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Michele Bachmann: and bullying the gay teens

by Bill Prendergast on November 20, 2012 · 16 comments

From the Minnesota Daily, the student-run newspaper at the U of M:

During a Q-and-A in 2011 at Waverly Town Hall, Bachmann stated, “I ascribe honor and dignity to every person,” and then later, “We all have the same civil rights. And so that’s really what the government’s role is – to protect our civil rights.”

Then, when asked in further detail how she felt about the LGBT community and bullying, she went on to say, “There are no special rights based on your sex practices,” and “What I believe is that the federal government should have nothing to say about the local school classroom. The president shouldn’t; the government shouldn’t.”

Last year, the mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide in 2010 brought a box to Bachmann’s campaign office containing 141,000 signatures petitioning her to publicly address gay bullying. Bachmann responded by stating, “Bullying is wrong.” This statement contrasted a previous one she made in 2006, which, in summary, claimed that bullying has always happened and that prohibiting it would be impossible without infringing on freedom of speech. The cherry on top was her final question, “… will we be expecting boys to be girls?”

Spoken like a bully, Michele.
The author is really worried about the kids in Bachmann’s district and goes on to say that Bachmann is at best “indifferent” to the problem of bullying.

The author’s right. One of the bases of Bachmann’s career is homophobia; another is the national and regional Christian Right. She can’t take active measures against gay bullying without p***ing off the people who made and preserve her career.

She can’t even issue a strong public denunciation of gay bullying without p***ing them off. Anyway, her 2006 remarks indicate that she’s more concerned about “boys turning gay” than she is about bullying.

If the national Christian Right does a post-election 180 degree turn and begins to denounce bullying of gay teens–Bachmann will do the same. If the Christian Right keeps its current policy of exploiting and encouraging homophobia for political gain…

…Michele Bachmann will continue to do as she’s always done.


give2attain November 20, 2012 at 3:15 am

It is strange that the demand was to focus on “gay bullying” and that you are so focused on it also.  Apparently it is okay bully other types of people?

I am still not sure why we want more laws that the Schools need to try to enforce.  As I said the other day.

“Having 2 teenagers and a tween in Robbinsdale schools. The school hours are still pretty well controlled.   (Just like always) It is the before and after, and cyber bullying that have apparenlty increased and become more extreme.  Thanks to two income and single family homes, and technology…

Our Principal just mentioned the growing pressure to become facebook police…  Get real…  Where are these kids parents?”

Bill Prendergast November 20, 2012 at 11:22 am

1) It is not “strange” that the demand was to focus on “gay bullying.” The petition to Bachmann to speak out against gay bullying–was brought by a mom whose gay teenage kid had committed suicide. (This is explained above in an excerpt that appears in this post, which you supposedly read.) Given the particular circumstances of her child’s death, there was nothing “strange” about the mom’s “focus.”

2) It’s a matter of record that gay bullying has been a serious problem in the Sixth District. It’s also a matter of record that other types of bullying have been a serious problem in the Sixth District. Minnesota state health officials have designated the Anoka/Hennepin School District a “suicide contagion” area.

One thing that puzzles you is–why the focus on bullying of gay teens, especially? One explanation for such a focus is: while explanations for bullying of “non-gay” kids may stem from all sorts of motives–observers have identified a particular reason that gay teens (in particular!) may have been singled out for bullying in Bachmann’s district and thus become suicide risks:

Since 2009 there has been an Anoka/Hennepin school district policy in place that effectively forbade teachers from teaching tolerance for gay people. The policy I’m referring is alluded to in the article I quoted. It was repealed in February of this year after the wave of suicides. It was replaced with new school district policy, one that required school “district staff (to) affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex/gender, marital status, disability, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, age, family care leave status or veteran status.”

If you examine that last part carefully, you will notice that the list of students the policy seeks to protect is not limited “only” to gay victims of bullying.

So focus is not, as you stated, “only” about anti-gay bullying. Your belief that that is so, is merely the latest publicly revealed gap in your knowledge and understanding.  

