Controversial Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann continues to generate negative headlines in the US, with reports she represents a district in the state of Minnesota which public health officials have labelled a “suicide contagion area”.
In the space of two years, nine teenagers from the area have committed suicide, along with many other unsuccessful attempts.
Social justice news website, Mother Jones, found most of them were known or perceived to be LGBT youth.
“At least four of the suicides involved kids known or at least perceived by their peers to be LGBT. Since January, seven of Fietek’s students at Anoka Middle School have been hospitalized for attempting or threatening suicide,” they report.
The Minnesota school district Anoka-Hennepin has a policy on the books known as the ‘no homo promo’. Introduced in the mid-90s, the district essentially wiped gay people out of the school health curriculum. It ruled that 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.”
Bachmann has made no comment on the teen suicide epidemic in her own district and has voted against proposed anti-bullying legislation, stating at a hearing in 2006:
“I think for all us our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies, always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to point of zero tolerance and what does it mean?… What will be our definition of bullying? Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? … Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”
The ‘no pro homo’ policy was championed by the Minnesota Family Council and the Parents Action League, which also lobby to make ‘ex-gay therapy’ part of the official school curriculum.
The so-called ‘reparative therapy’ has recently come under the spotlight in the state after it was revealed Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, used the practice at his Christian counselling clinic.
Five students are now suing the Anoka-Hennepin school district for failing to do enough to protect them from bullying and harassment.
Teens in Australia struggling with mental health issues are encouraged to contact national youth mental health foundation, headspace.