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Anoka-Hennepin schools hit with another bullying lawsuit | The Republic

15 Aug

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Anoka-Hennepin School District is being sued again over the alleged bullying of a gay or lesbian student.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports (http://bit.ly/qN6kYj ) a new lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights says school officials failed to help a 15-year-old student at Jackson Middle School.

The lawsuit claims the teen was being harassed and physically assaulted by fellow students because of her sexual orientation and perceived gender nonconformity.

Executive director Kate Kendell says the center is also representing five other students in a similar lawsuit and will ask to have the two cases consolidated.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and asks that the district to change its policies to prevent harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

School officials have said the district’s anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies cover sexual orientation.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org

View the discussion thread.


Anoka-Hennepin schools hit with another bullying lawsuit | The Republic

13 Aug

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Anoka-Hennepin School District is being sued again over the alleged bullying of a gay or lesbian student.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports (http://bit.ly/qN6kYj ) a new lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights says school officials failed to help a 15-year-old student at Jackson Middle School.

The lawsuit claims the teen was being harassed and physically assaulted by fellow students because of her sexual orientation and perceived gender nonconformity.

Executive director Kate Kendell says the center is also representing five other students in a similar lawsuit and will ask to have the two cases consolidated.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and asks that the district to change its policies to prevent harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

School officials have said the district’s anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies cover sexual orientation.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org

View the discussion thread.

Redneck Olympics faces lawsuit over name

10 Aug

Harold Brooks

Rebecca Daoust of Tilton, N.H., rides a mechanical bull during the first annual Redneck Olympics in Hebron on Saturday.

HEBRON — The Redneck Olympics are facing a legal challenge from the United States Olympic Committee, according to organizer Harold Brooks.

Brooks said he received a phone call Monday from a legal office of the USOC, telling him he needs to change the name of his event in the future or face a lawsuit.

He was told the word “Olympics” is the property of the Olympic Committee. Brooks said it’s a case of large group bullying a small businessman.

“I said, ‘I’m not basing it on your Olympics, I’m basing it on the Olympics in Greece.’” Brooks said.

“I understand we can’t use the word ‘Pepsi,’ but we can use the word ‘soda.’ The Olympics has been around for thousands of years.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the USOC has threatened to sue someone for using the word “Olympics” in a name. Under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the committee has exclusive rights to the name in the U.S.

A Minnesota band called “The Olympic Hopefuls” was forced to change its name to “The Hopefuls” in 2009. In 1982, an athletic event called the “Gay Olympics” changed its name to the “Gay Games” when the committee threatened a lawsuit.

According to the Special Olympics website, the USOC gave special permission for the Special Olympics to use the word in 1971.

Brooks said he has no plan to change the name. “People told me this is the only Olympics they’ll ever go to,” he said. Most of his guests couldn’t afford to fly to the real Olympics, he said, and he said no one would ever confuse the two events.

“I’m going to refuse to not use that word,” he said.

A call to the United States Olympic Committee was not immediately returned Tuesday.


Editor’n note: A previous version of this story misnamed the United States Olympic Committee. It has been corrected.

Court denies appeal in Ark. bullying lawsuit

10 Aug

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has denied the appeal of a former Fayetteville Public Schools student whose lawsuit accused the district of doing nothing about students that he said bullied and sexually harassed him.

A three judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of Billy Wolfe in a ruling filed Tuesday.

A Washington County District Court jury rejected Wolfe’s claim against the district in May 2010. Wolfe’s appeal said the judge gave an improper jury instruction and was wrong to empanel a 12-person jury rather than a 6-person jury.

The appeals court judges rejected both arguments.

Wolfe’s attorney — Westbrook Doss — told the Northwest Arkansas Times (http://bit.ly/ot8Zrm) that he’s not sure if he will continue pursuing the case.


Information from: Northwest Arkansas Times, http://www.nwaonline.com


Five management scandals: What you can learn

9 Aug

Companies screw up all the time. Look behind every business debacle, and you will find one of three time bombs: culture failure, systems failure and brain failure.

The News Corp hacking scandal is a failure of culture. It has raised an important question about Rupert Murdoch’s organisation: what is about the company that created this debacle? When Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch’s henchperson and the most powerful person in the UK media resigned, Mark Lewis, lawyer for the family of Milly Dowler, said: “This is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organisation”.

Veteran Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein claims he was told by one source, a former executive of News Corp: “Murdoch invented and established this culture in the newsroom, where you do whatever it takes to get the story, take no prisoners, destroy the competition, and the end will justify the means.”

For the Murdoch empire, the hacking was a failure of culture.

Another News Limited entity, Melbourne Storm, was at the heart of a different sort of culture failure. A 2010 investigation found that Melbourne Storm had perpetrated salary cap breaches amounting to at least $1.7 million over five years. It showed a salary cap breach of around $400,000 in 2009 and another projected to be $700,000 in 2010.

It also revealed there had been an alleged dual contract system, kept in different rooms at the club with a number of current and former Storm officials allegedly colluding with third parties to make secret payments to a number of players.

The organisation was punished for such brazen cheating. True, it has bounced back this year and the club is now on an eight-match winning streak ahead of the NRL finals. But questions remain as to why News Corporation – which owns 100% of Melbourne Storm and 50% of the entire National Rugby League competition – did not pick it up. NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert said the salary cap scandal at Melbourne Storm exposed a “toxic culture of deceit”. The question is whether that culture went beyond the club.

News Limited Boss John Hartigan has consistently claimed that the deception had been concealed from News Limited and that there has been no illegal or unethical practice at News Limited. But then, did News Limited check the invoices of its subsidiary thoroughly? Did it ask auditors to check how much money was flowing through the club?

Hartigan’s assertion that News Limited was unaware of the rorting is eerily familiar. It’s an unsettling echo of James Murdoch’s claim that he was unaware of the full extent of the phone hacking and Rupert Murdoch’s assertion that he knew nothing about Brooks admitting to bribing police in 2003.

Is there a pattern? The full story of the Melbourne Storm scandal has not been told. Until then, we won’t know the full extent of the culture failure.

The David Jones sexual harassment debacle was also about a failure of culture. Kristy Fraser-Kirk’s lawsuit targeted the DJs board, alleging it engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct under the Trade Practices Act by claiming that harassment by then chief executive Mark McInnes was an isolated incident.

According to the writ, David Jones PR manager Anne-Marie Kelly told Fraser-Kirk she was aware of a separate incident involving McInnes and another female employee and said: “Next time that happens you need to be very clear and say, ‘No, Mark and he’ll back off’.” The writ suggests what was happening at DJ’s was very much part of the culture.

