Teachers accused of gay slurs against student on leave, won't start school year

The two Anoka-Hennepin teachers accused of using gay slurs against a student based on his perceived sexuality are on leave and won't start the school year.

The notice from the school district said that Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson wasn't clear on why they wouldn't be teaching the start of the school year. Cleveland's attorney told the Pioneer Press she took an unpaid, voluntary leave of absence until the matter is resolved. Her lawyer said she doesn't plan to resign.

The announcement came out the same day that a group of community members urged students to boycott their classes. At a school board meeting last week, they asked the district to fire the accused teachers in the case.

According to student Alex Merritt and a complaint filed by his mother with the state Department of Human Rights, the teachers made multiple comments about his sexuality during the 2007-08 school year. After an investigation by a state agency, officials found probable cause and the district agreed to pay the family $25,000.

According to the report, the high school junior wrote a report on Ben Franklin during the 2007-2007 school year. Cleveland told the entire class that the student had a "thing for older men." Cleveland also told the class the boy's "fence swings both ways."

When the student wrote a report on Abraham Lincoln, teacher Walter Filson said, "Since you like your men older ..." Filson also told some students that the boy "enjoys wearing women's clothes."

Cleveland also asked him if he wanted a gay student to come to the bathroom with him and they could tap feet under the stalls. Filson even agreed and laughed along when a student compared Merritt to a person they discussed in class that had molested deer.

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