August 19, 2009
>Minnesota teachers who made homophobic comments didn’t get fired
>News spread last week about two Minnesota High School teachers who repeatedly harassed a student over his perceived sexual orientation. Teachers Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson teased and mocked student Alex Merritt–who is straight–by making homophobic remarks in front of their classes. Among their abuses: Cleveland suggested that Merritt “had a thing for older men” after he wrote a report on Benjamin Franklin, and Filson suggested to other students that Merritt “enjoys wearing women’s clothes.”
Merritt eventually left the school to avoid the harassment (and death threats!) from other students, and last week the Anoka-Hennepin School District awarded Merritt $25,000 after an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
The school district has continued to face criticism, however, from people demanding to know why the two teachers had not been fired. Cleveland received only a two-day suspension, and Filson was not punished at all. The district recently responded, expressing regret over Merritt’s suffering but stressing that teachers typically face “corrective action” before they are fired. District spokeswoman Mary Olson assured that both teachers had received “letters of deficiency” in regards to the incident, but declined to comment further.
Under Minnesota state law, teachers can be fired immediately for discriminating against others on the basis of sexual orientation. Do you think the school district is correct in this case?