According to the statement of claim, McInnes prior to his appointment had been reported to management for “bullying aggression via screaming and abusive foul language”. “That bullying approach was continued by McInnes and later adopted by certain of his management,” the writ says.
While the case was eventually settled, the lawsuit focused attention on a largely ignored area: the company’s culture.

The board shouldn’t only have been looking out for sexual harassment. The directors should have been cognisant of the arrogance that goes with sexual harassment, the stuff that shapes culture.

The writ suggests that there were some managers in the company who thought that the stated culture regarding sexual harassment was one thing and the tolerated behaviour of the leader was another. This allowed them to behave badly. That works like a primary cancer on a company’s culture, with cancer cells breaking away and travelling to other parts of the organisation. The body of the organisation’s culture eventually breaks down.

But other companies experience two other types of botch ups: systems failure and brain failure.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority grounded Tiger Airways in July when the Australian Transport Safety Bureau was investigating incidents involving Tiger flights this year.

One was where a Traffic Collision Avoidance System alarm was triggered when an A320 flew too close to a small aircraft as it approached Alice Springs Airport on a flight from Melbourne, another where incorrect data was suspected to have been entered into an A320′s flight management computer during pre-flight planning for a service from Melbourne to Perth. But that’s not it: a Tiger A320 from Brisbane to Melbourne also flew less than the required safe distance from a Boeing 767.

This was part of a pattern. In 2009, the ATSB investigated three further incidents involving technical malfunctions that were blamed on manufacturers. These were basic mistakes. The budget airline ignored a demand from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to better inform customers of its situation. The Tiger predicament was a systems failure.

Across to property, and Federal Court in June found that eight directors of the Centro property group breached their duties in late 2007 when they approved final financial statements that failed to disclose billions of dollars of short-term debt.

During the case, former Centro chairman Brian Healey told the court he did not believe it was his job to look for mistakes in the accounts. Centro shareholders would have been surprised – according to Centro’s 2007 annual report, he collected $376,050 in fees. For all that money, Healey said he had placed his total confidence in work done by the property group’s management and auditors. He also conceded that he did not read the full version of Centro’s 2006-07 final accounts before signing a declaration on September 6, 2007, certifying they were true and correct.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is seeking to ban and fine the eight Centro directors and executives when the landmark case returns to court next week. That’s a big penalty for a brain failure.

Management consultant Kevin Dwyer from the Change Factory says that the three types of breakdown – culture, systems and brain – have a common root: they all come from a failure of leadership.

“If you don’t provide a culture that has ethical boundaries, then people will do things they think are okay like phone tapping because they don’t see boundaries,” Dwyer says. “Did Rupert put in place audits with all his papers? I’m guessing not because if he did, they would have found out about things before they hacked a murdered girl’s phone.”

“Did Melbourne Storm management send in an auditor to look for underhanded payments when they knew the salary cap was an issue in the rugby league? And with Centro, they sent in auditors but they didn’t know what they were doing.”

“With David Jones, McInnes had a track record but they still hired him and ignored protestations. That’s shirking accountability.”
“With Tiger airways, it was a failure of systems but at the end of the day, it was also a failure of leadership. It’s the leader who has to make sure the systems are in place and that there are checks and balances to ensure the systems are all working.”

Dwyer says that the leaders in all these cases were confusing responsibility and accountability.

“The leader is not responsible because the representatives they are putting in place are the ones doing the job,” he says. “The thing that Rupert is missing is that he might not be responsible but he sure is accountable. The accountable one is the one who puts the systems, processes and culture in place. These guys get paid mega millions and they get paid that because of the accountability they accept. They don’t get paid because they are super creative and wonderful, they hire people who are super creative and wonderful. But they’re accountable for governance and risk management.”

Julie Zetler, a senior lecturer at Macquarie University’s department of marketing and management, and an expert in business ethics, corporate governance and risk management, says that the problem now is that many companies are outsourcing their accountability.

“That means the corporate governance issue can be compromised quite a bit,” Zetler says. “All of a sudden, it’s a case of we’re not really to blame because we have contracted that out to other professionals and they have their own code of conduct. It’s a denial of accountability. What you have now is all these people who sit up in high positions who don’t know, or don’t want to know what’s going on.”

Management consultant Joel Barolsky says part of the problem now is that good management practice these days requires executives to delegate power and give subordinates more decision-making ability.

“At the same time, there is an equal force around enhanced accountability at senior positions,” Barolsky says. “At board level, directors are being held more accountable. There is this tension at senior levels now where they have to know everything that’s going on but from a productivity perspective, it’s all about devolution. Trying to marry these two forces is an interesting dilemma and it’s a tension that every organisation has to face.”

However, it can be done.

“Good reporting and information systems could be developed to try and marry these two objectives so you devolve power but at the same time, have good mechanisms in place to monitor what they do and make sure there are appropriate checks and balances and that there is transparency in all the activities,” Barolsky says.

He says companies can develop a strong culture through their performance management systems where people are judged not only on how effectively they meet key performance indicators but also how much they live the values. Systems failure can be avoided with regular reviews of key system and risk management. Brain failure can be managed with good recruiting, training and development.

The three kinds of mistakes – culture, systems and brain failure – have been with us forever. Companies have always screwed up and it’s the same pattern every time. Accountability was ditched and management did whatever was necessary to get the results. Smart companies will recognise this and put systems in place to ensure the three kinds of failure don’t happen.

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In Austin, southern Minnesotans organize against bullying while Anoka-Hennepin …

7 Aug

While a high-profile lawsuit and DOJ investigation of bullying in a suburban school are drawing headlines like the Strib’s Anoka-Hennepin sued over bullying, community anti-bullying organizing is gaining steam in southern Minnesota, the Austin Herald and the Austin edition of the Post-Bulletin report.

The Herald began covering anti-bullying efforts by the schools last October in Schools aim to be proactive to stop bullying. In February, the paper published AHS takes serious look at bullying which detailed a visit by anti-bullying advocate Jamie Nabozny, whose lawsuit against the Ashland, WI, district “was the first time a court found schools have a responsibility to protect students from anti-gay slurs and abuse.”

By late March, the paper reported that staff and parents were banding together to fight bullying in the schools in Group will make presentation on bullying to board. In Parents take aim at bullies, the paper looked at the community-wide group forming to deter bullying:

While community organizers acknowledge Austin’s efforts to combat bullying, parents are saying it isn’t enough. One of the measures the community group wants is more volunteers working as playground supervisors, from about two helpers to 10 per recess. They also want stricter punishments for younger bullies and monthly bullying lessons taught in the classroom.

“I don’t want Austin to have a child hurt themselves or commit suicide because of bullying,” Borgerson-Nesvold said.

Board members agree the issue is serious, but some of them wondered how effective teachers could be in stopping bullying for fear of reproachment or lawsuit.

