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“One Town’s War on Gay Teens”

“One Town’s War on Gay Teens”

The town of Anoka Minnesota, in Michelle Bachmann’s congressional district, has had a rash of teenage suicides attributed to unchecked bullying against LGBT people in the community. Rolling Stone has an long, moving report on the situation, the background and the way the teens are organizing to try to save their own lives.

Reporting on just part of the cluster of deaths that occurred a few years ago:

“Just 11 days after Sam’s death, on November 22nd, 2009, came yet another suicide: a Blaine High School student, 15-year-old Aaron Jurek – the district’s third suicide in just three months. After Christmas break, an Andover High School senior, Nick Lockwood, became the district’s fourth casualty: a boy who had never publicly identified as gay, but had nonetheless been teased as such. Suicide number five followed, that of recent Blaine High School grad Kevin Buchman, who had no apparent LGBT connection. Before the end of the school year there would be a sixth suicide, 15-year-old July Barrick of Champlin Park High School, who was also bullied for being perceived as gay, and who’d complained to her mother that classmates had started an “I Hate July Barrick” Facebook page. As mental-health counselors were hurriedly dispatched to each affected school, the district was blanketed by a sense of mourning and frightened shock.

“It has taken a collective toll,” says Northdale Middle School psychologist Colleen Cashen. “Everyone has just been reeling – students, teachers. There’s been just a profound sadness.”

In the wake of Sam’s suicide, Brittany couldn’t seem to stop crying. She’d disappear for hours with her cellphone turned off, taking long walks by Elk Creek or hiding in a nearby cemetery. “Promise me you won’t take your life,” her father begged. “Promise you’ll come to me before anything.” Brittany couldn’t promise. In March 2010, she was hospitalized for a week.”

Brittany survives. Other friends don’t.

The essay details the way the parents of the children begged for help, the decisions that the school board made bowing to pressure from local conservative Christian voices and the response that the families and children are spearheading.

Go get a cup of coffee and sit down for a while. It’s long read. It’s worth it.


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E Sinkula

This story shakes my core being as I live in Blaine MN. How absolutely horrible and tragic!!


Bill Dilworth

Paige, it’s worse than that. In Anoka, teachers have actually joined in at times.

Paige Baker

I am shaking with rage. How can adults tasked with caring for children sit silently by and let these kids be tortured? I hold the teachers as responsible as the school board. Have we not learned, over and over and over again, that appeasing bigots and turning our faces away from evil never works?

And I would love to know what, if anything, Trinity Episcopal Church in Anoka has been doing to respond to this crisis?

barbara snyder

(I will add that this article, by itself, just about makes the case for home schooling.

I think I’ve just become a convert, in fact….)

barbara snyder

Yes, thanks very much for pointing to this article.

It’s been clear for awhile now that the effects of gay-bashing aren’t even limited to LGBT people, but sweep up anybody in their path who’s deemed to be “different.”

School boards like this one – and politicians like Michelle Bachmann – obviously don’t get it; perhaps they can be shamed into “getting it” by articles like this one that spell out exactly the extent of the suffering, and the damage done to real people.

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