Friday, September 16, 2011

Brody's Notes... Mother Of Justin Aaberg Delivers 130K Petitions To Bachmann Asking Her To Denounce LGBTQ Bullying

Justin Aaberg, Family Photo Courtesy of Tammy Aaberg
By Brody Levesque | ST. CLOUD, MINNESOTA -- Tammy Aaberg, the mother of 15 year old High School student Justin Aaberg, who took his life after suffering extreme harassment and bullying because of his sexual orientation in July of 2010, met with staff in Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's Waite Park office, to ask the Bachmann to denounce Anti-Gay bullying in her district.
Aaberg was accompanied by Edina Senior High 12th grader Gabe Aderhold, who heckled Congresswoman Bachmann during an Iowa State Fair appearance last month as part of her presidential campaign; his mother, Audrey Kingstrom; A classmate of Aderhold's, Graham Luterbach; Justin Anderson, a graduate of Blaine High School, and Denny Smith, a St. Cloud resident. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Maria Elena Baca also was present for about half of the hour long meeting, but was asked to leave after she identified herself as a journalist.
According to The Star-Tribune, Deb Steiskal, Bachmann’s constituent services officer, met with Aaberg and the six others with Aaberg stating afterward, that although she felt that the meeting was productive- feeling confident Steiskal will deliver their message to Bachmann- she was skeptical that Bachmann would take a proactive position against anti-bullying efforts. Aaberg also delivered a box containing more than 130,000 petition signatures from around the country, calling on the Congresswoman to condemn harassment of gay students in her congressional district.
"I wanted to give her a chance to do the right thing," Aaberg said.
Bachmann's district contains Justin's former high school, a part of the the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which has been loudly criticised for not taking a firm stand on anti-gay bullying. The district is currently target of a pair of lawsuits stemming from its "neutrality policy" regarding issues of sexual orientation and identity. It also is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, sparked last fall by allegations of bullying over sexual orientation.
According to the Advocate's Andrew Harmon;
Justin Anderson, a 2010 graduate of Blaine High School in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis, also spoke about an antigay culture within the school district — an atmosphere perhaps not unique in the country, but one now the subject of federal investigations by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education as well as a lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of bullied students. The two groups claim that Anoka-Hennepin’s “neutrality” policy on sexual orientation creates a hostile and dangerous environment for gay youth. Eight students in the district, the state’s largest with 38,000 students, have committed suicide in the last two years.
“I talked about how, when I was a student, I got harassed and bullied, and that I believe that staff weren’t responding as well as they should have,” Anderson said of the meeting. “I can’t count a single day since middle school where I didn’t hear ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘fag.’ And I remember a student saying gay people should just go kill themselves, and the teacher just told them to be quiet.”
Bachmann's Washington D. C. congressional office spokesperson Becky Rogness, issued a statement Thursday evening that acknowledged Bachmann will review the petition and respond later.