The community group will start a community-wide campaign within the next month or so, hoping to spread the word across town to stamp out bullying. . . .

In April, AHS clubs, parents were still addressing bullying in schools and beyond:

A parent group, started by Danielle Borgerson-Nesvold, is growing and hoping to start a community-wide campaign targeting bullies who take their antics off school property.

Even the Austin Police Department is getting in on the initiative, with officers organizing a group of high schoolers to work with elementary school students, giving presentations and teaching about ways to stop bullying.

“I’m very excited,” said Mark Walski, AHS liaison officer. “Hearing adults tell you what’s wrong and right is a lot different than when peers are doing it.”

. . .Walski said while dealing with bullying is something he has to do if it becomes a criminal matter, cases of bullying hadn’t noticeably increased. He chalks up the current anti-bullying efforts to an increased awareness in parents and staff.

“I’ve been very impressed at how (AHS) has dealt with bullying,” Walski said.

The parents’ group, now named Community Against Bully, didn’t stop its organizing with the coming of the summer break in June, the Herald reported in Bullying prevention program gets serious. According to an article published today, CAB, the Anti-bullying committee looks for help from ‘The Scary Guy.’

And that’s not Bradlee Dean, but a tattooed anti-bullying advocate.

From the Herald:

The organizers who started an anti-bullying campaign are getting a lot more support.

The Community Against Bullying committee is ramping up fundraising efforts to hire national anti-bullying spokesman The Scary Guy to come to Austin this November. Their target is $20,000 in funding for a several-day program.

“There’s a lot of huge community outpouring,” said Danielle Borgerson-Nesvold.

The group is campaigning to bring in The Scary Guy, an award-winning anti-bullying advocate known for his tough stance on hate, prejudice and bullying, and for his tattoos, which cover about 85 percent of his body and most of his face.

Many local organizations are throwing their support behind the bullying group. . . .

Though this year’s goal is to bring in The Scary Guy, CAB organizers say they’re going to continue working to erase bullying from the community.

“It was so prevalent, you’d think it was normal, but it’s really not,” Borgerson-Nesvold said. “We’re starting to see the damage that it does to our kids.”

The Austin Post Bulletin told a similar story in Community Against Bullying tackles fundraising:

The group’s meeting Thursday came on the same day that the state’s largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin, had a federal lawsuit filed against it by two national civil rights groups and a law firm in Minneapolis. The suit involves the district’s sexual orientation curriculum policy, along with students who claimed they were bullied due to their sexual orientation.

Borgerson-Nesvold said she’s had a lot of people mention that a group like CAB should’ve been around five or 10 years ago. “But we’re here now,” she said.

“We’re going to move forward and we’re going to change the climate in our town,” Borgerson-Nesvold said. “We have a huge future ahead of us.”

Photo: The Scary Guy. Not really–Bluestem thinks this guy is scarier.

Sally Jo Sorensen's picture
Sally Jo Sorensen

Sally Jo Sorensen publishes Bluestem Prairie for those who prefer take their corn with a progressive chaser.


Suit: School’s ‘Wigger Day’ discriminatory

7 Aug

RED WING, Minn., Aug. 4 (UPI) — A lawsuit charges a Minnesota school violated anti-discrimination law by allowing a racist homecoming event in which white students mocked African-Americans.

During “Wigger Day” — a reference to whites who imitate mannerisms, speech and clothing of some African-Americans — dozens of students wore baggy pants and displayed gang signs, the suit says, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The event at Red Wing High School violated Title VI, which forbids racial discrimination at a federally funded school, the suit contends, because it “failed to take adequate steps to address the conduct.”

The suit says the event, held in 2007, 2008 and 2009, constituted discrimination and bullying and led to “deep depression” for black student Quera Pruitt, who almost dropped out as a result before graduating last year.

“It’s offensive to black folks and, frankly, it’s offensive to anyone,” said Joshua Williams, Pruitt’s lawyer.

Pruitt’s suit seeks more than $75,000.

Only about 3 percent of the 879 eighth- through 12th-graders at the school, northeast of St. Paul, are black, the Minnesota Department of Education says.

The school district denied discrimination.

“(Red Wing school district) has been and continues to be committed to providing an education to its students that is free from discrimination and harassment based upon race or otherwise,” Superintendent Karsten Anderson said in a statement.

“The district denies the allegations that it has created a racially hostile environment and looks forward to meeting these allegations in court.”


Minn. School District Takes It On All Sides

7 Aug

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The Minneapolis Star-Tribune took Minnesota’s largest school district to task for its lukewarm stances against antigay bullying, while an LGBT activist group said the Anoka-Hennepin school district’s LGBT website is misleading.

The Gay Equity Team says the district’s LGBT website — created after a federal lawsuit was filed against the district that alleged officials failed to properly prevent students from antigay harassment — contains several errors.

“On Thursday the group issued 10 pages of mistakes it says it found on the site. The group’s Robin Mavis says the most egregious error is a transcript of a voice message to all staff from last fall that doesn’t match the recorded audio,” reports Minnesota Public Radio.

Since mid-2009, six Anoka-Hennepin students have killed themselves. Some have said a lax policy toward antigay bullying is partly to blame. It was in 2009 that the district revised its longstanding policy that stated “homosexuality will not be discussed as a normal or valid lifestyle.” The policy was revised to state that “staff in the course of their professional duties shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.”

That’s not enough, the Star-Tribune wrote in a Thursday editorial.

“It’s simply wrong not to do everything possible to prevent harassment or bullying of children who may strike some of their peers as different,” read the editorial. “Hopefully the district can prevent a lengthy, expensive court battle by rewriting its policies and establishing diversity training that would bring meaningful progress on GLBT issues.”

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Pro-homosexual Groups Target Minn. School District

3 Aug

Pro-homosexual groups have targeted a Minnesota school district just outside of Minneapolis for its unwillingness to discuss homosexuality in the classroom. The groups point to seven suicides within two years at the school district as proof that the subject should be addressed by the schools, since parents and friends say that four of those students were either “gay,” perceived to be “gay,” or questioning their own sexuality. A number of groups have filed a lawsuit against the school district, and the federal government has indicated it will perform a formal investigation into the district’s policy.

In 2009, the Anoka-Hennepin School District adopted a policy that indicates staff must “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation” and that “such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.”

The official district policy, “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy” (SOCP), reads:

“Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions. If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum. Staff are encouraged to take into consideration individual student needs and refer students to the appropriate social worker or licensed school counselor.”

As noted by SchoolBullyingCouncil.com:

Anoka-Hennepin is the only Minnesota school district known to have such a policy. However, at least eight other states — Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — have statutes specifying varying limits on classroom instruction regarding homosexuality. Tennessee considered similar legislation this year.

