LGBT Teens Can’t Even Trust Teachers

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.

This school has a Gay-Straight Alliance and an aggressive anti-bullying program and still their LGBT students are not safe.

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41 thoughts on “LGBT Teens Can’t Even Trust Teachers

  1. I didn't feel safe for one single day when I was in school. My school experience was like spending 7 hours a day walking through a mine field, never knowing when or from where the hurt would come.I read somewhere a week or two ago that some group was planning to open an online high school for gay kids. It presumably would be much like the many home school curricula available on the internet, only tailored for an online gay teenage community. Sounds brilliant, right? Then i read that some educators claim it is a bad idea because it will lead to segregation. I found the link for it: http://glbtqonlinehighschool.com/I wish this kind of resource existed when i was in school. This would have been like the holy grail for me. I would have done anything to be a part of it. I'm sure there are tens of thousands of gay kids in the U.S. who feel the same way right now, who just want to have the chance to learn something without the mental, physical, and emotional harassment they currently are subjected to daily.

  2. “…like spending 7 hours a day walking through a mine field, never knowing when or from where the hurt would come.”I think that's the most accurate description I've ever read.

  3. This is seriously fucked up. How can the school district maintain no wrong-doing on the parts of the teachers? I don't know what else to say.

  4. I think their position is that the district investigated and told Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson not to do it anymore, therefore adequate action was taken.It's an idiotic position, considering they both kept their jobs and apparently made any sort of amends to the boy (now probably 18), but that's the one they've decided on.

  5. I'm delighted to see others are as moved by this as I am. The “7 hours a day walking through a mine field” comment is spot on. Here's a teachable moment for Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson: shamed students often grow up to be activists who are unafraid to share their experience in a public forum naming names and holding people accountable. Let's hope that the boy they shamed doesn't carry scars by their words – though I'm quite certain he does. For that, THEY should be ashamed of themselves.Just remember, folks. The city this happened in is in the Congressional District represented by Michele Bachmann. Yes. THAT Michele Bachmann.

  6. All of you people who are re-printing what the Star Tribune and other sources have reported no nothing about the situation. Do you want to know about some of the facts the news decided to neglect? The so called innocent student and his family have not only spun some tales themselves, but they have also neglected to tell more of the story. Several days before he brought the complaint forward, and for the record he named only the female teacher, not Mr. Filson, threatened several other students that he was going to bring a gun to school, he was then disciplined, and it was only after that that his mother contacted the school with her first complaint. A day after his mother called about him being punished for one of his “little jokes” about bringing a gun did the student claim sexual harassment. Then as the days went on and his story continued, the boy at this time claiming he was gay, his family did some interesting things. His family had had their house on the market for almost two years, never once receiving an offer. At one point they tried to make a deal with the school district that they would drop all the allegations if the district would buy their house from them. Well the district obviously didn't bite, after that the boy came out with more claims. His family continued to make Mr. Filson's and the other individual's life difficult. Now I believe that anyone and everyone should be allowed to love anyone they want and be proud to say it, gay or straight. However high school is a cruel place, and when you say things like “Shakespeare is sexy”, in the middle of a class lecture you cannot expect to be safe from teasing, (granted teachers should not engage in such things and do everything they can to prevent it, however a student should not go looking for trouble if they don't want to deal with the aftershock). People make mistakes and some say things or do things that they later regret, however they should not be judged solely on one mistake they may have made in their life. As you may have picked up I am defending mainly Mr. Filson, I have known his for 20 years and know for a fact that he would never have done what the kid claimed he did. Mr. Filson is an honorable man who treats everyone he meets with respect, even those who don't deserve it. Everyone is going to have their opinions on this situation, and those of you who jump to judging let me add a few more things, the school district never actually performed and investigation on Mr. Filson, they never officially took his side of the story, and the boy when making the initial claim didn't even mention Mr. Filson; and since the Star Tribune published their article the boy has renounced that he ever claimed to be gay. What we have here is the actions of a boy and his divorced mother who saw an opportunity to walk into some money. None of you know anything about Mr. Filson, the good man he is and wonderful teacher, so please before you judge make sure you have all the facts.

  7. Thank you for your comment.I didn't even mention the Star Tribune. I went straight to the source, quoting only the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Their independent investigation concluded that the student was subject to harassment from both Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson. Whatever facts or rumors about guns in school and houses on the market are irrelevant. Whether the student is actually gay or not is irrelevant.I do take special exception to your statement that “high school is a cruel place” and the student “cannot expect to be safe from teasing”. In order, no it doesn't have to be and yes s/he can.Again, thank you for your comment.

