It’s campaign potshot season

The recent suicides of Anoka-Hennepin gay teenagers are front and center in an Associated Press piece on the difficulties public schools are having in addressing the subject of homophobic bullying. The issue? Whether schools should specifically address homophobia or not. This is an issue that breaks along partisan lines — and you can probably guess how it breaks. Conservatives argue the issue isn’t really about what’s being bullied, but the fact that bullying is occurring, and so that should be the focus on any legislation to address this issue. But the AP makes it clear that that was exactly what was behind Anoka-Hennepin’s district policy that demanded “neutrality” on the subject of homosexuality, which resulted in a number of teachers not stepping in when homophobic bullying was taking place. According to the piece, school officials were aware of harassment of one student, Justin Aaber, but did not notify his mother. Aaber killed himself in July.

The partisan lines that divide this debate were visible on Saturday, when the frontrunning gubernatorial candidates debated at Hamline University. As Jason Hoppin of The Pioneer Press reports, both DFL candidate Mark Dayton and IP candidate Tom Horner support anti-bullying legislation, while GOP candidate Tom Emmer opposes it. According to Emmer, what is needed is “more understanding,” rather than more laws. According to him, teachers do not step in when bullying occurs, fearing lawsuits. He did not seem to back this up with any references, so we in the Glean went searching for lawsuits against teachers for stepping in when bullying occurred. We were not able to locate any, although we are sure there are some out there. Perhaps our Google search was not specific enough, as, instead, we discovered case after case of schools being sued for not stepping in when students are bullied. Lawyers Weekly did a piece summarizing some recent cases, and demonstrating that they are on the rise. As this is a subject of extreme seriousness — after all, children are killing themselves — we feel certain Emmer must actually have researched it before making a pronouncement that would so deeply affect the safety of young people. We looking forward to his campaign producing that evidence.

Emmer received an endorsement from outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty this weekend in what, as the AP reports, was, to a large extent, a swipe against Horner. In a written statement, Pawlenty said that Horner is a “decent” man, but that if conservatives are thinking of voting for him, they need to rethink. “Any Republican who votes for Tom Horner is not only helping [Democrat] Mark Dayton become governor, but casting a vote to undo the tax and spending cuts we’ve fought so hard for over the last 8 years,” Pawlenty wrote. A spokesman for the Horner campaign responded with a dig at Pawlenty, poining out that it took until three weeks before the election for Pawlenty to throw his support behind the GOP candidate: “It speaks volumes about the reluctance of Gov. Pawlenty to jeopardize his national ambitions by tying himself to a gubernatorial candidate who increasingly is the choice only of Palin-Bachmann Republicans.”

It’s a tight race — as the most recent Rassmussen poll showed, with Emmer trailing Dayton by 2 points. Additionally, Horner seems to have slipped in the polls, down 3 points since the last poll, which suggests that former Horner supporters might have shifted their support to Dayton or Emmer. With a race this tight, it’s not surprising that either party might try to peel voters from Horner.

Additionally, Emmer took a shot at Dayton at Thursday’s “Reclaiming America: The Taking Back Congress Tour.” Emmer’s appearance at the event is detailed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck, who quotes the candidate as saying: “He’s running because politics is a hobby for him. He doesn’t experience what you and I have experienced. He hasn’t tried to raise a family under the burdens that government provides.”

So what was this rally? MPR’s Mike Mulcahy quotes colleague Annie Baxter: It was headlined by Rep. Michele Bachmann, was held at Orchestra Hall and was sparsely attended, with less that a third of the available 1,500 seats filled. (There was a Twin game going on, which the sponsors pointed out.) Bachmann took the opportunity to go after Horner: “We can’t let anyone tell us that Tom Horner is a pro-business Republican. This is no pro-business Republican. This is two of the same, both pro-taxing, essentially Democrats running against Tom Emmer.” At the event, talk show host Dennis Prager offered up an opinion as to why Bachmann is so disliked by liberals: “I actually think that your being female and being as good-looking as you are is a major factor. That your intelligence and values should come in such a beautiful package disturbs liberals and the left tremendously.” Although, it appears, it doesn’t cause her to be appealing enough to encourage conservatives to attend her events when there is a Twin game going on.

Speaking of Bachmann, the race between her and Tarryl Clark has been contentious, with both sides releasing a series of attack ads — Bachmann accusing Clark of wanting to raise the price of State Fair food and Clark saying Bachmann wants to privatize Social Security. MinnPost’s Eric Black takes on the Clark claim and finds it unsupported. In the meanwhile, Clark also has released an ad claiming Bachmann hasn’t done “@#%!” for the people of the 6th District, with the word “@#%!” accompanied by a bleeping noise from the ad’s narrator. As Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent reports, Bachmann was not pleased with this ad, telling a very sympathetic Stuart Varney of FOX News that the ad was “despicable.”