Supporters of the policy indicate that it’s consistent with the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which offers protections based on sexual orientation, but explicitly states that nothing in the law should be utilized to “authorize or permit the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in education institutions.”

Opponents assert that the school district has misunderstood the language of the state’s human rights law.

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a federal lawsuit against Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools against the district’s “curricular neutrality.”

The lawsuit is a civil rights case filed on behalf of five current and former students of the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota. According to the lawsuit:

Plaintiffs seek to vindicate their constitutional and statutory rights to equal access to educational opportunities, rights that Defendants have violated and will continue to violate absent relief from this Court. Defendants’ violation of these rights include the intentional enactment and enforcement of policies that unlawfully discriminate against Plaintiffs based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. These policies exist only because of community animus toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) people-an interest that can never justify discrimination by the government.

The lawsuit goes on to claim that the plaintiffs suffered repeated, long-term bullying as a result of their sexual orientation, and that the schools’ response to the abuse was “grossly inadequate.” It claims that response of District administrators and teachers was to “ignore, minimize, dismiss, or some instances, to blame the victim for the other students’ abusive behavior.”

The lawsuit targets what it calls “the epidemic of anti-gay and gender-based harassment within District schools,” which it contends is “rooted in and encouraged by official District-wide policies singling out and denigrating LGBT people.” It proceeds to focus on Anoka-Hennepin’s neutrality policy, calling it a “gag policy” that ultimately sends a message that LGBT students are “not a welcome part of the school community.”

According to Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson, however, the neutrality policy is intended to balance the demands of those in the school district.

“It’s a diverse community,” he explains, “and what we’re trying to do, what I’m trying to do as a superintendent is walk down the middle of the road.”

Likewise, the Justice Department has launched an investigation of “incidents involving harassment and bullying” at the school district. SchoolBullyingCouncil.com reports, “The Justice Department together with the 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.’”

“The Department is committed to investigating allegations to determine whether there are violations of federal civil rights laws and will use the enforcement tools at our disposal to protect the safety of students,” wrote a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The Justice Department conducted a similar investigation in Tehachapi, California, and concluded that the suicide of a 13-year old student took place because that student “suffered sexual and gender-based harassment by his peers, including harassment based on his non-conformity to gender stereotypes.” The Department of Justice also concluded that the school district “did not adequately investigate or respond appropriately as it is required to do by federal law.” The investigation forced the Tehachapi Unified School District to adopt federally mandated revisions to its policies.

Tammy Aaberg, whose 15-year old son Justin committed suicide last year, contends that the school’s neutrality policy is partially responsible for her son’s death. “He came to me and said, ‘Mom, a kid at school says I’m going to go to hell because I’m gay,’” Aaberg says. She asserts that the school’s neutrality policy contributed to the negative climate at the school to which her son was exposed. “I believe that the climate that they have in the school, the way that kids are allowed to treat other kids — they say ‘fag’ all the time,” Aaberg said. “If you’re even questioning who you are and you’re not seeing anybody who’s like you, you don’t see anything positive about who you are, then you start wondering, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”

But the superintendent denies these allegations, asserting that the school has a comprehensive bullying prohibition policy. He adds that it is imperative that students report incidents of bullying so that the school may get involved.

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St. Paul’s School sued in bullying case

31 Jul

A Baltimore County mother is suing St. Paul’s School for Boys and two administrators for $150,000, claiming that her son was bullied for years by other students and the school did nothing to protect him.

In a lawsuit claiming breach of contract and negligence, Nannette Krupa of Nottingham argues that the school in Brooklandville effectively expelled her son a half-year before he was due to graduate while not disciplining other students, including some attending the school on athletic scholarships, who she claims attacked her son.

In an interview Tuesday, Krupa said that her son was attacked three times physically, most severely in a bathroom when he was a freshman, and in between those incidents was a frequent target of abuse. His lunch was often stolen, his backpack was flipped inside out and he was called names, she said.

The suit was filed last month against the school, naming also Headmaster Thomas J. Reid and John Marinacci, the Upper School dean of students. The suit, which identifies Krupa’s son only as “NZ,” contends that the boy sought help several times from Marinacci, who “failed and/or refused to take any action to prevent the verbal harassment, physical threats and battery suffered by NZ” at the school.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Reid said “I have no comment on that right now.” Marinacci’s voice mail message asks that he be contacted by e-mail, but he did not respond to attempts to reach him by e-mail on Tuesday and Thursday.

The lawyer representing the school, Thomas Patrick Ryan of Rockville, did not return phone messages left on Tuesday and Thursday.

In a brief answer to the suit filed July 21, Ryan did not address the specifics of Krupa’s claims. Among his arguments are that Krupa may lack legal standing to bring the suit, that she fails to make claims on which relief can be granted by the court and that damages may be barred by the doctrine of “charitable immunity,” which relieves a charity of liability.

The complaint in the lawsuit refers to “years of attacks,” but does not describe what happened. Krupa supplied more details in an interview at her lawyer’s office in Towson.

She said that until last December, neither her son nor the school told her he had been assaulted. She said she was called about this for the first time early that month, after her son said he stood up to his tormentors and was disciplined for it.

She said he was victimized because he’s more bookish than athletic and, because he started St. Paul’s in the ninth grade, he had trouble fitting in at first. Also, she said, he was teased frequently because he suffers from a nervous condition and has a habit of constantly pulling off his eyelashes.

The incident after which Krupa’s son was asked to withdraw from the school took place on the morning of Dec. 6. Krupa said her son saw that incident as the last straw after years of being bullied.

She said her son was spending a free period in a chapel classroom drinking tea and reading. Two lower-classmen walked in and started tossing Beanie Babies back and forth — eventually throwing them at her son, knocking off his glasses and nearly spilling the tea.

Krupa said her son picked up a screwdriver off a desk, held it and told the boys he’d had enough.

“He said, ‘I’m tired of this,’” Krupa said. “‘I’ve put up with this my whole life … leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.’”

Krupa said her son also described an attack in a bathroom in his freshman year and said he was beaten up in a classroom in his sophomore year. The family was not satisfied with the school’s response in either of the cases.

The suit claims the school “failed to live up to its own philosophy and handbook and supported students harassing and attacking a student suffering from a physical condition.” The suit also claims the school “interfered” with the boy’s college and scholarship application process.

Krupa said in the interview that her son, who is 18, was never officially told that he had been expelled from St. Paul’s, but he was not allowed to attend this spring’s commencement ceremony. She said his status was unclear from December through March, as she and her lawyers tried to negotiate an arrangement with the school that would allow him to graduate with his classmates.

“He wrote letters of apology, I appealed to them,” Krupa said. “He doesn’t understand why they would treat him this way,” said Krupa, whose 6-year-old daughter will be starting her third year this fall at St. Paul’s.

