He Was Tormented Not By Peers, But His Teachers. Guess Who the School Stands Behind?


When Alex Merritt spoke up to reveal two of his own teachers made fun of him, in front of classmates, for thinking he is gay, Merritt probably didn’t think he’d walk away with a $25,000 settlement from the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota. He probably also didn’t think he’d have to listen to the the school district stand behind the teachers.

Last night a “standing-room only” crowd gathered at the school district’s meeting, with plenty of parents outraged over the school board’s decision to defend the two accused teachers (Walter Filson and Diane Cleveland), who Merritt says made jokes about his perceived sexuality and appearance during the 2007-08 school year, which left him alienated and forced to change schools.

The boy’s “fence swings both ways,” teacher Diane Cleveland commented during a class in the 2007-2008 school year, according to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

When the boy wrote a report on Ben Franklin, Cleveland allegedly said before the entire class that the boy had a “thing for older men.” Another teacher, Walter Filson, said in front of other students that the boy “enjoys wearing women’s clothes.” When the boy decided to report on Abraham Lincoln, Filson allegedly said, “Since you like your men older …” the Human Rights report said.

But there’s only so much concerned parents and a Facebook page, with 1,200 supporters, can do, apparently.

The board has so far stood behind the teachers, claiming this is an isolated incident and both teachers have an excellent record with the district. Board chairman, Michael Sullivan said the board will consider all that was said at the meeting.

“There have been specific suggestions that I would hopefully will follow up on and pursue to see if they make sense in the context of this district,” he said.

Know what we have here? A school district protecting teachers who are actually harming children. The board denies the teachers violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, but paid up anyway.

We don’t have to get into the psychology of teens, especially those who don’t fit strict gender norms. To our knowledge, Merritt hasn’t said whether he is gay or straight, Merritt says he’s straight, but that doesn’t matter: Targeting a student shouldn’t be tolerated by classmates, but particularly their instructors. It fosters an environment of ridicule and torment.

For Merritt’s sake, we hope he is straight; he leaves for basic Army training next week.

UPDATE: The teachers have been placed on leave.

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  • vernonvanderbilt

    A little bit of that research stuff will show you pretty quickly that Merritt has already said he’s straight.

  • Fitz

    Well, hey– if they are good teachers in general who occasionally eat one of the herd, that’s to be understood. Right?

  • Clarknt67

    …and the article is correct: ” that doesn’t matter.”

  • Bill Perdue

    According to the Minnesota Star Tribune

    “State law allows teachers to be fired immediately for “conduct unbecoming a teacher, which includes discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

    The Minnesota teachers’ union Education Minnesota took a very backward stance on this case. If their claim that they’ve “always advocated for human rights for all students” is true why don’t they lead the fight to have homohating bigots like Filson and Cleveland fired and banned from teaching for life? Instead, betraying all that unions stand for they represented these two pieces of human garbage to “make sure district policies and contracts are followed.” The Anoka-Hennepin School Board was even worse.

    Contact Education Minnesota at and the Anoka-Hennepin School Board through with your opinions about their abandonment of Merritt, who’s straight, and of GLBT youth in general.

    Ask, as do the editors of the Minnesota Star Tribune, why they weren’t fired and banned from teaching for life.

    According to Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigators these two piglets have a record. They

    made regular ‘gay’ jokes in the classroom, and did nothing to stop subsequent ‘homo and gay jokes’ by classmates, sometimes smiling and laughing after the students comments.”

    The actions of Filson and Cleveland are on a par with sexual abuse in their ability to do lasting harm to students. Merritt was lucky – he was able to change schools. That’s not always an option for GLBT youth. GSLEN, whose annual surveys regularly report that from 75 to 80 percent of LGBT kids are verbally abused which often morphs into violence and that large numbers simply leave school to avoid it. They hit the streets, miss their chance for a good education and the abuse degrades the rest of their lives.

    Fire these pigs and ban them from teaching for life!


    Excellent comment Fitz.

  • robotlovesmonkey

    To be honest, I don’t care how clean a teachers record is .. one incident of teachers joking about a student in front of his/her classmates is enough to suspend them in my eyes. Regardless of truth or the base of the joke be it race, religion, appearance, sexuality.. it is still harassment. If a teacher did it to a colleague they could be up on workplace harrassment charges so what is the difference.

