June 6, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
DOJ honors Minn. students at pride reception
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Pride

Former Anoka-Hennepin School District student Kyrstin Schuette speaks at the Justice Department's annual pride reception (Photo courtesy of the Justice Department)

The Justice Department on Wednesday honored six Minnesota students who successfully sued their suburban Minneapolis school district over its failure to prevent anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

“Your actions have made a profound difference in the lives of countless young people, and helped to ensure that all of our children have access to safe and supporting learning environment,” said Attorney General Eric Holder during DOJ Pride’s annual pride month reception in Washington.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Faegre and Benson, LLP, last July filed a federal lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District on behalf of the students. Nine Anoka-Hennepin students who suffered anti-LGBT bullying and harassment have committed suicides since 2009.

The DOJ and the Department of Education in March reached a settlement with the district that requires it to, among other things, implement a comprehensive anti-bullying training for all students, teachers and administrators.

“Our journey started with a lot of pain, suffering and injury caused by the relentless harassment and bullying we endured on a daily basis,” said former Anoka-Hennepin student Kyrstin Schuette as she stood alongside her fellow plaintiffs and their lawyers. “We decided that bullying shouldn’t be viewed as normal in school and that it was not okay for the lack of response from our school staff and administration had in regards to the events.”

DOJ Pride also honored Diana Flynn, chief of the agency’s Civil Rights Division’s Appellate Section, during the ceremony. Chai Feldblum, commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, delivered the keynote address.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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