  8. Thank you for your comment.

    I didn’t even mention the Star Tribune. I went straight to the source, quoting only the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Their independent investigation concluded that the student was subject to harassment from both Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson. Whatever facts or rumors about guns in school and houses on the market are irrelevant. Whether the student is actually gay or not is irrelevant.

    I do take special exception to your statement that “high school is a cruel place” and the student “cannot expect to be safe from teasing”. In order, no it doesn’t have to be and yes s/he can.

    Again, thank you for your comment.

  9. I don't mean to offend anyone, I just think it is very unfair for the community to jump to conclusions that the story is exactly how the student claims it to be. The history of the student and his family should count for something, because it could reveal that they are not who they appear to be. About high school being cruel I know students shouldn't be subjected to cruelty, but a lot of individuals are mean; and about being teased you need to watch what you say, even if what you say is meant as a joke not everyone will understand, and as I can see from the recent media, people are VERY quick to judge. If two teachers entire careers are going to be ruined because of a student's claim I believe that there should have been a more thorough investigation, and I know there wasn't cause I was there every step of the way.

  10. Anonymous- You're kidding, right? The MN Human Rights Department and officials at Anoka-Hennepin both verify the repeated harassment. These 2 teachers have no business teaching. Period. They have ruined their careers themselves. “Cause I was there every step of the way.” Dude, get a LIFE!

  11. Whatever, everyone is entitled to believe what they want, but since none of you were in that room you don't know what really happened.Jeffersonwade you tell me to get a life, why don't you go out and get one instead of sitting online and bashing others!

  12. So what if she wanted to sell the house and move him out of the district. If I were Alex's father/mother I would have demanded that the school buy me out of my house as well so I could get my child out of that terrible environment and move on with our lives. In regards to how Diane and Walt handle disruptive students… I imagine they handle disruptive situations everyday from multiple students. If this is the best way they know how to handle any type of situation then they need to be replaced by some of the teachers that the school is currently laying off that know how to work with children.

  13. I find it interesting that 'Anonymous' “knows” so much about what happened in that classroom and apparently so much about the victims family. In fact 'Anonymous' goes on to state in this blog's comment “but since none of you were in that room you don't know what really happened.” Are you saying YOU were in the classroom and that is how YOU seem to have all this otherwise unavailable information? That would lead me to think that perhaps you must be one of the teachers named in the findings. mm. just a thought.'Anonymous' also posted to the Minnesota Independent online – looks to be a copy and paste. Go there to read an interesting dialog between 'Anonymous' and 'Jason' and 'Jason's Mother'. Which we now know the victim's real name is Alex because he has made a public statement. The copy and pasted comment from 'Anonymous' starts about half way down the page. Here is the link.http://minnesotaindependent.com/41827/anti-gay-

  14. Thanks for the additional information Robin. Based on some back-end information I have from Anonymous's comments, I'm assuming s/he is not Walter Filson. More likely a somewhat recent graduate of the school. I don't know that for sure, but call it a hunch.

  15. *Robinmavis* I am infact not one of the teachers that was named in the article, my name is Justine and I am Mr. Filson's daughter. Now yes all of you may now jump to the conclusion that everything I say is biased because of this, but I am not ashamed of defending a man I love more than my own life. I was also a student of the STEP school and would regularly go and have lunch with my father, it surprised me every time to see his room occupied by students eating their lunch with him in the classroom, they discussed everything from media issues to personal issues. How can a man that hundreds of students respected be brought down by one person's accusations without having the chance to defend himself. I don't mean to be unkind, but how is it that some people of the gay/lesbian community can jump to judge a man they know nothing about when they have been fighting for so long so that other's don't judge them before they know them?Though my guess is that Mr. Algren leans toward defending the boy, I still wish to thank you for being kind in all of your posted blogs. You have said nothing that I can remember as cruel.I am only trying to get the word out there that I wish people would give him a chance to defend his name, no one has even allowed him to say a word, too many of you have been too quick to judge. Through my frustration I was cruel to the boy's family, which I know was very wrong, I just was very sad that a good man, whom none of you know, is having his name dragged through mud, and not once has he been given a fair chance to tell his side of the story.

