The teenagers who have committed suicide in the school district Michele Bachmann represents have begun to haunt her campaign like activist ghosts.
Bachmann's district includes the Anoka-Hennepin County School District, which is under investigation from the Department of Justice and is being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its policy on sexual orientation. Now Bachmann's association with the district, which state health officials identify as a "suicide contagion" area, is coming under close inspection in the national press.
An article in Mother Jones, entitled "The Teen Suicide Epidemic in Michele Bachmann's District," links Bachmann's well-documented stance on gay rights -- essentially launching her career as a concerned parent who wanted to keep homosexuality out of schools -- and the four students who took their own lives because they couldn't take the abuse and shame they felt about being gay.
The Mother Jones article recounts the tragic story of gay teen Samantha Johnson, who went to school in Anoka-Hennepin, the state's largest district and the only one with a policy that discourages teachers from addressing sexual orientation in class.
Johnson's mother says she was not gay, but students at Fred Moore Middle School -- since renamed Anoka Middle School for the Arts -- thought she was, and teased her for her tomboy appearance. Johnson, who had tried to help start a gay-straight alliance club at school, killed herself in fall 2009, apparently because the abuse she suffered in school was too much for her.
The school had repeatedly blocked the gay-straight alliance's meetings, according to Mother Jones. One of Samantha's friends later told her mother that the girl had been taunted for her appearance in front of a school staff member, who did nothing.
Johnson's suicide is one of four in the last two years that have been connected to students' perceived homosexuality. The suicide trend has continued since Johnson killed herself, and may in fact be accelerating. Since January, seven students at Anoka Middle School have been hospitalized for attempting or talking about suicide.
As Mother Jones points out, Bachmann's position on homosexuality and public schools is nearly identical to the district's one-of-a-kind policy, which instructs teachers to avoid the issue of sexual orientation and leave it for parents to deal with at home.
In 2004, [Bachmann] appeared on the steps at the state capital at a rally supporting a ban on gay marriage and linked the issue to the public schools, telling the crowd, "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."If the Anoka-Hennepin district is facing criticism for its position on homosexuality, and the role that position has played in students' abuse -- and, in some cases, suicide -- then Michele Bachmann should also have to answer for those kids' lives.