Krupa said she learned that he would not receive his St. Paul’s diploma in a March conversation with an official at St. John’s College in Annapolis. She said the college has accepted her son for admission in the fall.

Krupa said her son has been spending the spring and summer completing a college algebra course at the Community College of Baltimore County and taking high school courses through an online school from which he hopes to receive a diploma.


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    Don’t Teach, Don’t Tell? District Gay Policy Questioned

    31 Jul

    7 Student Suicides In 2 Years Stir Debate

    POSTED: 8:00 am EDT July 30, 2011UPDATED: 9:25 am EDT July 30, 2011
    Anoka, Minnesota (CNN) — Late at night, long after class is dismissed, middle school teacher Jefferson Fietek logs on for his night shift: answering the texts and Facebook posts of suicidal teens.

    Fietek, an adviser for his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance in Anoka, Minnesota, says he gets messages from students contemplating suicide or those with friends in crisis at least once a week.

    Some of the distressed kids are gay, others are questioning their sexuality, he said. Fietek’s off-duty interventions may blur the line between teacher and friend, but Fietek, who’s openly gay, said some of these kids have no one else to turn to for support.

    “I’m worried and concerned about the kids in my school district who are struggling to navigate in a toxic environment,” explained Fietek, who said talking to CNN could cost him his job as a theater teacher at Anoka Middle School for the Arts in Anoka-Hennepin.

    The suburban Minneapolis school district, he said, has a climate where kids “feel they have to lie and cover up who they are.”

    “If they’re a kid that’s questioning their identity, that they have to hide that,” he said. “If there’s a girl that’s too masculine and is being harassed about that, or if there’s a boy that’s too feminine, [they're] just not feeling a collective support.”

    Fietek has reason to worry. Studies since the 1990s consistently show gay and lesbian youth have suicide attempt rates at least twice that of their heterosexual peers.

    And Fietek has seen more than his share of students hospitalized and even buried.

    A string of seven student suicides district-wide in less than two years has stirred public debate over Anoka-Hennepin’s sexual orientation curriculum policy.

    Parents and friends say four of those students were either gay, perceived to be gay or questioning their sexuality, and they say, at least two of them were bullied over their sexuality.

    The district’s curriculum policy, adopted in 2009, bars teachers from taking a position on homosexuality in the classroom and says such matters are best addressed outside of school. It’s become known as the neutrality policy. Anoka-Hennepin is the only Minnesota school district known to have such a policy.

    “It’s a censorship policy,” Fietek said. “It’s censorship. There’s nothing neutral about taking the side of the oppressor.”

    Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson says the policy — which has attracted just as many local supporters as it has critics to heated school board meetings — is a reasonable response to a divided community.

    “It’s a diverse community,” said Carlson, “and what we’re trying to do, what I’m trying to do as a superintendent is walk down the middle of the road.”

    The school district has a separate, comprehensive bullying prohibition policy, and Carlson said there is no link between the suicides and bullying.

    “We have no evidence that bullying or harassment took place in any of those cases,” the superintendent said.

    Carlson emphasized students need to report bullying, and he acknowledged “gay students in our district struggle with bullying and harassment on a daily basis.”

    What started out as community members clashing at school board meetings is now a full-blown culture war over homosexuality.

    Advocates of gay rights filed a federal lawsuit last week against the district challenging the neutrality policy.

    In response to the lawsuit, the school district said it is “confident” that they are “complying with the law” and that its policies, practices and procedures ensure the safety of students.

    And CNN confirmed, the Departments of Justice and Education have an ongoing civil rights investigation into incidents of bullying and harassment in the school district after receiving a complaint.

    “The Department is committed to investigating allegations to determine whether there are violations of federal civil rights laws and will use the enforcement tools at our disposal to protect the safety of students,” wrote a Justice Department spokeswoman in an email to CNN.

    It’s unclear whether the federal investigation will go beyond investigating the bullying complaint.

    The party who filed the complaint to the federal authorities remains confidential due to privacy concerns.

    Sam Wolfe, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the advocacy groups behind the federal lawsuit, wrote the district a letter in May, saying the “gag policy” prevented “meaningful” classroom discussion on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

    “The policy imposes a stigma on LGBT students as pariahs, not fit to be mentioned within the school community,” Wolfe wrote, “a message that comes across loud and clear both to LGBT students and their peers, and which has grave repercussions for the psychological and emotional development of LGBT students.”

    In response to those allegations, the school district wrote a letter to the SPLC, stating the district “strongly disagrees” that there is a link between the harassment of LGBT students and the neutrality policy.

    The district’s letter also disputes that the policy prohibits classroom discussion of LGBT issues, and states rather that it prevents teachers from injecting their personal beliefs on homosexuality in the classroom.

    Last week, the district asked the advocacy groups to help them develop employee training to support LGBT students but stopped short of meeting their demands to repeal its policy.

    “We believe the interests of our students would be better served if we could put our energies and resources into working together to develop materials that directly support students,” said Carlson in a press release.

    “Rather than focusing on litigation we would prefer to invest in materials that would provide a positive outcome for students for years to come.”

    The school’s neutrality policy has the backing of some parents like Yvette Schue, a district mother of four children, who said a controversial topic like homosexuality should be “handled at home,” and schools should focus on core academics.

    “They don’t need to be promoting a particular point of view on [homosexuality],” Schue said.

    “Parents have the right to raise their children any way they want to, and the school district doesn’t need to be sitting there saying, ‘Your parents are wrong.’”



    St. Paul’s School sued in bullying case

    28 Jul

  • The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert Street, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore, MD 21278

  • Court upholds dismissal of Smyrna teacher lawsuit

    26 Jul

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    NASHVILLE — The state Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a teacher’s lawsuit against Rutherford County Schools officials by Chancellor Robert Corlew.

    The case dates back to March 29, 2007, when Smyrna Primary teacher Lenora “Boe” Washington was accused of assaulting a child in the school cafeteria when her “purse accidentally slipped off her arm, striking the child in the leg,” court documents state.

    Documents state that she had approached the child, a male student, about sitting at the lunch table the proper way after he had been instructed to do so by a lunchroom monitor.

    In her complaint, Washington said her character had been defamed and that she was denied due process in the handling of a reprimand.

    The court stated that the six-month statute of limitations on Washington’s defamation claim had expired by the time she filed the suit. Because she chose to contest the reprimand to the board, the matter became public record and was reported by the media.

    “We know of no authority under which the school system can be held responsible for the media’s dissemination of public information,” the finding states.

    Washington, who has taught at the school since 1972, was cleared in the assault after an investigation by school officials. After being interviewed by Paula Barnes, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, and staff attorney Angel McCloud, Washington then went to the child’s classroom. Washington said she went to apologize, but teacher Shea Williams said Washington explained her side of the story and asked at least one student to check the weight of her purse.

