Tony Perkins Defends Minnesota School District with Rampant Anti-Gay Bullying

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Tuesday defended the Parents Action League, a Minnesota group that fiercely lobbied the Anoka-Hennepin school district against implementing anti-bullying policies they believe will make the kids targets of “homosexual propaganda” and result in them being “indoctrinated in homosexuality.” The Parents Action League, a division of the Minnesota Family Council, claims the school district has an “outstanding policy” regarding sexual orientation and gloats that they helped craft it. But the group has come under fire from legal organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and even the Justice Department after a string of teen suicides, so naturally Perkins is standing by the school district’s anti-gay activists:

Perkins: Out of Minnesota where the school board had adopted a neutral policy on homosexuality, where teachers couldn’t be for it or against it and there were a few suicides that took place, which is really kind of tragically a rash, there’s been a rash of suicides, actually it’s been almost growing for a number of years in high schools across the country. Well there may be some cases where these young people are bullied, which is wrong, shouldn’t happen. The Southern Poverty Law Center, teaming up with local homosexual groups, immediately claimed that all these were related to homosexual students being bullied, as it turned out it was not but the damage had already been done. The Southern Poverty Law Center came in threatening a law suit, then brought the Justice Department in—the federal government, going into a local school district—and then in the process a parents organization kind of grew up, the Parents Action League, which was defending the neutral policy, they weren’t against homosexuality, they weren’t for it, but they didn’t want their kids taught something that countered what they were taught at home. Well the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocate in the process for homosexual special rights and special status for homosexuals, labeled the opposing group a hate group for trying to marginalize and stigmatize them in that local debate. Then the Justice Department went forward with consent decree which is onerous, we’ll get into that on Thursday, but it just shows how the other side wants to shut down the debate so they can have their way and push their radical agenda through.

However, as Rolling Stone reported, at least four of the students who committed suicide were bullied for being gay or perceived to be gay:

There was another common thread: Four of the nine dead were either gay or perceived as such by other kids, and were reportedly bullied. The tragedies come at a national moment when bullying is on everyone's lips, and a devastating number of gay teens across the country are in the news for killing themselves. Suicide rates among gay and lesbian kids are frighteningly high, with attempt rates four times that of their straight counterparts; studies show that one-third of all gay youth have attempted suicide at some point (versus 13 percent of hetero kids), and that internalized homophobia contributes to suicide risk.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a lawsuit on behalf of five students, alleging the school district's policies on gays are not only discriminatory, but also foster an environment of unchecked anti-gay bullying. The Department of Justice has begun a civil rights investigation as well.

Stephanie Mencimer notes that along with the nine suicides, at least seven other students “have been hospitalized for attempting or threatening suicide.” She goes on to write:

There's no sure way of knowing why any of the kids took their own lives, but gay rights activists quickly honed in on one factor they saw as contributing to an unhealthy climate for at-risk kids. Anoka-Hennepin has a policy on the books known colloquially as "no homo promo," which dates in back to the mid-1990s. Back then, after several emotional school board meetings, the district essentially wiped gay people out of the school health curriculum. There could be no discussion of homosexuality, even with regard to HIV and AIDS, and the school board adopted a formal policy that stated school employees could not teach that homosexuality was a "normal, valid lifestyle."

Later the policy was changed to require school staff to remain neutral on issues of homosexuality if they should come up in class, a change that critics said fostered confusion among teachers and contributed to their inability to address bullying and harassment, or to even ask reasonable questions about some of the issues the kids were struggling with, like sexual orientation. Both policies were put into place at the behest of conservative religious activists who have been among Bachmann's biggest supporters in the district. They include the Minnesota Family Council (MFC), and its local affiliate, the Parents Action League, which has lobbied to put discredited "reparative therapy" materials in schools.

But Perkins tells a much different story.

First, he claims that the Southern Poverty Law Center “immediately claimed that all these were related to homosexual students being bullied,” adding, “as it turned out it was not.” However, the SPLC never claimed that all of the suicides were by “homosexual students,” but did argue that anti-gay bullying was “at least in part the result of a gag policy that prevented teachers from discussing issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people.” Perkins also claimed that the Parents Action League emerged as a result of the SPLC lawsuit, which isn’t true as PAL has been active in the school district for years prior to the SPLC’s involvement. He even claimed that PAL’s members “weren’t against homosexuality,” which is difficult to believe since the organization wants schools to teach reparative therapy, warned that gays and lesbians  have “targeted” students and called homosexuality “one of the most hazardous behaviors that kids could get into.”

But of course, no one should be surprised that Perkins twists the facts in order to promote his anti-gay views, and after misrepresenting the controversy he attacked the SPLC for advocating “special status for homosexuals” and pushing a “radical agenda.”