Classroom Bullies: Teachers in this case were alleged bullies

By Tony Dokoupil
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Alex Merritt was not used to being the butt of jokes. Solidly built with a smooth face and shaved blond hair, he cruised to junior year of high school without the usual social speed bumps. But, enrolled in a part-time vocational program, he was taking his first lumps, scorned for being gay — or so his tormentors claimed.

“Alex’s fence swings both ways,” they taunted. “Alex’s boat floats in a different direction than the rest of the guys in the class.”

Suddenly everything Alex did seemed to offer evidence against him: when he mentioned Ben Franklin in a report on the Industrial Age, it was because he has “a thing for older men.” When he covered Abraham Lincoln in another presentation, it was because Honest Abe and Merritt were “made for each other.” Even the name of his car, a Ford Probe, was viewed as a sign of his homosexuality — the perfect vehicle for a boy who “enjoys wearing woman’s clothes.”
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Video: Anoka-Hennepin teachers on leave for harassment

By: Nicole Muehlhausen
Two teachers accused of harassing a student because of his perceived sexual orientation have been put on leave from the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

District officials say they could not explain why Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson were placed on leave, due to privacy rules. They wouldn’t comment on who approved their leave and whether it was paid administrative leave or not.

Student Alex Merritt, 17, says teachers Cleveland and Filson made countless comments about his sexual orientation.
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Teachers accused of gay ridiculing won’t start school year

By Nancy Ngo
St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch
Coon Rapids, Minn. — The two Anoka-Hennepin school district teachers accused of making disparaging remarks about a student’s perceived sexuality will not be in the classroom when classes resume Tuesday.

The school’s notice about the teachers — Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson — came the same day a citizens group urged students to boycott their classes. The group had earlier asked the district to fire the teachers.
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Anoka-Hennepin’s Diane Cleveland denies gay harassment

Star Tribune
An Anoka-Hennepin teacher who was disciplined for harassing a student she thought was gay “steadfastly” denied Thursday that she ever harassed or intended to harass a student, according to her attorney.

“She does not in any way acknowledge harassing anybody,” said Phil Villaume, the attorney for teacher Diane Cleveland.
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STEP teachers accused of gay harassment on leave

by Sue Austreng
Anoka County Union
Coon Rapids, Minn. — The repercussions of alleged sexual harassment in District 11 took a new twist this week when it was revealed that two teachers, who reportedly harassed a student because of the student’s perceived sexuality, are on leave from their jobs.

Social studies teacher Diane Cleveland and law enforcement educator Walter Filson, both of whom teach at Anoka-Hennepin’s Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP), are on leave, according to Mary Olson, the school district’s communications director.
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Anoka-Hennepin district gets earful for gay harassment

Minnesota Independent
Students, teachers and concerned residents of the Anoka-Hennepin School District crowded into the district’s board meeting on Monday evening to vent their concerns after learning that the district paid out $25,000 to a student who says he was continually harassed by two district teachers because they thought he was gay.

While the citizens voiced their frustration with the district, most gave concrete solutions for how the district could improve upon its policies and save face with the community on the issue of anti-gay harassment.
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