    Upon leaving the classroom, Washington said, “Y’all know I don’t hit kids,” according to court documents.

    A couple of says later, Director of Schools Harry Gill Jr. issued a letter informing Washington that he did not believe the lunchroom incident was intentional, but that the classroom visit was out of line. Gill’s letter stated that she violated board policy 5-12, which states “that there shall be no retaliation against any person who reports harassment or bullying/intimidation or participates in the investigation.”


    No link between neutrality and bullying

    26 Jul

    The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights recently threatened to sue the Anoka-Hennepin School District unless it abandoned its policy of neutrality on sexual orientation to promote the organizations’ anti-bullying agenda. (See earlier story)

    “But it looks to me like, from what I read in the media reports, that the allegations of harassment and bullying that the Southern Poverty Law Center has alleged is occurring is what the federal government is concerned about,” notes Jeremy Tedesco of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

    He recognizes that seven suicides have taken place in less than two years in the district, and that has led to a debate about the school’s neutral position on sexual orientation. But Tedesco contends there is no cause-and-effect factor to blame.

    “But what these outside groups want to do, [what] the pro-homosexual groups want to do is they want the bullying policies and the curriculum policies to all advance their pro-homosexual agenda in schools,” the ADF legal counsel explains. “I don’t think there’s any link at all between the neutrality policy and the bullying that goes on at the schools.”

    In response to the legal threats from the liberal groups, the Alliance Defense Fund has written a letter of support for the school’s current policy of neutrality on sexual orientation.


    Anoka-Hennepin School District faces Federal Lawsuit over “Neutrality” Policy

    26 Jul

    MINNESOTA – Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota’s largest school district that serves 40,000 students was the target of a a Federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Faegre Benson, LLP.

    According to SPLC and NCLR, the lawsuit charges that LGBT students and students perceived as LGBT were subjected to anti-LGBT slurs on a daily basis and were physically threatened or attacked by peers. While many of these abuses occurred in front of teachers or were reported to school officials, school personnel almost always took insufficient action to stop the abuse.

    The Anoka-Hennepin school district has been the subject of an investigation since the fall of 2010, after several students and community members came forward to report both verbal and physical bullying and harassment . During the ten month investigation, SPLC heard from students and teachers about concerns regarding the “neutrality” policy and implications of a gag policy in the classroom.

    According to Sam Wolfe, lead attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, students have reported being called vicious anti-gay slurs and subjected to being physically assaulted pushed into school lockers and trash cans due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. One student even was reportedly attacked by a pencil and stabbed in the back of the neck.

    Since 2009, the Anoka-Hennepin community has also suffered great loss as six students have completed suicide allegedly due to bullying and harassment in the district, making it one of the highest in the nation.

    “Ten months ago we came to Anoka because a community was grieving over the loss of their children and we found a pattern in the school district ” said Sam Wolfe, lead attorney on the case for the SPLC.

    The Ankoa-Hennepin school district “neutrality” policy has been in place since 1995 and restricts teachers from speaking about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) persons in the classroom. Local teachers have also come forward to speak out against the “neutrality” policy because they say it restricts discussions and enforcement of bullying and harassment polices and does not create a safe school environment often leaving them unable to to help.

    SPLC and NCLR have been in talks with the Ankoa-Hennepin school district since May and have asked the district to remove its so-called “neutrality” gag policy. The Anoka- Hennepin school district announced Wednesday that it will not change the “neutrality” policy but instead offered to work with SPLC and NCLR to provide training instead.

    “There is something seriously wrong in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and district officials know it,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq. “In school after school, kids who are perceived as gay are harassed mercilessly until they drop out, melt down, or lash back. This epidemic of harassment—unlike anything we’ve seen in neighboring districts—is plainly fueled by the district’s shameful and illegal policy singling out LGBT people and LGBT people alone for total exclusion from acknowledgement within the classroom.”

    GLSEN released a research brief last month based on findings from Minnesota LGBT students who participated in the 2009 National School Climate Survey. The brief found that 84% of Minnesota LGBT students had been harassed or assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 61% because of their gender expression.

    “These polices have a chilling effect on lgbt students” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN

    SPLC and NCLR are not the only groups asking the Anoka-Hennepin school district to remove the “neutrality’ policy.

    Local groups in Minnesota, such as the Anoka Gay Equity Team, have been asking for the removal of the policy in support of SPLC and NCLR. Justin Anderson, a 2010 graduate of Blaine High School in Anoka-Hennepin and a volunteer with the Equity Team presented a petition to the Anoka-Hennepin school board meeting last week from change.org with over 12,000 signatures asking the school board to remove the “neutrality” policy and put students first.

    The Anoka-Hennepin school district is also facing a Federal investigation announced this week.

    The Department of Justice along with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights have been investigating the school district after a rash of suicides this past Fall and looking into allegations of a hostile environment for students.

    Last October, the Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights released a Dear Colleague letter to schools nationwide that gave a reminder about OCR enforcement and guidance on bullying and harassment under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

    Shannon Cuttle is a educator, school administrator, safe schools trainer, community organizer and policy wonk. She is the Director of the Safe Schools Action Network a national non-profit dedicated to creating inclusive safe schools and can also be found at change.org.


    River Fields responds to demands it drop its lawsuit – Louisville Courier

    25 Jul

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    Since March, River Fields, a 52-year-old, bistate, land and river conservation/preservation organization with 2,000 members in over 100 ZIP codes, has been subjected to a relentless and mean-spirited campaign demanding that it withdraw from an appeal filed in 2009 with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    The campaign is focused on misinformation and on River Fields’ supposed motives, not on the facts underlying River Fields’ position. Without a single documented fact supporting their position, the attacks on River Fields have become so extreme that this small nonprofit is now being blamed for “job losses, economic stagnation and massive air pollution,” a host of ills over which it obviously has no control. It’s a wonder that we haven’t been blamed for the federal deficit and the severe weather.

    Fair-minded readers can only wonder why River Fields has become such a target. One thing is certain — the appeal filed by the National Trust and River Fields has not stopped anything. Instead, as the media have widely reported, the project is on hold right now while the states scramble to find enough money in tolls and redesign the project, including Spaghetti Junction. By focusing on River Fields, this well-funded campaign is shifting attention from the facts about funding and setting up River Fields as a scapegoat for a stalled project that has no financial plan. As the Bridges Authority website admits, funding is “yet to be determined.”

    The subject of the appeal is the Ohio River Bridges Project. Studies conducted by Kentucky and Indiana showed that the proposed eastern bridge would solve no significant traffic and safety problems, would add no new long-term jobs to the work force and would be environmentally destructive. Moreover, the much-needed new downtown bridge and the rebuild of Spaghetti Junction are not prioritized as the necessary project and, with the well-documented funding problems, risks never being built.

