Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 7:59 AM on 27th July 2011
Uncomfortable reading: Republican rep Michele Bachmann is very vocal on anti-gay issues including gay marriage and that public schools shouldn’t be forced to start teaching it
Over the past two years nine young people have committed suicide in Michele Bachmann’s backyard – or at least the Minnesota school districts she represents.
Many more have attempted to take their own lives leading state public health officials to slap a ‘suicide contagion area’ label on the region because of the high levels.
At least four of those who committed suicide were openly gay or, at least, perceived to be gay by classmates, and many were reportedly bullied.
While it is impossible to prove why these youngsters took their own lives, some critics are suggesting a link between the suicides and the anti-gay rhetoric sweeping through school districts in the state.
The news may be uncomfortable for Bachmann who has a number of anti-gay policies.
Michele Johnson, whose 13-year-old daughter Samantha was one of the first students in the Anoka-Hennepin district to commit suicide in 2009, says she now wishes she’d never moved to the area.
‘I feel if I hadn’t moved to this district my daughter wouldn’t have died,’ Ms Johnson told Mother Jones.
She believes her daughter had been heavily bullied at then Fred Moore Middle School, in Ramsey, Minnesota, for her short hair, her clothes and her weight.
The bullies thought Samantha had been
a lesbian, Ms Johnson said. But despite being heavily
involved in setting up a gay rights group at the school, she doesn’t
believe that to be true.
Her daughter did seek refuge with other students who were gay though, most likely because they were getting bullied as well.
Not that Ms Johnson knew about the bullying until after her daughter’s death when the girl’s friends told her.
They claimed Samantha had been
relentlessly targeted by certain girls on her volleyball team. She had
dropped out but the coach had never contacted Ms Johnson.
The friends also claimed at least one school staff member witnessed the bullying but did nothing.
Loss: Samantha Johnson, left, was one of the first students in the Anoka-Hennepin district to commit suicide in 2009, while 15-year-old Justin Aaberg, right, hanged himself in his bedroom last year
Pact: Minnesota school girls from a different district, Haylee Fentress, left, and Paige Moravetz, right, carried out a suicide pact in April because they said they were being bullied
‘If I had known, I would have pulled her out of that school so quick,’ her mother said.
Last July, weeks after finishing his freshman year at Anoka High School, Justin Aaberg hanged himself in his bedroom.
He had been bullied because of his sexual orientation, according to his family.
Since his death at just 15, Justin’s
mother Tammy has been spoken publicly about the worry she had for her son’s
safety as an openly gay teen and battled to get the school district to
change its thinking on anti-gay bullying.
She said last year the situation had got a bit better but there was still a way to go.
Tragic: The latest case in the district was of 14-year-old Jordan Yenor who killed himself in May prompting school officials to look at additional resources to help students
‘Most of the teachers and principals, and maybe even now the
superintendent, they mean well – they want to intervene. But
the teachers still don’t know what they can and can’t do.’
The latest suicide in the Anoka-Hennepin district was in May. Fourteen-year-old Jordan Yenor’s death has prompted school officials to look at additional resources to help students.
Anoka-Hennepin is certainly not alone; there have been teen suicides in other school districts, which are not represented by Bachmann.
Fourteen-year-old Marshal County schoolgirls Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz made a suicide pact because they said they were being bullied.
The girls, best friends who even had hyphenated both their last names, hanged themselves in April.
Back in March 18-year-old Lance Lundsten, a Jefferson High School student who was openly gay on his Facebook page, took an overdose and later died in hospital.
On a Facebook memorial page Lance’s friends had written that he had been bullied at school for his sexual orientation.
Anoka-Hennepin is currently under federal investigation for infringing civil rights because it refused to add lessons promoting homosexuality to the curriculum.
LGBT students are also suing the district claiming to have been ignored by
staff after complaining of being harassed physically and verbally for
long periods of time.
of the plaintiffs dropped out of school, later attempting suicide while
another claims to have been called a ‘faggot’ in the hallway while a
teacher who witnessed the attack did nothing, according to the suit.
