Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Students who sued the state’s largest school district over bullying said they’re pleased with a $270,000 settlement, and the changes that will come with it.
The Anoka-Hennepin School Board voted Monday to approve the settlement, with one member resigning in protest. The plan requires the district to work with consultants to address sexual orientation harassment issues.
The students who filed those lawsuits shared their stories on Tuesday.
Kyle Rooker, 15, said he felt a huge sense of relief when the settlement was approved. He’s one of the students who sued for change even though he’s actually moved out of the district.
“At my old school kids called me names, shoved me into lockers, desks and walls. I was even urinated upon in a restroom,” Kyle said.
“I’ve been pushed into lockers, almost shoved into trash cans. I’ve been called very disgusting words,” said Brittany Geldert.
The six students will split $270,000, but said they’re more pleased that the district agreed to hire a consultant and develop a plan to prevent harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation.
“We wanted to make change, we wanted to make systematic change and we just wouldn’t have been able to do that without it,” said Rebecca Rooker, Kyle’s mother.
“I’m glad that kids coming up behind me in school won’t have to suffer the same things that I did,” Kyle said. “I’ve already seen change and I want these kids to know in the future that they’re going to be safe.”
Dylon Frei, 15, said he hasn’t been bullied in a month and a half. It’s the longest stretch he can remember. He’s pleased with the changes and has high hopes for the future.
“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m different from anybody else. We all should be treated equally,” Frei said.
All six students said they’ll put aside the settlement money to help pay for college.
The attorneys and advocates involved in this case, believe it will be far reaching.
They say the district and educators involved have the opportunity to create a national model and standards for dealing with cases involving gay bullying.
They say it also sends a strong message that a lack of response to these types of situations won’t be tolerated.