Minnesota teacher disputes harassment report

Diane Cleveland, a Minnesota teacher in Anoka-Hennepin district’s “Secondary Technical Education Program” who went on leave after the school paid a $25,000 settlement to the family of a boy allegedly being harassed by Cleveland and another teacher because of his perceived sexual orientation, has spoken out through a lawyer.

Cleveland allegedly told the class “[the boy’s] fence swings both ways” and said, also before the entire class, that the boy had a “thing for older men” after he proposed doing a report on Ben Franklin. The boy, Alex Merritt, says he is not gay.

The Star Tribune reports: “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. Villaume was responding to documents obtained from the school district by the Star Tribune that include more information about the district’s investigation of Cleveland, the discipline that followed and an account of the teacher’s defense of her actions to a district official.”

According to the school district, other students indepently verified Merritt’s claims during its investigation.

Minnesota teachers in gay mocking case put on leave

A Minnesota school district which recently paid a family $25,000 after a high school junior was harassed by two teachers over his perceived sexual orientation, has announced that the teachers involved have been place on leave: “Diane Cleveland, a 39-year-old social studies teacher, and Walter Filson, a 56-year-old law enforcement teacher, went on leave within the past week, said Ginny Karbowski, director of career and technical education for the Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) in Anoka, where the two taught.

Cleveland’s attorney, Phil Villaume, said: ‘Our position is that she is taking an unpaid, voluntary leave of absence at her request. … This was done in the last week, and it was her decision and her decision alone.’ Villaume doesn’t represent Filson and couldn’t comment on his status. Filson couldn’t be reached for comment.”

Minnesota citizens demand discipline for teachers who perpetuate gay slurs

TwinCities.com reports on fallout from two Anoka-Hennepin teachers who made constant remarks about a student’s sexuality.

Law enforcement teacher Walter Filson and social studies teacher Diane Cleveland made several remarks when Alex Merritt was an 11th-grader during the 2007-08 school year implying Merritt was gay.

Incidents included Filson allegedly singling Merritt out in front of a group of students and suggesting he enjoyed wearing women’s clothes. In another alleged incident, Cleveland accused the student of cross-dressing and being attracted to older men.

In reaction to the state investigation, the school district plans to pay Merritt’s family $25,000. Filson and Cleveland were ordered to undergo sensitivity training, according to the school district. And in addition, Cleveland received some unpaid leave.

As the case came to light a few weeks ago, a Facebook support group on behalf of Merritt formed and 1,200 supporters have signed on. On Monday, dozens of them showed up to tell the school board more needed to be done.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District serves approximately 40,500 students and 248,000 residents living in 13 suburban communities north of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The largest school district in Minnesota, Anoka-Hennepin operates two kindergarten centers, 28 elementary schools, seven middle schools (grades six through eight), and five high schools, plus alternative middle and high school sites.