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Reducing school bullying: ‘We can’t do this on our own’

Lane Geldert lost her best friend in a wave of suicides among Anoka-Hennepin School District students who were bullied because of their perceived sexual or gender orientation.

Lane Geldert: "I feel that I’ve impacted a part of history that could eventually grow."
Photo by Michael Geldert

Last in a series

Three years ago, Lane Geldert lost her best friend, Samatha Johnson, in a wave of suicides among Anoka-Hennepin School District students who were bullied because of their perceived sexual or gender orientation. In March, Geldert, now 16, was present when school board members approved the landmark settlement of a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed by her and other students. After the historic vote, the plaintiffs braved a phalanx of reporters and TV cameras.

I lost my best friend my seventh-grade year due to bullying and other personal issues, and I viewed this as a way to help save me and live for her and save other people so they don’t have to live what I had to go through and lose someone as dear to them as I did.

When we were there [at the board meeting,] it was very nerve-racking. There were so many emotions going on. I was practically terrified. I was still kind of angry seeing the [board members] up there.

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I really had no idea what was going to happen. The way that I felt about it, I was basically putting my story out there so I could help the neutrality policy be repealed, and I was leaving it up to my attorneys to set it straight for me. I hoped that me being a part of it would help it succeed.

Before we found out there was so many things going through my head. What’s going on? Are we going to win? Are we going to be able to get this through? What are the cameras going to do? Who’s watching? Who’s seeing this? All those different things.

But after, when we came out in the lobby with all the cameras, I started crying because I was so relieved and happy and I was proud of all that [Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Sam Wolfe] and everybody helped us accomplish.

I’m glad I saw it out firsthand and not in the news. I really didn’t have any words to say. I’m surprised that any of us really got to talk, because we were all in shock and relief.

Minnesota Moments 2012I’m happiest that [the plaintiffs and I] were able to start a change, able to start something that could help other LGBT students, questioning students, feel safer at school and maybe start, basically, a domino effect to helping future students.

Later I went to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. [for a recognition ceremony at the U.S. Department of Justice]. I’ve also been to New York, but that was for the CNN interview.

This year it’s gotten a bit better. I’ve been able to talk to my teachers a lot more. I’ve had more support from them and also my counselors, too. I’ve been called on more and checked in on.

I guess it made me feel that people would see that we, the students, need help and that we can’t do this on our own and without support. It kind of made us feel like people were caring about us. I feel that I’ve impacted a part of history that could eventually grow, I guess.