    The teachers should be suspended and the kid deserves a better learning environment.

  • WillBFair

    Of course this is grotesque. But considering the charming treatment I got in school, I can’t help but think it’s an improvement. At least the creeps are being called on this, and maybe they’ll get canned. In olden days, things were a thousand time worse. I’m just saying.

  • Steve Rider

    I wonder if I can guess what brand of religious delusion these two teachers subscribe to. Smells like Jeebus to me.

  • Phil Moore

    Wow – such name calling here.

    I am amazed at how quickly everyone jumps to the fight when the “magic box” in their living room gives them the facts.

    I know the facts and, brother, you don’t know the half of it.

    This straight kid was caught by the school’s liaison officer threatening to bring a gun to school. The teacher turned him in with the officer’s backing and THE VERY NEXT DAY he accused her and another teacher of gay-bashing him.

    So, junior here gets in trouble for threatening to bring a gun to school and mommy comes running down to the office to find out what happened – he needs to think quick! They were calling me names and I couldn’t take it any more, Mom!

    So, now mom goes ballistic – she’s divorced and this is the only man left in her life. It’s Mom who sues. She’s had some financial issues since the divorce and needs to rouse up some cash to stop a foreclosure… she offers to settle if the district will buy her house. [FAIL] they don’t go for it.

    She then asks for $25,000 – the district does the math and sees that this is less than it would cost them to fight it so they sign off on the deal so long as everyone keeps quiet about it.

    The brat gets his check, the teacher receive AN APOLOGY from the principal and everyone goes home.

    The mom burns through the money and then goes to the Human rights commission looking for another payout. This violates the terms of the deal and now they owe the 25k back.

    Who’s the stupid cow here?

    Framing up two teachers so you don’t get into trouble for threatening to kill your classmates, profiting from the lie and then going back to the well when you burn through the cash? That horrible. White trash, both the whiner and his dumb ass mother.

    I live by these idiots – I know the real story. They’re losers that couldn’t get on the day time trash talk shows.

  • Jeton Ademaj


    you need to substantiate those accusations…you’ve made several, with no corroboration.

  • a student

    I can corroborate what Phil said. I was a student in the class when this happened. He was turned in for talking about the gun thing and a day or two later he brings this crap up. Not only that, but the investigation done by the department of human rights? They did the investigation without ever interviewing the teachers. Never contacted them at all. He claimed his harassment started in September, but waits until January (after the weapons violation) to say anything…? It’s fishy. I hear the teachers have attorneys. I hop they sue everybody. By the way, I had both of these teachers when I went to that school and they were AWESOME. Treated everyone fairly and with respect. Very kind hearted people. There is a real uproar with the students and they have started an organization to get the truth out and support the teachers. Anything else you want to know? Just ask! :)

  • vernonvanderbilt

    @a student: However, since you have elected to remain anonymous and not reveal your name, your “corroboration” means absolutely nothing, doesn’t it? Funny how those things work, huh?

  • a student

    It’s called confidentiality. Why spill all the beans? Doesn’t matter, you will see it again, only this kid will be the one to have to answer.

  • Tim W

    Well Vernon, lets take a look at this. The only people I see saying bad things about the teachers and defending this Alex kid is people who do not even live in the state that it happened, nor went to the school that it happened. I went to STEP and graduated in 2005, I had both teachers and the only complaint i have is that Ms. Cleveland gets distracted once in a while. Both were and are upstanding teachers who never let teasing get to a hard problem. what you are not understanding is that STEP is a COLLEGE environment that ALLOWS high school students to attend.

    Also I seem to recall a time were if a male teacher pissed off a female student all she had to do was claim he sexually harassed her. The teacher would be attacked and slandered even if the student was lying. This seems to be the same case since numbers of students both past and at the incident side with the teacher.

  • Pam

    Get generous to GetEqual. Please give today, we know the way.

  • Andrew Furrow

    Awfully “samefag” up in here, as the 4chan goers might say.

    @Tim W
    @Phil Moore
    @a student

    Your writing style and tone are the SAME.
    You have no dog in this fight if you are who you claim.


Comments are closed.