3) According to the author, all that mom was asking Bachmann to do was to denounce the bullying of gay teens. Bachmann wouldn’t do that. Instead she made a general statement about “all bullying being wrong;” a sentiment that practically every responsible adult would agree with. But: if Bachmann truly believes that all bullying is wrong–then there was no reason for her to hesitate in telling people in her district that bullying of gay teens is wrong, too.

Instead of doing that: Bachmann suggested that criticism of specifically anti-gay bullying would amount to recognition of “special rights” derived from “sex practices.” That is a non sequitur. I have already explained to you why Michele Bachmann was reluctant to say that “homophobic bullying, too, is wrong.” (Again: doing so would alienate her conservative evangelical supporters. Including the Minnesota Family Council: a conservative evangelical political group that helped to inspire the old school board policy; the one alleged to have contributed to the anti-gay bullying.)    

4) Many people do want to stop the bullying of gay teens, but it does not logically follow from that fact that those people are “okay with the bullying of other types of people.” That is another non sequitur; this time yours and not Bachmann’s. Think about it. The fact that people want to do something to protect gay teenagers from bullying, does not mean that they “oppose” or “don’t care about” similar protections for other types of kids. (Again: see the new school board policy adopted by the district, above.)

Once again I find myself urging you to do a little unbiased research–and then think–*before* making a judgment and expressing an opinion here. You should also work on that “logic” thing. Non sequiturs fly like eagles on right wing blogs, they are applauded. But this is a progressive blog; if you offer non sequiturs here you will only convince people that your powers of judgment are limited.

give2attain November 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

All that critiquing of my comment and you missed the real issue.

Where are the Parents and why do we want to give more work to the school staff?  And likely more law suits that we have to pay for.

Bullies have been around since the beginning of time, what’s changed that we need more laws that will distract our Teachers from teaching?  

Do we really need the nanny state to protect us from bullies now?  

As for Michelle, she is from the religious right, no surprise there.  

ericf November 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm

It’s the only form of bullying routinely accepted by staff and administrators. Sometimes the response has been that the bullying is good because it might get the victims to stop being gay. So it’s not at all like the routine bullying everyone thinks they experienced. Unfortunately, some schools need to be told to put a stop to it because they won’t on their own.

give2attain November 21, 2012 at 1:05 am

Seems unlikely…  Rarely do I find Public School Teachers to be that Right leaning or bigotted.  

I am just concerned that folks are working to pass unnecessary regulations that we can not afford, and that distract the education system from educating.

Watching for warning signs and addressing them is the parent’s job in my opinion.  Not the Teacher who has Billy for 3rd period.

Bill Prendergast November 20, 2012 at 9:33 pm

“real issue,” when you led with that in your comment. Now you know that it’s “only” gay bullying that’s being addressed, because you read that long critique. (Thank you.)

Where are the Parents?

You and I both know where the parents are, that’s one reason I didn’t bother to address that.

why do we want to give more work to the school staff?

And likely more law suits that we have to pay for.

Bullies have been around since the beginning of time, what’s changed that we need more laws that will distract our Teachers from teaching?

What’s changed? Some kids are acting out on bigotry, other kids are killing themselves because of that–and these days that’s viewed as a “bad” thing requiring a public response. That last part, that’s what’s changed.  

Do we really need the nanny state to protect us from bullies now?

I’ve been writing about politics since 2003. Before and since I began: not once have I heard a liberal or progressive call for “a nanny state.” Laws come in where private sector solution and reliance on individuals to act responsibly–fail. That’s not just a “liberal” thing, that’s Western civilization since before the Romans.  

As for Michelle, she is from the religious right, no surprise there.

You are right about that. Sadly, there’s no surprise there.
The best we can hope for is that some conservative evangelicals who supported a gag order on teaching tolerance–have changed their minds after seeing the consequences.  

Bill Prendergast November 20, 2012 at 10:41 pm

“Where are the parents?” you ask, suggesting that the solution to problem is to get the parents to do their job properly. I don’t know how you plan to get parents to do their job better, but it’s no good complaining to me about that. And it’s clear that “kicking it back to the parents” is not enough to solve the problem of teen suicide in response to bullying. So it doesn’t help, just to keep asking “where are the parents?”

why do we want to give more work to the school staff?