    As a recent Courier-Journal editorial points out, River Fields has made all these points before. Nevertheless, we and all citizens have the right to hold our government accountable to the law and to exercise our right to judicial review of government decisions that do not comply with that law. River Fields believes that the sprawl-inducing eastern bridge will further erode Louisville’s older neighborhoods, cost Kentucky 10,400 jobs, move $342 million in salaries across the river, lose tax revenue and do irreversible harm to the environment. (See DEIS, pp. 5-28.)


    Lawsuit Claims High School Football Team Hazed Teen With Broomstick

    25 Jul

    03212010Wool-broom.jpgA lawsuit filed by the family of a student at Staten Island’s all-boys Catholic school St. Peter’s alleges that he was subjected to violent hazing and that the school refused to act against the aggressors. According to the Post, the freshman was “held down by four beefy linebackers in the locker room and repeatedly jabbed in the groin and rear end with a broomstick.” That description probably could have done without the word “beefy,” but hey, the guy who came up with “Headless Body Found In Topless Bar” just retired to cut the Post some slack.

    The broomstick incident, which echoes the hazing rituals of a certain fire volunteer department, was preceded by the teenager being “thrown into lockers” among other acts of bullying. School officials didn’t discipline the alleged attackers because Archbishop Timothy Dolan was scheduled to visit the school, the complaint alleges. The DA declined to press charges against the teenagers or the school, so the family is seeking $500K in damages, and has since removed their child from St. Peter’s. No word on whether he had to wear a Hannah Montana backpack.


    Righthaven fighting demand for attorney’s fees

    25 Jul

    24 July 2011
    2:13 p.m.

    Newspaper copyright infringement lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas is arguing it shouldn’t have to pay a defendant’s legal fees — even after the lawsuit at issue was thrown out of court on multiple grounds.

    U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro in Las Vegas on June 20 found Kentucky resident Wayne Hoehn was protected by fair use in posting an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal column on a sports website discussion board; and that Righthaven didn’t have standing to sue over the post. Righthaven is appealing.

    Hoehn’s attorneys, in the meantime, are seeking recovery of their $34,000 in fees, saying Hoehn stood up to what they called Righthaven’s bullying lawsuit tactics and won a victory for fair use and free speech.

    In his fair use ruling, Pro noted the noncommercial nature of Hoehn’s post and that it involved efforts to stimulate an online political discussion. Righthaven, however, has likened his conduct to someone stealing from authors by photocopying their books.

    On the attorney’s fee issue, Righthaven argued in court papers Saturday that since Pro dismissed the suit on grounds that Righthaven lacked standing to sue, Pro now lacks subject matter jurisdiction in the case.

    “Without authority to adjudicate the merits or any other matter based on a want of jurisdiction, the court similarly cannot award defendant attorney’s fees and costs as requested in his motion,” said the filing by a Righthaven outside attorney, Shawn Mangano.

    Mangano also argued that after finding Righthaven lacked standing to sue, Pro didn’t have the authority to issue a fair use ruling.

    “The court erred in granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment on fair use grounds after determining that it lacked subject matter over the case. While this error may appear inconsequential at first, it is not,” Righthaven’s filing said. “The court cannot rely on its fair use decision in defendant’s favor in order to confer ‘prevailing party’ status for the recovery of attorney’s fees and costs.”

    Righthaven’s filing also included a threat to sue Hoehn, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, again.

    “While defendant may have obtained a procedurally technical victory, he has not won the war should Righthaven elect to re-file its complaint against him tomorrow. Nothing prohibits the company for doing so,” Righthaven said in its brief.

    Attorneys for Hoehn with Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas, in an apparent preemptive strike, filed their own brief on Friday to supplement the record with evidence that Righthaven has been misleading all of the Nevada federal judges about its right to sue over Review-Journal material and that the company deliberately hid the role of R-J owner Stephens Media LLC in its lawsuit campaign.

    Their filing for Hoehn noted that on July 14, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt sanctioned Righthaven with a $5,000 fine for its “intentional misrepresentations” and “concerted effort to hide Stephens Media’s role in this litigation,” which “demonstrated Righthaven’s bad faith, wasted judicial resources and needlessly increased the costs of litigation.”

    “The evidence regarding the misrepresentations made by Righthaven regarding its standing go to the heart of this court’s order dismissing the (Hoehn) action, and reveal Righthaven’s lack of credulity in bringing its claims against Hoehn — an important factor for this court in assessing an award of attorney’s fees,” their filing said.

    Hoehn’s attorneys also complained that while Hunt ordered Righthaven to file in each of its active cases his order finding Righthaven lacked standing to sue the political website the Democratic Underground and a transcript of his sanctions hearing, “Righthaven ostensibly has no intent to comply with Judge Hunt’s order.”

    So Hoehn’s attorneys filed the transcript with their brief.

    Righthaven’s battles over attorney’s fees are likely to intensify as attorneys for prevailing defendant Thomas DiBiase have filed their own fee motion for $119,457, Randazza Legal Group won $3,815 in fees representing former defendant Michael Leon and a demand for hundreds of thousands of dollars is likely in the case of the Democratic Underground in which Righthaven has been dismissed as a plaintiff for lack of standing.

    In other Righthaven developments last week:

    • U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas dismissed a Righthaven lawsuit against Garry Newman, who is a resident of Great Britain and is associated with facepunch.com.

    In dismissing the suit over an alleged infringement of an R-J Vdara hotel “death ray” story, Mahan wrote in his ruling that Righthaven had failed to respond by the deadline to Newman’s dismissal motion.

    In that motion, attorneys for Newman said the U.S. court lacked jurisdiction over the British man as his website is not targeted towards Nevadans and that the post at issue was made not by Newman but by a user of his website.

    The also said that Righthaven didn’t send a takedown letter prior to filing suit and that since it uses copyrights only to profit from lawsuits, “Righthaven cannot claim with a straight face that it has been harmed.”

    Righthaven responded to Mahan’s dismissal order with an emergency motion for reconsideration, saying it had filed an amended complaint prior to Mahan dismissing the suit.

    “Here, the court granted defendant’s (dismissal) motion under the assumption that a timely response had not been filed. This was not the case,” Righthaven said in Friday’s emergency motion.

    Mahan has not yet acted on that motion.

    • For a second time, Mahan refused to dismiss a Righthaven lawsuit against Azkar Choudhry and his Pak.org website. This suit involves a graphic that accompanied the R-J Vdara death ray story.

    Attorneys for Pak.org argued the case should be dismissed because the image was never hosted by the Pak.org website.

