One of the Anoka-Hennepin teachers accused of harassing a student with anti-gay slurs has hit back against charges that she and her co-worker, Walter Filson, subjected him to co-ordinated harassment that, the students’ family claims, forced their son to switch schools. The Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune report that Dianne Cleveland accused Alex Merritt of making up the accusations in revenge for her telling administrators that Merritt had talked about bringing a gun to school.
The PiPress quotes the Anoka-Hennepin school district’s lawyer saying a “vague rumor” about students talking about a gun, but “could not substantiate it,” throwing doubt on Cleveland’s statement that she got Merritt in trouble.
For her part, Merritt’s mother categorically denied that her son would have thought about bringing a gun to school.
“That is totally a lie,” she said. “The whole idea of that is just crazy. If someone brought a gun to school, don’t you think that would be all over the paper?”
She said her son — who graduated high school in the spring and enlisted in the military — would have nothing to do with a gun. “Alex won’t even go hunting,” she said.
Both Filson and Cleveland – who are on unpaid leave, and facing calls for them to be fired – also accused the Minnesota Department of Human Rights of not interviewing them when preparing their definitive report on the incident. The PiPress reports that the Department relied on the school district’s own investigation, which concluded Filson and Cleveland had indeed harassed Merritt, but may not have known the two teachers disputed the allegations.