One of the lawyers working on the suit Sam Wolfe, told Mother Jones: ‘The
district has serious problems. They’ve been reluctant to really address
the nature of the problem.’
Before the federal government stepped in, the district adopted a policy that all but wiped homosexuality from the curriculum, according to the website.
Waste: Lance Lundsten, a Jefferson High School student, left, who was openly gay on his Facebook page, took an overdose and later died in hospital in March, while Thomas John ‘TJ’ Hayes, right, committed suicide in 2009
School employees could not teach that homosexuality was a ‘normal, valid lifestyle.’ The policy was later changed to require staff to remain neutral on the subject, but only if it should come up in class.
Both policies were influenced by two religious groups – and big Bachmann supporters - the Minnesota Family Council (MFC) and The Parents Action League, which also lobbied to put discredited ‘reparative therapy’ materials into schools, according to the website.
Daniel J Reidenberg, executive director of Minnesota-based Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), told MailOnline that while connecting Bachmann with the deaths was probably largely a result of media impact ‘her views and statements are not helpful, that is for sure.’
‘..for youth who are dealing with orientation issues and identity/development issues, when they hear or read things from others that are contrary to what they are thinking, feeling, living, it does cause them added stress,’ he added.
Memorial: Aaron Jurek, a student at Blaine High School, lost his battle with undiagnosed depression in November 2009
‘Having a celebrity or a public figure say/do things as publicly (or privately) as say for example she’s done, if that were to be heard by a LGBTQ youth who is particularly vulnerable or at risk, could add to their distress.’
While the bullying runs on in schools, outside relations between anti-gay and pro-gay groups are decidedly frosty.
The MFC, of which Bachmann has very close ties, has waged war on gay marriage, wanting a constitutional amendment on the state ballot in 2012.
Bachmann has been very vocal about the issue and has linked it to schools. In 2004 she addressed a rally: ‘In our
public schools, whether they want to or not, they’ll be forced to start
teaching that same-sex marriage is equal, that it is normal and that
children should try it.’
The Republican has also spoken out against an anti-bullying bill, telling Minnesota state legislature in 2006 that it would a waste of time.
‘I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies,’ she said at the time. ‘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?’
Justin Aaberg’s mother Tammy continues to lobby public officials urging them to pass legislation that would make schools safer.
While Senators Al Franken and Keith Ellison, both Minnesota Democrats, have been supportive, Ms Aaberg claims Bachmann has not responded to a request for a meeting with her.
She would certainly welcome legislation even though it would be too late for her own son and the other victims of the district and surrounding districts.
- For confidential support call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.
- In the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255
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This is utterly dispicable — really beyond belief. The Left really has gone completely insane. To assert that Bachmann is somehow responsible for teen suicides in her district is intellectually dishonest and utterly immoral. The Left continually preaches “tolerance”, but I am always amazed at the hatred and intolerance the Left has for Christians.
bachmann has nothing to do with this. it is all about the school district ignoring the fact that there are gays in their communities and acting very irresponsibly and disrespectfully towards their students and families. i am no supporter of bachmann but this is like linking the tuscon shooting with palin.
who cares? this has nothing to do with her get over it!
Oh give her a break DM, you guys have attacked her since you learned her name…next you’ll make her responsible for who knows what? Ive been bullied at school too ’cause I had a “european accent” (i went to a mostly-hispanic school, go figure) and I’ve been called everything from “tea-drinker” to “hitler” to who knows what just because of my skin color and my accent and I didnt kill myself. I understand these kids being bullied, but bullying isnt something new and it doesnt only apply to gay people. And no, Bachmann didnt invent it. Get over yourselves
SGinNC, the Bachmanns host a “christian counselling clinic” in the area to help gay children not be so gay. So yes, when you own a business in the town that promotes hateful thinking and anti gay rhetoric you are helping to make an intolerable environment for gay kids. While I don’t think they are responsible 100%, they are certainly responsible for promoting the intolerance and the hate — which in turn leads to violence.
Blimey, the left are really going all out to destroy Bacmann.
- Steve, UK, 27/7/2011 00:57………………Right you are Steve. If this was Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama every women’s group in the country would be howling. They are afraid…VERY afraid
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