    They said the lawsuit involved an automated link to the graphic on another website and that the link was provided by an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed that Choudhry didn’t control.

    Choudhry, of Houston, said that at the time of the alleged infringement last year he was unaware his site was linking to the Vdara graphic via the RSS link, as he doesn’t screen RSS feeds.

    Choudhry also said he had never heard of the Vdara hotel, the Review-Journal or Righthaven until he was contacted in December by the Las Vegas Sun, a sister publication to VEGAS INC, and was informed that he was being sued by Righthaven.

    Mahan, however, ruled last week that Righthaven had posed several legitimate questions that need to be explored including:

    • What editorial control did the defendants have over the content that appeared on their website?

    • What interaction did the alleged RSS feed have with the website?

    Mahan has set a hearing for this week in another Righthaven lawsuit against the Pahrump Life blog, and he’s been threatening to dismiss that lawsuit based on Righthaven’s lack of standing under its original lawsuit contract with Stephens Media.

    If the Pahrump Life lawsuit is dismissed, Mahan is likely to dismiss other Righthaven cases he is handling – including the Pak.org case – based on Righthaven’s lack of standing under the first version of its Stephens Media lawsuit pact.

    Righthaven, which also sues over Denver Post material, has filed 275 infringement lawsuits over newspaper content since March 2010.



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    23 Jul

    School bullying is not getting better…yet!

    Written by Echo Brooks

    Sunday, 17 July 2011 14:44

    New Jersey students still experiencing harassment.

    The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network conducted its sixth National School Climate Survey only to find New Jersey LGBT secondary-school students were not being protected by bullying policies and lacked access to resources such as gay-straight alliances.

    The biennial study, which comprised more than 200 New Jersey students, reported biased remarks as commonplace. Most students could reference the term “that’s so gay” being used in casual conversation. Nine out of 10 had heard derogatory homophobic remarks such as “fag,” and the same ratio heard negative gender remarks when referencing someone’s femininity or masculinity. Alarmingly, more than 20 percent stated having heard faculty regularly use negative remarks with regard to gender expression and homosexuality.

    As inconceivable as that may seem, LGBT students in New Jersey are being verbally and physically harassed and assaulted in great numbers as well. A full 85 percent of the students surveyed admitted to being verbally assaulted (e.g., name calling or threats) based on their orientation, and a staggering 34 percent having experienced some sort of physical harassment (e.g., pushing, shoving). Eighty percent have experienced harassment based on gender expression with 20 percent being physical, and 14 percent say they have been physically assaulted (punched, kicked, or assaulted with a weapon) due to their orientation. Only 1 percent stated they had experienced such assault in regard to religion, race, ethnicity or disability. In addition to these findings, 86 percent of the LGBT students studied reported other forms of harassment such as cyber bullying, damage to or theft of personal property, exclusion from peer events and rumor spreading.

    According to the study, only about one in four students could identify a comprehensive bullying/harassment policy specific to sexual orientation or gender expression/identity within their schools. On the positive side, almost all of the students were able to identify at least one supportive faculty member. About half of the schools had a gay-straight alliance but less than half had any library or Internet access to relevant resources. 

    The study showed that 65 percent of the students harassed did not report it to staff and almost the same percentage never mentioned it to family. Of those who reported the incidents to school officials, only 38 percent felt confident the situation was effectively handled.

    GLSEN states that schools with comprehensive bullying/harassment policies, supportive staff, gay-straight alliances, access to resources, and an LGBT-inclusive curriculum demonstrate findings of a more positive school experience for LGBT students and their alliances, including lower absenteeism and victimization, as well as higher academic achievement. They recommend implementing bullying/harassment policies, staff training for responses to LGBT harassment, gay-straight alliances and more LGBT-inclusive curricula.

    Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust, co-chair for GLSEN Central New Jersey, says educators should seek out the resources available through the Safe Schools Coalition as well as GLSEN. “Administrators have to take a strong stand; faculty can’t create respect for LGBT unless they know they have the support of their administrators,” says Rust.

    She encourages educators to call GLSEN for faculty professional development training. “In New Jersey, an environment that is hostile to LGBT is discriminatory under the Law Against Discrimination and violates the Students’ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in Title 18A; such a school is vulnerable to lawsuit and incompliant with educational law.” Rust also states that parents and educators should teach children that the term “that’s so gay” is offensive and the word “gay” should never be used as an insult.

    Oftentimes adults are afraid of the issue and do not approach the topic of “gay,” thinking it means they are talking about sex. “But it does not; it means talking about respect, and there are age-appropriate ways to do it,” Rust asserts.

    For more information visit GLSEN Central New Jersey, and the Safe Schools Coalition 


    Groups challenge ‘anti-gay harassment’ in Minnesota school district

    23 Jul

    Editor’s note: For a full investigation into the Anoka-Hennepin student suicides, watch “CNN Presents” on Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m. ET.

    (CNN) — Two advocacy organizations filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Minnesota’s largest school district, challenging what they call “pervasive anti-gay harassment” in its schools, the groups said in a news release.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of “five students who have faced severe anti-LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) bullying and harassment while attending school in the (Anoka-Hennepin) district,” a joint news release states.

    The school district issued a news release stating it’s reviewing the complaint, noting it “takes strong exception to the outrageous media statement the district is not concerned about the safety of its students.”

    Read the advocacy groups’ complaint

    Read the school district’s response

    The filing comes amid a federal investigation into “incidents involving harassment and bullying” in the school district, located in north suburban Minneapolis, according to a Department of Justice e-mail to CNN.

    The Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights are looking into a complaint regarding “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,” according to a district memo provided to CNN.

    The party filing the complaint to the federal agencies was not named due to privacy concerns.

    The federal investigation follows a string of seven student suicides in less than two years, which stirred public debate over the district’s sexual orientation curriculum policy.

    Parents and friends say four of those students were either gay, perceived to be gay or questioning their sexuality, and they say that at least two of them were bullied over their sexuality.

    The school district denies any connection between the bullying and the suicides.

    It’s unclear whether the suicides or the policy are a significant part of the federal investigation.

    The controversial sexual orientation curriculum policy, adopted in 2009, states that staff must “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation” and that “such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches or community organizations.”

    The policy is local to the Anoka-Hennepin district rather than statewide. However, at least eight states — Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — have statutes specifying varying limits on classroom instruction regarding homosexuality. Tennessee considered similar legislation this year.

    Community supporters of the so-called neutrality policy say it is constitutional and consistent with the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which protects rights based on sexual orientation but states that nothing in the law shall be construed to “authorize or permit the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in education institutions.”

    Gay rights advocates who oppose Anoka-Hennepin’s neutrality policy say the school district has misinterpreted the intention of the state’s human rights law.

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