann’s office in Waite Park, Minn. Thursday carrying a box with 141,000 signatures petitioning the congresswoman to publicly address gay bullying, The Advocate reports.
Tammy Aaberg met for an hour with several on Bachmann’s staff, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, to request that the congresswoman denounce the anti-gay bullying that Aaberg says led to her 15-year-old son Justin’s suicide last July and that has affected others in Anoka-Hennepin Schools — Minnesota’s largest school district that falls in Bachmann’s Congressional district.
“We think she, in the position she’s at, especially running for president, a lot of people would look up to her and follow her lead if she could take this huge step,” Aaberg told WCCO-TV.
Bachmann will respond after she reviews the request and petition, according to a statement issued by her office Thursday. It would mark the first public response to the bullying issues surrounding Anoka-Hennepin schools since they arose — Bachmann has not responded to numerous inquiries, including those by Mother Jones, the New York Daily News and The New York Times.
Over the last two years, nine teens in Anoka-Hennepin schools have committed suicide, several of whom were gay and reportedly acted as a result of being bullied, according to The Minnesota Independent.
The situation in Anoka-Hennepin Schools is so bad that Minnesota public health officials have deemed the area a “suicide contagion” because of the unusually high number of suicides and attempted suicides, according to the school district’s website.
Aaberg’s petition is posted on CREDO Action. She argues that the Anoka-Hennepin’s sexual orientation curriculum policy is in part to blame. It states that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues should be discussed outside of the classroom and that employees “shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.”
This policy was a target of a lawsuit filed against the district last month on behalf of a sixth student victim to gay bullying, who argued that the rule keeps teachers from being able to protect students who are perceived as gay from harassment. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian rights filed suit in July on behalf of five other students — three who identify themselves as gay or bisexual and two who do not — for similar allegations
The district is also the subject of a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education that examines allegations of civil rights laws violations and complaints that there have been cases of discrimination and bullying “based on not conforming to gender stereotypes,” according to CNN.