In arts: Twin Cities supergroup Gayngs had to cancel its appearance at “Austin City Limits” when its tour bus driver apparently absconded with their equipment, according to Andrea Swensson of City Pages in a piece she has given the label “Holy @#%!” (Well, she didn’t use the word “@#%!,” but we’ll let you fill in the bleep.) The incident has ignited a pretty heated discussion in the CP comments section, which is entirely based on idle speculation, because there are few arguments more contentious than those in which no facts are known.

In sports: We will not be discussing Brett Favre here, as we are not interested in the sex scandal allegations of sports figures. Instead, let us go to WCCO, where they are reporting that on Sunday a man hit two holes-in-one in Rogers, Minn. And if that doesn’t interest you, we suggest letting your cursor hover over the word “strokes” in the description of the man completing the majestic task. WCCO has a rather ill-considered sort of intrusive advertising that automatically pops up ads. Additionally, the system seems to automatically select key words at select ads to go with them. So, when “stoke” is touched by your cursor, you get a picture of an ambulance and an ad for a pill that is supposed to reduce the risk of stroke. Ah, the genius of keyword extraction-based Web advertising, which never located a homonym it couldn’t misunderstand.

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/11/2010 - 10:31 am.

    Pawlenty is reluctant because he does not want to be seen as endorsing a losing campaign. The fact that this election is in some measure a referendum on Pawlenty’s eight years as governor. It will be more difficult for Pawlenty to continue his march to the White House if his policies are not validated by a GOP victory in the Minnesota governors race.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2010 - 10:46 am.

    Say bunny?

    We’re to understand that the scary smart, reality based community is saying teachers need to understand *why* a schoolyard posse is rolling on a kid before they can step in and stop them?

    So they believe that some kinds of bullying is better or worse than others?

    How messed up is *that*?

    Brian Lambert and I can remember a time when “Sister Aloysius” would silently come upon a crew engaged in hectoring some kid, snatch the whole bunch up and have them making solemn oaths and tearfully begging forgiveness in about ten minutes without ever knowing, or caring, what the victim was targeted for.

    Whatever happened to “no means no”, bunny?

  3. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/11/2010 - 10:59 am.

    Mr. Swift, this isn’t terribly complicated so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re purposefully trying to misunderstand it.

    In a perfect world, the reason for the bullying would be of little importance. But it’s become quite clear that many teachers are so fundamentally uncomfortable with the very existence of homosexuality (wonder why?) that they are not dealing with it as bullying at all. The proposal is to make this explicit so teachers stop avoiding dealing with it and we prevent the deaths of these children.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2010 - 11:19 am.

    “But it’s become quite clear that many teachers are so fundamentally uncomfortable with the very existence of homosexuality (wonder why?) that they are not dealing with it as bullying at all.”

    That is the silliest thing I’ve read this week.

    http://www.nea.org/

    Check it out.

  5. Submitted by John Edwards on 10/11/2010 - 11:33 am.

    I think what insurance lawyer Tom Emmer was clearly referring to is that teachers do not step in because their school districts will be
    sued. My guess is that administrators advise teachers to tread carefully in these areas because of the threat of legal action. Lawsuits are filed invariably against employers because they have the deep pockets (through their insurance coverage) that attract plaintiff lawyers. I am not aware of any teachers who have professional liability coverage.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/11/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    Mr. Swift’s apparent affection for Leporidae Sylvilagus is puzzling, but perhaps I’m missing something.

    Also puzzling is his apparent lack of knowledge of his favored candidate’s position.

    Not having (nor wanting) any direct experience with the legal climate in Minnesota, I can’t speak to the issue personally, but I’m aware of teachers being sued for a host of things that “Sister Aloysius” might have been able to get away with in 1954 – and may still be getting away with in 2010 – but that nowadays are routinely seen as grounds for civil suits in a public school setting by parents with, shall we say, their own agenda.

    Bullying is ugly no matter what its purported source, and I confronted a few jerks, both male and female, over the course of 30 years. “Stop” is fairly clear as an instruction, even for a headstrong teenager. I was also obligated by state statute to report to school administrators any suspected or admitted abuse of a student at home. None of that precludes, however, a lawsuit by an aggrieved or pugnacious parent, on either side of a dispute about which the teacher may have only very limited information upon which to base a decision that could have far-reaching consequences.

    Mr. Emmer may have been speaking sarcastically, or perhaps he was sincere – I don’t know. Even in Mr. Swift’s fantasy-based community, however, I suspect there are occasional lawsuits that fit the definition of “retribution” or even “harassment.” School districts typically do not want to spend sizable chunks of taxpayer cash defending themselves and their employees against accusations from residents, whether justified or not.

    So, as a teacher, I never permitted bullying to continue when I observed it, and it didn’t matter at all to me why it was taking place, but in a society as litigious as this one, I was very careful about how I conducted myself in those instances, because the risk of a lawsuit, even 15 years ago, was substantial, and not necessarily from the side of the student being bullied.

    As for Dennis Prager’s comment at the laughably mislabeled “Reclaiming America” gathering at Orchestra Hall, gag me. Mrs. Bachmann is attractive enough, I suppose, but I don’t regard her as “…a beautiful package” (among the more sexist comments I’ve come across recently in that regard – should we vote for people based on their “hotness” factor now? – and does Mr. Prager rate the attractiveness of the gubernatorial candidates, as well?), and what disturbs me about her isn’t her looks, it’s her blatant demagoguery in combination with illogical and sanctimonious “values.”