  16. First, I WOULD like to say thank you Justine for admitting to everyone you have been cruel to Alex's family and it was wrong of you. The slandering of Alex and our family was an out right hateful thing to do. The only hateful thing that happened here was your father, Walter Filson and Diane Cleveland harassing my son every day of step, some days it happened 2 to 3 times per teacher per day. NICE. What kind of teacher would tell such cruel jokes thinking it was funny, it may have been funny to them at that time, but it sure wasn't funny to Alex, myself, our family nor is it funny to the other parents of the district and the community. It was humiliating to Alex, day in and day out. Do you realize what your dad and Cleveland has done to him emotionally? He wanted to end his life several times just to escape their abuse every day. You tell me if you had a son/daughter in a classroom where it is the teacher bullying your child when you sent your child to school that day knowing it should be a safe enviroment instead it's a war zone and a place of hell. Many days I told Alex I'm going in and talking to the teachers, his answer, mom they will soon realize it's not funny and stop thier harassment. Do you realize how I wanted to handle this from the beginning? I understand you love your dad, but that doesn't make it ok for him to harass my son.As for your dad having a chance to speak up? He has/had all the chances he wants, he is choosing to hide behind the union and he is choosing not to talk to reporters. If he is innocent he would be the first one to state he is innocent, never happened. As far as you being in the class often? I would challenge that, you weren't there as often as you said in the classroom, once in a while I'll give you that. Did you really think he was going to shame Alex in front of you in your presence?Let me tell you again, the lies and slanders that you have told about me selling our house, trying to get the district to buy it? That is totally bull and you know it, nice try though. You also stated our house was up for 2 years, another nice try, we had it up for 11 months with 3 offers, we moved to get away from the district. But our house has nothing to do with this case, the case is about two teachers that has harassed an innocent kid about being gay when he has been straight his whole life. Alex stood up to the two bullies that bullied him and if there was one child in that room that was gay, can you imagine what that student thought? I think Justine before you keep slamming our family maybe you ought to take the speck out of your own eye and realize, the Department of Human Rights did a full investigation that lasted almost a year and a half, the School did thier investigation from the same time, and NOT ONCE HAVE I SEEN YOU IN ANY OF THOSE MEETINGS, so don't you act as if you know what happened in any of those meetings. Read the District's findings, you will see what happend to Cleveland, and she didn't even go through her discipline she took sick time, and you will see your father didn't stand up and say he was innocent, he STOOD BEHIND the teachers UNION and hid.

  17. First, I WOULD like to say thank you Justine for admitting to everyone you have been cruel to Alex's family and it was wrong of you. The slandering of Alex and our family was an out right hateful thing to do. The only hateful thing that happened here was your father, Walter Filson and Diane Cleveland harassing my son every day of step, some days it happened 2 to 3 times per teacher per day. NICE. What kind of teacher would tell such cruel jokes thinking it was funny, it may have been funny to them at that time, but it sure wasn't funny to Alex, myself, our family nor is it funny to the other parents of the district and the community. It was humiliating to Alex, day in and day out. Do you realize what your dad and Cleveland has done to him emotionally? He wanted to end his life several times just to escape their abuse every day. You tell me if you had a son/daughter in a classroom where it is the teacher bullying your child when you sent your child to school that day knowing it should be a safe enviroment instead it's a war zone and a place of hell. Many days I told Alex I'm going in and talking to the teachers, his answer, mom they will soon realize it's not funny and stop thier harassment. Do you realize how I wanted to handle this from the beginning? I understand you love your dad, but that doesn't make it ok for him to harass my son.As for your dad having a chance to speak up? He has/had all the chances he wants, he is choosing to hide behind the union and he is choosing not to talk to reporters. If he is innocent he would be the first one to state he is innocent, never happened. As far as you being in the class often? I would challenge that, you weren't there as often as you said in the classroom, once in a while I'll give you that. Did you really think he was going to shame Alex in front of you in your presence?Let me tell you again, the lies and slanders that you have told about me selling our house, trying to get the district to buy it? That is totally bull and you know it, nice try though. You also stated our house was up for 2 years, another nice try, we had it up for 11 months with 3 offers, we moved to get away from the district. But our house has nothing to do with this case, the case is about two teachers that has harassed an innocent kid about being gay when he has been straight his whole life. Alex stood up to the two bullies that bullied him and if there was one child in that room that was gay, can you imagine what that student thought? I think Justine before you keep slamming our family maybe you ought to take the speck out of your own eye and realize, the Department of Human Rights did a full investigation that lasted almost a year and a half, the School did thier investigation from the same time, and NOT ONCE HAVE I SEEN YOU IN ANY OF THOSE MEETINGS, so don't you act as if you know what happened in any of those meetings. Read the District's findings, you will see what happend to Cleveland, and she didn't even go through her discipline she took sick time, and you will see your father didn't stand up and say he was innocent, he STOOD BEHIND the teachers UNION and hid.

