Human Rights Department: Hibbing schools created 'sexually hostile environment'

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The Minnesota Department of Human Rights says an investigation has led them to determine that there is "probable cause" to find that the Hibbing School District violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act and allowed sexual discrimination.

According to the memorandum, the department received several reports that a senior administrator was creating a "sexually hostile environment" for female students and disciplining non-heterosexual students more severely than others. Most of the incidents reportedly happened during the 2012-2013 school year.

Because of the number of complaints, the situation was investigated. The department found that the inappropriate sexual behavior was severe and created a hostile environment that interfered with the students' education, the memorandum says.

The administrator discriminated against female students by inappropriately questioning them, the Department of Human Rights says.

The settlement release notes the administrator advised and questioned students on their use of birth control, their sexuality and their dating life. The administrator also called some female students out of class regularly to talk to them about those topics.

The investigation found probable cause for sexual discrimination, but not for sexual orientation discrimination, according to the settlement release.

Investigators also found that the district did not "act in good faith" when responding to reports that students were inappropriately questioned nor did it comply with its own harassment investigation policies.

According to the settlement, the Hibbing School District will have an expert review its policies and process for making sure it complies with state and federal laws. The district will also train their senior administrator, the school board, superintendent, administrators, faculty and staff on discrimination, appropriate boundaries and reporting responsibilities.

The Hibbing Coalition for Safe and Accountable Schools has organized a community meeting in response to the findings.

Commissioner Kevin Lindsey will meet with parents and community members at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Elementary School library Monday to answer questions.

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