Michele Bachmann says gay bullying at Anoka-Hennepin is "not a federal issue"

Tammy Aaberg, the mother of 15-year-old suicide victim Justin Aaberg, recently delivered a petition to Michele Bachmann's office, asking her to publicly address the contentious issue of gay bullying in Anoka-Hennepin schools. Aaberg and a handful of local students met with Bachmann staffers at the St. Cloud campaign office.

"I think the meeting went really well," she said just after leaving. "I'm very hopeful that the congresswoman will say something positive regarding the suicides in her district and LGBT bullying in general."

Well, it appears Aaberg has her answer and it's not the one she was looking for.

Justin Aaberg was only 15 when his mother Tammy discovered him dead in his bedroom. After her son's suicide, Aaberg learned from his friends that Justin had suffered from harassment from his classmates over his sexuality. His was one of nine suicides in the district in two years.

As Bachmann's presidential campaign heated up, national and international media were quick to point out that the Anoka-Hennepin school district -- which is currently being sued by the Southern Povery Law Center over discrimination against gay students -- largely falls within Bachmann's congressional district. But despite the scrutiny, Bachmann has stayed silent on the issue.

Last week, Aaberg delivered the hefty, 2,500 page petition to Bachmann staffers. It asks the congresswoman to acknowledge the problem publicly and denounce bullying:

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.

The online petition garnered over 140,000 signatures.

Gabe Aderhold, Graham Luterbach, Tammy Aaberg and Justin Anderson deliver their petition to Bachmann offices in St. Cloud.
Gabe Aderhold, Graham Luterbach, Tammy Aaberg and Justin Anderson deliver their petition to Bachmann offices in St. Cloud.

Although Bachmann was campaigning out of state, Aaberg says she was invited in for an hour-long meeting with two staffers. She says they apologized to her for what she's been through and to former Blaine High School student Justin Anderson, who spoke about his own struggles with bullying and suicidal thoughts. She adds that they promised to get the petition "to who it needs to get to."

"Justin here was joking, 'I hope that doesn't mean the garbage,'" she said.

Regardless where the physical document ended up, Aaberg's plea has apparently fallen on deaf ears. At a campaign rally in California, an attendee repeatedly called out to Bachmann, asking her to address the suicides.

"That's not a federal issue," she reportedly said, before moving on to the next question.

Aaberg says the guy who asked the question, Alex Limon, contacted her through Facebook to tell her the answer he'd received.

"I was not happy about that," says Aaberg. "This is still her district. It doesn't matter if it's federal or not."

On the other end of the spectrum, Senator Al Franken definitely believes this is a federal issue. He's backing the Student Nondiscrimination Act, which would extend civil rights protections for gay and lesbian students.

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