Remember last October when I told you about Illinois school bus driver Russell A. Schmalz? You know, the driver who called one of the kids gay and then had other kids to tackle him? Remember that?
Well, it looks like Mr. Schmalz has some kin at the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Andover, Minnesota. Excerpted from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights:
Beginning with the start of the 2007-2008 school year, a male high school student participating in a program located at Anoka Hennepin Technical College began to experience harassment from two teachers, Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson, who perceived that the student was gay. Ms. Cleveland singled him out on nearly a daily basis by making jokes, comments and innuendos about her perception of his sexual orientation. Ms. Cleveland made her comments in front of other students and allowed them to laugh, and would share her comments with Mr. Filson. Teacher Filson would repeat, add his own jokes, and allow other students in the class to joke about the boy’s perceived sexual orientation.
The department noted that the school district’s own investigation had identified witnesses who substantiated allegations that teachers Cleveland and Filson had made regular “gay” jokes in the classroom, and did nothing to stop subsequent “homo and gay jokes” by classmates, sometimes smiling and laughing after the students’ comments.
By the way, Diane Cleveland teaches Social Studies at Champlin Park High School while Walter Filson teaches in the school’s Secondary Technical Education Program. Ironically enough, his subject is Law Enforcement.
(By the way, the report doesn’t name the student to protect his privacy, but in the quote below I’ve replaced their notations of [student] with the name “Jason” to make it less clinical.)
Among the alleged comments:
- When Cleveland learned that Jason was doing a report on Ben Franklin for her class, she made comments in front of the class that implied that Jason had a “thing for older men”;
- When Cleveland’s class was watching the 1989 film, Christmas Vacation, Cleveland covered the screen during a swimming pool/bathing suit scene and commented, “It’s OK if Jason watches this because he isn’t into that sort of thing anyway… maybe if it was a guy.”
- When another student presented a report in Filson’s class regarding a deer that had been molested, a student said, “Hey, Mr. Filson, doesn’t that sound like something Jason would do?” Filson allegedly agreed and laughed.
- After students came to Filson’s classroom seeking male participates (sic) for a fashion show, Filson stated, “Take Jason because he enjoys wearing woman’s clothes… he would love to be in the show.”
Jason’s mother had requested that her son be removed from Filson’s and Cleveland’s classrooms on January 14, 2008 as a result of his continuing humiliation. However, despite the investigation corroborating the harassment, teacher Filson remained in the classroom indefinitely and Cleveland remained in the classroom for a week and a half following the investigation.
Cleveland was finally “reassigned” and given an alternative assignment on January 22, 2008 which included working “on social studies curriculum development and reflecting on equality and diversity in the classroom.” However, she completed only one day of the re-assignment, calling in sick for the remainder of the week and returning to the classroom with the commencement of a new semester on January 28, 2008.
“Jason” eventually transferred to a school 25 miles away to escape his abusers. The Anoka-Hennepin School District has settled with the family with a payment of $25,000 while maintaining no wrong-doing. Ms. Cleveland and Mr. Filson continue to be employed by the district.