  18. Readers beware!!!! I have been following with interest the ramblings of anonymous from site to site. She has finally come forward and identified herself as Justine, Walt Filson's daughter. Her accusations of Alex's family and the out and out lies she has propagated are little more than an extention of the abuse started by her father in the classroom. Apparently the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree on this one. He verbally abused a young man in the classroom (evidence verified by both the school district and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights). Then he ran and hid behind the teachers union to protect himself. He hid behind the union and you hid behind anonymous. I wonder were you learned that? In the meantime his cowardly offspring picked up his abuse and copied and pasted her lies on as many blog sites as she could. There are no less than 17 outright lies in her first email. Justine.. the more lies you tell the more guilty your father looks. Maybe you should stop being “daddy's little girl” and start acting like a thinking adult. Willing to admit that even your father can't walk on water and may have really done what the findings proved he did! By keeping the verbal abuse and lies going you are just digging a deeper hole for your father!You have made an already horrible situation worse and complicated it by layering on blatent lies. If you want the truth to come out stop lying!READERS BEWARE!

  19. Dear Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson,I wanna let you know how disgraced I am with the two of you not only as teachers but as human beings, you think your sh*t don't stink? I got news for you….I can smell it threw my pc screen here in Knoxville. Im surprised the boy made it as long as he did in those classrooms with the two of you without ramming your head threw the d@mn wall. As for Justine, i can understand your support of your father, but stay outta this all. Were you a student in the classroom or a teacher at the time of the incidents?! I think not to both of those. All you are, is a bias young woman who is trying to defend her dad, who screwed up along with that other dipstick. Of course if you were ever in the room , Walter would never do something illegal like harass a boy in his class infront of you, because your another witness to the allegations proven true. The boy is a very courageous kid, and these two teachers outta be fired now. Had this happened at my work, oooo so help me God i'd be cleaning out my locker before lunch! I'd been out the door so dang fast it would make my dang head spin. Diane and Walter, if you didnt do nothing wrong, answer the phone to the media, obviously you havent cuz there aint no videos,stories,sites or blogs with your mugs on there. All i see about you is the MN DEP OF HUMAN RIGHTS, PROVEN ALLEGATIONS. Get a life you two Knobheads, outta the classroom, your not teachers your crooks. Robbing a boy and other students in these classrooms of quality education.Gary Tollette

  20. Jeepers… people are quick to judge. Both this student and the teachers. I have followed this story a bit and am seeing both sides without judgment. I think there may be more to this story none of us have heard yet. There are things coming out that seem to reflect another side to this argument. I will not pass judgement until I know the FULL story… I would hope that everyone else would do the same. 🙂

  21. Justine you seem to be on all of these blogs defending your dad, trashing the victim and his family to make your dad look better, isn't that a form of enabling? For your dad to harass and bully a kid when he should of been there teaching in which he was being paid for, instead he treated a student like dog meat. Then you Justine keep active on all of these blogs, defending him, the more you write the more your case looks pathetic. Leave the victim and his family alone, and go do something with your life, enough is enough.Amy Dem, we're not quick to judge or make any judgement calls, what we are doing is reading the cold facts that were reported by professionals, in the same way the detectives do their jobs, investigate a crime seen and they make thier arrest. The cops do their home work in the same way the Human Rights did their home work, read their reports and then you too will see the cold facts.

  22. I have read the reports and know the “facts” are not correct. The news media put out this kid's story, not the teachers. I think you will find that in the coming weeks those “facts” are going to proven false. Like the cops, they do an investigation, but unlike the cops, they did not speak to the other side. Just a fact that I have found out from a source very close to this. The DHR did NOT check their facts before they printed them. Just keep watching this story, it will turn…

  23. Amy, news media reports are irrelevant here. All I've quoted is the official report from the state. Quoting and making rational judgments based upon that report is not out of line.Thanks for your comment.

