Amid the increased fervor over the slew of suicides reportedly motivated by anti-gay bullying in a Minnesota school district, one voice remains “uncharacteristically silent” — that of the district’s congresswomen, Rep. Michele Bachmann. Her office did not respond to Mother Jones’ request for a comment on the nine student deaths or the schools’ alleged anti-gay environment.
Bachmann’s silence on the subject of the Anoka-Hennepin’s neutrality policy, which the National Center for Lesbian Rights blames for enabling the anti-gay culture by “stigmatizing LGBT students,” is certainly unusual. Here are five reasons why:
1. Bachmann got her political start in Minnesota’s public schools.
In the early 1990s, Bachmann took her first public roll as one of the founders of a charter school, but ended up resigning after accusations that she and other board members had been pushing a Christian agenda. She has spoken on education policies in numerous venues, including EdWatch’s 2004 conference, and included education reform as one of her priority issues when campaigning for the U.S. House in 2006.
2. She publicly came out against a bill that would mandate anti-bullying school policies in 2006.
While at a hearing over a bill that would mandate anti-bullying policies in Minnesota’s schools, then Sen. Bachmann dismissed bullying as simply a practical reality. “I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to point of zero tolerance and what does it mean?” she asked. “Will we be expecting boys to be girls? What is it exactly that we’re asking for?”
3. Bachmann voted against hate crimes legislation that would protect LGBT Americans.
She cast her vote against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, which amended the federal definition of hate crime to also include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Two years later, she opposed the Hate Crimes Expansion Act of 2009, which provided federal assistance to states dealing with hate crimes.
4. Her political associates actively support Anoka-Hennepin’s neutrality policy.
As ThinkProgress reported last week, Bachmann counts as one of her top campaign donors Barbara Anderson, the education researcher at the Minnesota Family Council and the head of the Parents Action League. According to Anderson, PAL was instrumental in writing the “outstanding” neutrality policy in the first place; Tom Pritchard, the director of the Minnesota Family Council, echoed Anderson, saying the real issue facing the Anoka-Hennepin schools was not anti-gay bullying, but “homosexual indoctrination.”
5. And most tellingly, Bachmann has spoken aggressively about the need to fight against a “homosexual curriculum” in public schools.
After describing homosexuality as “sexual disfunction” and a “sexual identity disorder” while speaking at EdWatch’s 2004 conference, she warned the audience that the recent Massachusetts’ decision to legalize gay marriage would lead to a mandate forcing schools to teach homosexuality. And then — echoing the anti-gay advocates of Anoka-Hennepin’s neutrality policy — she listed the two dangerous implications to “putting the whole gay curriculum into the schools”: “It’s a radical transformation of our entire society…[and] it leads to the personal enslavement of individuals.” Listen to here.
So far, Bachmann has remained quiet about her position on gay marriage and homosexuality during her presidential campaign. With a federal investigation and a lawsuit associated with her district’s largest school system, we’ll see how long she can make that silence last before she must choose between breaking with her record on the issue or condoning anti-gay bullying.