Michele Bachmann responds to Anoka-Hennepin suicides without addressing gay-bullying

With her presidential campaign on the skids, Bachmann tries to put out some fires back home.
With her presidential campaign on the skids, Bachmann tries to put out some fires back home.

It took a while, but Michele Bachmann has finally addressed the anti-gay bullying and suicides in her district.

Uh, sort of.

In response to a petition delivered to her St. Cloud office three weeks ago, the congresswoman sent an email to 6th district constituents who signed it. In it, she acknowledged that bullying and suicides are a problem.

But the letter makes a pretty glaring omission.

Justin Aaberg was15 years old when he committed suicide in 2010. He was one of nine Anoka-Hennepin district students who've committed suicide in the last two years. Justin's mom Tammy and another student's parent have said publicly that their kids were bullied for being gay before their deaths.

The district has been under harsh scrutiny for its treatment of LGBT students ever since. The Southern Poverty Law Center is currently suing the administrators alleging the district's "Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy" creates a hostile environment for gay kids. The policy says teachers must say "neutral" on issues of sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann has been totally silent on the issue, letting slip only that gay suicides in her district are "not a federal issue."

Three weeks ago, Tammy Aaberg and a handful of local high school students visited her St. Cloud campaign office to deliver a petition asking that Bachmann address the suicides and anti-gay bullying. The petition gathered over 140,000 signatures, and said in part:

No student should feel threatened or unsafe at school, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Rep. Michele Bachmann has an obligation to the constituents she represents to speak out, and do everything she can to stop this dangerous trend of teen suicides in her district.

After several weeks of radio silence, Bachmann finally sent her response yesterday. In it, she barely acknowledges LGBT issues or bullying specific to a student's sexual orientation.

Here's the whole response:

October 3, 2011

Dear _____,

Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns about anti-gay bullying and harassment via the CREDO Action petition. As your Representative for the 6th district of Minnesota, your views are very important to me and I appreciate hearing from you.

Unquestionably, bullying is wrong. I agree that no student should feel belittled or threatened by peers at school. All human lives have undeniable value, and I urge parents, teachers, and students alike to champion this fact in our community and to address instances of bullying promptly and firmly when they occur.

As one of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Anoka-Hennepin School District, I am very aware and concerned about the cases of bullying and suicides that have occurred there. In response, my office has been in communication with both school officials and with individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide.

We all desire to see bullying brought to an end and the best interests of students served in our schools. Again, thank you for your commitment on this matter. I assure you I will continue to be a listening ear for any constituent wishing to express his or her view on this or any other issue.


Michele Bachmann
Member of Congress

Tammy Aaberg has several problems with the message, first and foremost being that she says she never received it. Aaberg does not live in Bachmann's district, but one of the students who accompanied her to the St. Cloud meeting -- an Anoka-Hennepin grad -- also says he received nothing.

"I guess I'm happy that her office said something about it," she says. "But I think she needs to do more of a comment, personally, on a national level."

Justin Anderson, the former student who lives in the district, says that the letter essentially skips over the specific role anti-gay sentiment plays in the issue.

"She completely ignored our concerns," he says. "We're talking about a very specific problem that falls on LGBTQ youth."

Neither has completely given up hope of a more comprehensive response in the future, however, they are understandably skeptical.

(H/T: Dump Bachmann.)

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