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School official condemns Rolling Stone article on bullying, teen suicide

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Anoka-Hennepin School District Superintendent Dennis Carlson has angrily denounced an article published last week by Rolling Stone, in which the magazine highlighted the rash of teen suicides that occurred within the school district over the past three years, and the links some of those deaths had to anti-gay bullying.

In the article, “One Town’s War on Gay Teens,” Rolling Stone political reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely described school district officials and school board members as largely unresponsive, and catering to the Parents Action League — a conservative parent group — which is a small but virulent anti-gay faction that opposes recognition of LGBTQ youth.

via: Minnesota Public Radio

Dennis Carlson

Carlson denounced the article as a “brutal and distorted attack,” and in a voice message to his staff added, “This is a vicious insult to all of you who have worked so hard to make this district and this community a better place.”
Minnesota newspaper, The Pioneer Press, reports:

Some in the community said the piece fairly accurately reflects the situation; others said it unfairly made most of the school district seem anti-gay.

“From everything I know and have seen, it’s an accurate article,” said Tammy Aaberg, an Anoka-Hennepin parent who lost her son Justin, a gay teenager, to suicide in 2010.

But the superintendent, who said he received scores of hate emails over the article, said it has inaccuracies and ignores the district’s efforts to better protect gay students. The district conducted staff awareness training after the suicides and offered additional training when teachers said they were confused about the sexual orientation policy, according to a statement on the district website.

The school board is considering replacing the policy and will vote on a new one Monday.

“We did have a cluster of suicides, and we got very concerned,” Carlson said. “We started taking immediate steps, and we haven’t stopped….We told (the writer) of the efforts, and she mentioned none.”

Erdely defended her article, and told the Press that she spent four months talking to dozens of community members, including other parents, teachers and students.

“Between all of them they gave me a very full sense of what was going on in the district,” Erdely said. “If (Carlson) thinks this was a distorted version of the truth, maybe he is too far removed.”

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Filed under: Minnesota

14 more reader comments:

  1. Because opening one’s mind to the reality of the situation makes it not real… Why are some such idiots?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:25pm
  2. You should sign the petition against this asshole on

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:26pm
  3. ^^if u believe it didnt happen…it didint…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:27pm
  4. If they really believe this to be true, then there would be an immediate lawsuit against Rolling Stone. But there isn’t!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:31pm
  5. Please look at the dedication I wrote for a true hero, Jamey Rodemeyer. Teen suicides need to stop.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:33pm
  6. he looks like a miserable fuck, doesn’t he?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:34pm
  7. maybe they will learn to treat all people equally, and not favor the popular ones, thats what happens in my kids school and it is wrong

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:48pm
  8. Glad you posted this on FB now, I saw it on Twitter and RT’d it and also shared the post on my fanpage. Dennis Carlson can get as mad as he wants, simple fact is Minnesota’s Federal Dept. of Education rates Minnesota as the lowest marks for the lack of scope and definitions in its law.

    “A Dept. of Education report on 46 states that have legislated against bullying gives Minnesota the LOWEST marks for the lack of scope and definitions in its law.

    Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, who proposed legislation last month to strengthen the state law, said she wasn’t surprised by the state’s poor grade.

    “As a state, we should be a national leader,” Swanson said. “Legislation doesn’t stop all bullying, but we need to set a strong tone and culture in Minnesota that bullying isn’t tolerated.”

    The Education Department report said Minnesota is one of two states that doesn’t address the scope of where its legislation applies and under what conditions a school has authority over student conduct, such as at school-sponsored events. It also faults Minnesota, along with Wisconsin and Arizona, for prohibiting bullying without defining it. ”

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:54pm
  9. They seem to think if we just pretend it isn’t happening it won’t BE happening. I got ocean-front property in Arizone if anyone from A-H district is interested!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:59pm
  10. This is all occurring right in the middle of District 6 which insists on reelecting Bachmann, so a reasonable person might conclude that anti-gay sentiment runs strong just generally. Nothing about the district response indicates to me anything much different. Add enough of this up it shouldn’t be a surprising conclusion. All of which begs the question of why a school superintendent is getting into a shouting match with one magazine with a larger than national base. Quit ducking the responsibility already and fix the problem!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:00pm
  11. Good lord

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:12pm
  12. @Denise Burke, I’d love to copy and paste your comment to my page if you’d give me permission. I’m from Canada and was not aware this was Bachmann territory and your point brings it all home. Let me know?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:14pm
  13. Any School District Director, Chair of the Board of Education, School Principal/Dean (and assistants) where a suicide occurs due to gay bashing or bullying based on the victim’s sexual orientation or identity should be suspended without pay indefinitely, as should any other students named as culpable in any suicide note be suspended from school (or held in “in-school” suspension), until they are cleared of implicit wrongdoing by a complete and thorough investigation into the matter, and into the administrators’ culpability as to policies and practices lending to any attitudes in the school environment leading to such an incident.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:37pm
  14. Truth hurts!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:51pm