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Sep 19 2011

Gay Students’ Civil Rights “Not a Federal Issue”

A little over a year ago, Justin Aaberg killed himself after being bullied at school because he was gay.

Just weeks after finishing his freshman year at Anoka High, Justin killed himself in his bedroom. His mother and his two brothers found him.

“I touched him — because I just couldn’t believe it,” Tammy Aaberg said. “I thought I was in a nightmare — and he was so cold and I just screamed and ran out and called 911.”

Tammy Aaberg had known her son was gay for a year and feared for his safety. After he died, she started hearing from other students about how Justin was harassed and bullied.

“He probably hated himself, and thought that no one would like him even though he had tons of friends,” she said.

Aaberg said there was probably not one thing that pushed Justin to suicide, but she’s focusing her grief now on trying to get the Anoka-Hennepin school district to clarify its policies regarding gay students.

She doesn’t specifically blame the bullying, but she wants it to stop before more students die. Four teenagers are thought to have killed themselves recently over issue relating to their sexual orientation, two because of bullying at school. Five more are suing over bullying. So far, the Anoka-Hennepin school district has turned down offers by an LGBT group to put on anti-bullying training as well as requests to change their policy that says that staff must be neutral on sexual orientation “in the course of their professional duties”–a policy which, in practice, means that anything other than heterosexuality is not mentioned in the school.

Last week, Justin’s mother delivered a petition with 140,000 signatures on it to Michele Bachmann, asking her to do what she can to stop the harassment that is happening in her district. Today, she sort of gave her answer.

At a campaign rally in California, an attendee repeatedly called out to Bachmann, asking her to address the suicides.

“That’s not a federal issue,” she reportedly said, before moving on to the next question.

I suppose it’s no real wonder she didn’t tell Aaberg directly.

She’s wrong, as usual. Civil rights are very much a federal issue, which is why the Department of Justice is investigating the school district. It’s also why Al Franken is supporting a bill (you know, at the federal level) that would make the bullying of gay and lesbian students explicitly covered under existing civil rights legislation, even though it’s already included by general reference now.

Whether our children–all our children–are allowed to receive the education they need to be full participants in our society has been a national issue for half a century. We’ve dealt with it at the national level because we’ve considered it too important a matter to be left up to the preferences and prejudices of any one state or school district. We’ve numbered it among our inalienable rights (though how well we’ve carried through on that has varied).

But not Michele Bachmann. “That’s not a federal issue,” she says. What she means is that it’s not her issue. She’s happy to let the local prejudices, which just happen to match her prejudices, stand as they are, no matter how many people ask for her help or how they’ve been hurt by the status quo.

Michele Bachmann, Representative for the bullies.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    But whether two gays can marry IS a federal issue, right, Mad-Eye Bachmann?

  2. 2
    Worldtraveller

    You can’t expect consistency out of these nuts (other than them being consistently wrong).

  3. 3
    scenario

    I wonder what she would say if someone was bullied because they were a christian?

  4. 4
    Lauren Ipsum

    Randomfactor@1, please don’t sully the memory of the mighty Auror Alastor Moody by trying to share his sobriquet with this nutjob. “Bug-Eyed Bachmann” is equally evocative and has the added bonus of alliteration.

  5. 5
    EricR

    Actuaaly,if I’m not mistaken she also would abolish the dept of education, so in her own twisted way she’s being consistant. If education isnt a federal issue, then certainly anything that goes on in a school isnt a federal issue as far as she is concerned.

    Far better that everyone is stupid, bigoted and christian seems to be her position.

  6. 6
    Robert

    Hopefully she’s digging her own grave,not that I want her dead,I just want her to disappear.

  7. 7
    Justin Zimmer

    So, let me get this straight. A distraught mother comes up to Bachmann with a spurious story about her child getting autism from the HPV vaccine and she spreads it around in a huge Anti-Vacc PR maneuver, but 140 THOUSAND people sign a petition to get her to look at improving the rights of other children based on several ACTUAL DEATHS and it’s suddenly “not a federal issue”?!? What an evil bitch!

  8. 8
    Suz

    For the sake of arguement, pretend she’s correct that it’s not a federal issue. She’s still the congressional rep for the 6th district and Anoka-Henn is partially located in that district. Some of the kids that died lived in her district. How can she just ignore this?

  9. 9
    Stephanie Zvan

    Suz, Bachmann subscribes to the prosperity gospel. She’s one of those people who believes that what you get is what you deserve. She’s not going to do anything because she thinks that what is happening is exactly what should be happening.

    As long as it doesn’t happen to her or her friends.

  10. 10
    carolw

    Out of the what, two or three dozen kids she and Marcus have fostered, none of them were gay? Oh wait, they prayed it away, I forgot. /snark/

  1. 11
    We Thought You Should Know… | Almost Diamonds

    [...] also in Michele Bachmann’s congressional district and houses a school district under fire for not protecting the civil rights of its LGBT students. That makes the following, sadly, almost [...]

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