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/11/2010 - 12:36 pm.

    The unfortunate fact is that recent proposed anti-bullying legislation has been characterized as part of the “gay agenda” by Focus on the Family.

    It is not surprising that there is equivocation around the issue for conservative candidates when it is clear to them that Jesus would be casting the first stone at the young misfit.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2010 - 01:29 pm.

    Well Neal, if the goal is to stop kids from harassing one another, one sure way to get everyone on board is to jetttison the identity politics and start preaching the “no means no” message.

    But if some *must* place priorities, let’s start with the identity group being singled out in schools more than any other…obese kids.

    “New research suggests that just being overweight increases the risk of being bullied. And factors that usually play a role in the risk of being bullied, such as gender, race and family income levels, don’t seem to matter if you’re overweight — being overweight or obese trumps all those other factors when it comes to aggressive behavior from other children.”

    “The study found that being overweight increased the risk of being the target of bullying by 63 percent.”

    http://tinyurl.com/28wmdro

  9. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/11/2010 - 02:04 pm.

    It is my impression that the Focus on the Family stand is based on the idea that bullying is a useful tool in the enforcing of societal norms.

    Bullying is wrong, no matter who it is aimed at or why. Stopping the incident of bullying at the observed occurrence is an important tool. The follow up is perhaps even more critical because it is unlikely that the incident is a one-time event, for the bully or the victim.

    Identifying the apparent specific reason for the bullying and addressing that issue IS key to ending the bullying.

  10. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/11/2010 - 02:17 pm.

    “But it’s become quite clear that many teachers are so fundamentally uncomfortable with the very existence of homosexuality (wonder why?) that they are not dealing with it as bullying at all.”

    “That is the silliest thing I’ve read this week.”

    “But the AP makes it clear that that was exactly what was behind Anoka-Hennepin’s district policy that demanded “neutrality” on the subject of homosexuality, which resulted in a number of teachers not stepping in when homophobic bullying was taking place.”

    What am I missing here, Tom?

  11. Submitted by Cecil North on 10/11/2010 - 02:42 pm.

    If there were a “neutrality” policy in the school district that has resulted in school administrators avoiding interfering in the bullying of obese children, Swift might have a valid point. There isn’t, and he doesn’t.up.

  12. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 10/11/2010 - 03:00 pm.

    See, Swifty and his “crew” (cuz he’s a hip, young urbanite) don’t want to dig deeper into why people bully because it’s gonna annoy his “crew” to find out picking on gays is considered bullying, not sport.

  13. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 10/11/2010 - 03:41 pm.

    Mr. Swift,
    I’ve been following your remarks over the past few months. You seem to love to characterized the far-right as “scary-smart.” I find them just “scary.” I think adding my antonym to your post-hyphen would not be helpful.

  14. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2010 - 04:03 pm.

    “What am I missing here, Tom?”

    Evidently reading comprehension.

    You’re claiming teachers “discomfort” keeps them from acting, the AP says it’s the same sort of lunacy that has schools expelling kids for bringing aspirin to school.

    Cecil, if there was any interest among leftist special interest groups, we might *know* if school administrators avoid interfering in the bullying of obese children, but there isn’t, so we don’t.

    Overweight kids evidently don’t have anything the left needs, so they’re on their own.

    Mike & Brad? The clue went that-a-way —>

  15. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/12/2010 - 09:17 am.

    I’d suggest that we discover where the principal characters and supporters of “Focus on the Family” live and begin to hang out around their homes, and work places – tossing epithets at them whenever we see them, trailing them when they go shopping or out to eat where we’ll make loud, snide, comments about them, make their lives routinely, miserable, day in and day out.

    We could even start face book pages devoted to speculation on which of them will be revealed or reveal themselves to actually be gay and speculating on the possibility of other nefarious activities they may be involved in.

    After all, LOTS of us can use “bullying” to enforce societal norms, but in doing so, we could move society away from the social norms of pond scum and slime mold toward those which help to build a healthier, more psychologically functional society – a society where kids don’t kill themselves because they’re being bullied for being the people God created them to be. Who knows, in a healthier society we could even get some folks the help they need to actually begin to function like higher life forms.

  16. Submitted by Cecil North on 10/12/2010 - 09:42 am.

    Mr. Swift, it’s obviously pointless to try to make you understand an issue that you clearly have no interest in understanding.

  17. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 10/12/2010 - 09:44 am.

    I know I’m a little late to the conversation, but I would like to respond to John Edwards’ comment about teachers lacking professional liablity insurance. One of the reasons just about every teacher belongs to one of the unions is because it provides that professional liability insurance as well as attorneys to defend the teacher in a lawsuit.

    I taught for a number of years and then subbed for over 20 years. I ALWAYS belonged to the union so that I had that liability insurance, especially since I frequently worked with special ed kids and in alternative schools.

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