It’s not “more” work. Telling students that they shouldn’t bully their peers, and telling them why they shouldn’t bully their peers–has always been part of classroom teaching. Because (as you note) bullies have been around since the beginning of time.

And teaching tolerance for different ‘types’ of students doesn’t “distract teachers from teaching.” Teaching tolerance has been part of classroom teaching since before immigrants started showing up in American public schools. It’s not “more” work, it’s part of the work we normally expect of educators. The change is not in the “amount of work,” the change is in adding gay people to list of Americans entitled to ordinary respect.

And likely more law suits that we have to pay for.

Again: this is another gap in your understanding. There were lawsuits brought against the Anoka/Hennepin district. But they were not brought in response to some liberal, “nanny state” law. The lawsuits and taxpayer damages resulted from a right-wing, conservative initiative: that same school board policy I told you about above–a conservative initiative effectively prohibiting the district from teaching tolerance for gays. The lawsuits were based on the fact that the school board’s conservative, “don’t distract them with tolerance” policy violated Minnesota’s constitution and federal law.

The conservative “hands off” policy about teaching tolerance in the classroom triggered the lawsuits. So now you understand: school boards, districts and taxpayers don’t escape lawsuits and liability by imposing a “hands off” policy. They’re subject to the same rule as everyone else: “doing nothing” about a very real problem can lead to liability; trigger lawsuits.

It is my pleasure to straighten you out on basic facts and premises, even ones well known to other people. I like research and writing, and today I happened to have the time. But I don’t always have the time to address every bit of misinformation or sloppy reasoning that appears in one of your comments. This means that in the future I may fail to answer one of the many “points” you regularly include in your brief objections to liberal views presented here. If you would like a response to a particular point made in one of your comments–it will help if you ask for that directly, identifying that “point.” Your comments regularly include so many other false premises that it’s often hard to tell what your “real” point is.

give2attain November 21, 2012 at 12:17 am

I think we disagree on many things.  And what you portray as facts are often your opinion.  Though it is interesting to read about it.

give2attain November 21, 2012 at 5:36 am

Here is the new AH policy.  Do you know where I could find the 2008 version?  I am curious what changed specifically in the wording.

ericf November 21, 2012 at 1:19 am

So what if you think it’s rare? How often does it have to happen to be a big enough problem for you? Sorry bullied kid, but people who have no understanding of what you’re experiencing just don’t think it’s that big a deal.

give2attain November 21, 2012 at 1:56 am

I assume you therefore support legislating everything bad that could happen too anyone?  No matter how rare.  No wonder we have so many laws and lawyers.

Also, I don’t think this is different at all.  Teachers could have a similar bias against nerds, fat kids, etc.

Bill Prendergast November 21, 2012 at 10:39 am

the same way I did. You certainly won’t find it at the Anoka/Hennepin school district website, anymore. (I’d found that new AH policy before you sent in your link. In fact: I even quoted from it–in responding to you, in this thread right here. Are you even reading the stuff that you and I are writing here?)

To find the old policy, you can try a Google search of stories relating to the Anoka Hennepin school district. Try to include other relevant words in that Google search. That’s what I did and I got it fairly easily.

ericf November 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

that gay kids don’t have. So yes, it’s different. And yes, when bad things are happening, you try to do something about it. That’s called the freaking obvious.

give2attain November 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I must have missed those laws.

give2attain November 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I found lots of stuff about the change and whether it was sufficient or not, but not the 2008 version or what exactly has changed.

Yes I read every word.  I posted the link to prove in a factual manner that the new bullying laws and policies go far beyond the historical Teacher responsibililties.  Somehow they are now responsible for the kids at all school events and even their social media interactions.

Bill Prendergast November 22, 2012 at 1:42 am

…sometimes you raise questions about things I already looked up and published here, to answer your objections.

I know the old policy is still available out there on the web, somewhere. I saw it and read it the night we started discussing this. I have thought about it, and I seem to recall that the Star Tribune (it was one of the big dailies) ran the old policy in its entirety, and I seem to recall that I saw it and read it on the web.

I just got an idea…I found it. Here is the link to the Star Tribune, printing the text of the old policy, now repealed, the basis of the lawsuits brought against the district.

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