Minn. LGBT Youth Group Not Allowed to Participate in Halloween Parade
Members from an LGBT youth group from Anoka, Minn., say they have been prohibited from joining the city's annual Halloween parade because of what the group stands for, WCCO-TV, the Minneapolis CBS affiliate, reports.
The parade's organizers sent a letter to Justin's Group saying the event had reached its capacity for the number of parade walkers that were participating.
"At this time we are unable to accept your application for the parade," the letter said. "We have reached our maximum for walking units."
But the co-founders of the group said being included in the parade would help show that the community supports gay and lesbian youth.About 30 students had set their hopes on walking in the parade.
"The kids are pretty upset," said Jefferson Fietek, the group's vice president. "We're trying to show these kids that they're part of the community. Unfortunately, it backfired and sent a completely different message."
A parent not connected to Justin's Gift has launched an online petition to urge the committee to allow the group to participate in the parade. WCCO reports that more than 1,000 people have signed the document. According to Minnesota Public Radio, Anoka Police Chief Philip Johnanson said he was not aware that there was an official limit on the number of people that could participate in the Halloween parade.
Justin's Gift was named after Justin Aaberg, an Anoka High School student who committed suicide after enduring anti-gay bullying. Aaberg is one of several gay students who took his own life in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which happens to be represented by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
EDGE reported on study published in the health journal Pediatric that nine students in the school district killed themselves between 2009 and 2010 and many attempted suicide. Health authorities have even labeled the district a "suicide contagion area."
The school district, which is the largest in Minnesota, settled two lawsuits over a policy that was criticized for failing to protect gay students from bullying, the Associated Press reported in May. The district's officials also agreed to enforce several measures that would prevent and address bullying based on sexual orientation in its middle and high schools, including hiring consultants and working with federal authorities to make sure the district follows through with their promises.
Justin's Gift aims to create support for gay youth in the area. Tammy Aaberg, the group's co-founder and Justin's mother, expressed her opinion about the parade committee's decision. "It almost feels like they don't care what happened to him," she said. "They should have learned from it and learned from the kids who are here."
The group says it will hold a Halloween dance as an alternative for the students who are not allowed to walk in the parade.