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School official condemns Rolling Stone article on bullying, teen suicide

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
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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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