GOP presidential hopeful and Tea Party favorite, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has been noticeably silent on the spate of teen suicides in Anoka-Hennepin school district — Minnesota‘s largest school district, which is located in the heart of Bachmann’s district.
Over the past two years, a total of nine teenagers have committed suicide in a Minnesota school district represented by Rep. Michele Bachmann — the latest in May — and many more students have attempted to take their lives.
State public health officials have labeled the area a “suicide contagion area” because of the unusually high death rate.
Some of the victims were gay, or perceived to be by their classmates, and many were reportedly bullied. And the anti-gay activists who are some of the congresswoman’s closest allies stand accused of blocking an effective response to the crisis and fostering a climate of intolerance that allowed bullying to flourish. Bachmann, meanwhile, has been uncharacteristically silent on the tragic deaths that have roiled her district—including the high school that she attended.
Historically, Bachmann has not supported anti-bullying legislation. Slate reported that in 2006, Bachmann told the Minnesota state legislature that passing an anti-bullying bill would be a waste of time.
“I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies,” Bachmann said. “Always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to the point of zero tolerance… What does it mean?… Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”
Critics argue that Bachmann’s impassiveness for bullying issues and her opposition to gay rights alongside Anoka-Hennepin’s controversial “neutrality” policy — which requires that teachers and staff remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation “in the course of their professional duties” — creates a threatening environment for LGBT and at-risk youth in the district.
CNN reported last Thursday that investigators from the U.S. Justice Department and representatives from the U. S. Department of Education‘s Office of Civil Rights are looking into “allegations of harassment and discrimination in the Anoka-Hennepin School District based on sex, including peer-on-peer harassment based on not conforming to gender stereotypes.”
Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson told CNN that the district does not plan to revise its policy on sexual orientation curriculum.
The district, meanwhile, is being sued in federal court by five gay and lesbian students over its “neutrality” policy.
The Congresswoman’s husband, Marcus Bachmann, has also come under fire recently for his christian based “pray away the gay” clinics, which critics say are little more than discredited ‘reparative therapy clinics’ that both Bachmanns continue to publicly deny.