  24. Maybe not, but you like everyone else is going on the assumption that they are true. What many people do not realize is that the report(s) are not what they appear to be. I thank you for your “Kind” comment as many of these get very ugly. I have an inside ear as to this situation and know there is more to come. We can agree to disagree then. 🙂 Thanks.

  25. amy if you have an inside ear, stand up and be who you say you are. You don't have anymore facts than the rest of us do. If you have any more “inside information” you're either family or one of the teachers. I'm done listening to you and Justine informing the rest that the teachers didn't get a voice? If so, why does the paper continue to say Filson or Cleveland would not return our call for their side of the story, sounds to me that their story was published in the papers and in the Human Right peice.

  26. I don't recall saying the teachers didn't get a voice but I can tell you that there is more than what you are reading. I read the other day that one of the teachers spoke out. I am pretty certain that is not the last you will hear from them. 🙂

  27. Again I say put your fingers to the computer, and give us your “inside ear” and that you say we haven't heard the last of them. Talk is cheap anyone can say anything to get the listeners to believe anything, As for now, I'll just beleive the tv news, the paper and Human Rights. Alll of the above have to report facts or they would be out of a job. Right now the facts state the teachers were in the wrong, the district has put them on an unpaid leave, with that being said, my guess they did exactly what they were accused of otherwise the district wouldn't of let them go.

  28. The district didn't let them go. If you read the paper, they are free to return to work anytime they choose. Would love to give you my inside ear, but why blow the surprise?

  29. This is Justine (for those of you that look at multiple blogs I did post almost this exact thing on another). I have thought over my previous actions, I was cruel, I did to the Merritt family exactly what they have done to Walt (who yes is not my real father, (Charles Filson is infact one of his sons, whom I commend for doing a much better job than I did at sharing another side), but a man who has known me and been there for me since I was 5 weeks old, and since I am now 20 I figure as long as he doesn’t mind I will think of him has a father). For that one thing, being cruel to others when I would not want others to be cruel to me I apologize, and I mean that. I reacted badly because I was (and still am) pissed off at what has happened and how people judge while only knowing one side of the story. From here on out I will no longer blog on this subject, my original intention was not to hurt anyone, I allowed my emotions to get out of control. I will end by saying to those that are willing to keep an open mind about this; thank you, a good man, his wife and his family is going through a lot of pain right now. Every human deserves a chance to defend themselves when something has been said about them. To all of those that are so sure you know the story and believe Walt should not be given a chance to defend himself, ask youself how you would feel if you had been placed in his situation. No more hiding, I am done with blogging.

  30. AMEN Justine, admitting to not being Filson's real daughter and being cruel to the Merritt family , is the first step at honesty. It was hard to read the false allegations, then to know you aren't the real daughter, then to find out you weren't honest when you were anonymous, Justine, Outloud, Name, Stephanie….. kind of was a given. Leave the boy, the Merritt's alone it just made you look like you were only telling lies and that is wrong too. I have a daughter going to step this year so I followed all of this closely, I'm happy with the outcome, the teachers are gone I don't have to worry about my child going to step any longer. Let this be a lesson , Justine, tell the truth and nothing but the truth when you enter these blogs.

  31. I respect you Justine, for telling the truth. I hear there will be a development in the next day or two in the media regarding this story. Can't wait.

  32. Read it, and I like what I see, about time the “other side” can speak out, I told y'all there was more to this story…

  33. I read it too, and I didn't see anything worth talking about. The teachers who have been punished (inadequately, from my standpoint) for harassing a student deny having harassed a student. This hardly shocks me to my core.People can make excuses all the live long day, but the fact remains that the school system found enough evidence to punish the teachers and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights later found enough evidence to sustain a financial settlement.

  34. Read it, and I like what I see, about time the “other side” can speak out, I told y'all there was more to this story…

  35. I read it too, and I didn't see anything worth talking about. The teachers who have been punished (inadequately, from my standpoint) for harassing a student deny having harassed a student. This hardly shocks me to my core.People can make excuses all the live long day, but the fact remains that the school system found enough evidence to punish the teachers and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights later found enough evidence to sustain a financial settlement.

  36. Read it, and I like what I see, about time the “other side” can speak out, I told y'all there was more to this story…

  37. I read it too, and I didn't see anything worth talking about. The teachers who have been punished (inadequately, from my standpoint) for harassing a student deny having harassed a student. This hardly shocks me to my core.People can make excuses all the live long day, but the fact remains that the school system found enough evidence to punish the teachers and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights later found enough evidence to sustain a financial settlement.

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