Suit filed over school shooting
February 16, 2009 3:21 AM   Subscribe

One year ago this week Lawrence King an openly gay middle-schooler in Oxnard, CA was murdered by a fellow student. In the midst of discussion of the legacy of this tragedy and remembrances of Larry his parents have filed a wrongful death suit. The lawsuit names several defendants including, Casa Pacifica, a youth shelter Larry where lived at the time of his death, the Ventura Rainbow Coalition, and the school in which the shooting occurred. The lawsuit's main contention is that each of these groups are responsible for Larry's death because they "failed to urge the effeminate teen to tone down flamboyant behavior."
posted by Bango Skank (99 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
He was just bigoted against straight people, by being flamboyant. That's how our country operates, now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:27 AM on February 16, 2009


I don't think that's gonna fly. It predisposes the notion that 'flamboyant behavior' is grounds to kill someone, so 'the authorities' should have stopped such behavior with some kind of anti-limp-wrist regulations. The problem is, 'flamboyant behavior' isn't in any way illegal (nor should it be), so even attempting to stop such a thing would have had serious First Amendment implications.

A better idea would have been to sue the suckers for allowing an environment where rampant bigotry was tolerated, resulting in a death. THAT might work, or at least it might work well enough generate a settlement. Which is probably what the parents really want. (And I don't blame them for that.)
posted by jamstigator at 3:31 AM on February 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


(And I don't blame them for that.)

I do. Making up bullshit reasons from thin air to sue people, trying to turn your kid's tragic death into a big payday, is pretty much the definition of scumbaggery.

Win or lose, they'll cost those entities a fortune in legal fees. Assholes.
posted by Malor at 3:46 AM on February 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


To me this sounds like classic victim blaming with a fun new blametastic twist.
posted by JennyK at 3:48 AM on February 16, 2009


By most accounts the kid was pretty obnoxious. And no, that doesn't mean he deserved to be killed. Just a sad story all around. Not sure what the parents are trying to prove with this other than a pay-day.
posted by bardic at 4:05 AM on February 16, 2009


So, let's say you're black and your kid goes to a mostly white school. Some white kid kills your son because he's 'just a nigger'. As parents, you'd just shrug it off? I wouldn't. I'd use every legal means at my disposal to make the school pay and pay HARD, if for no other reason than that doing so would make such an occurrence less likely in the future. Maybe save some lives going forward, prevent a little misery, achieve a little justice. That's not my definition of 'scumbaggery'. If it's yours, well, then I guess we just differ on that point.
posted by jamstigator at 4:07 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


As parents, you'd just shrug it off? I wouldn't. I'd use every legal means at my disposal to make the school pay and pay HARD,

Would you file a lawsuit claiming they should have urged your kid to be "less black"? If so, you'd be getting little sympathy.

A child dies; it is a real tragedy. The parents try to grab at money with specious reasoning; they have now died inside. Also a tragedy.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:11 AM on February 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


So jamstigator, under that scenario you'd happily sue the school and everyone else because they didn't try hard enough to make your son less niggerish?
posted by Roman Graves at 4:14 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What was that post now, about "gingerism" being the last acceptable form of discrimination?
posted by orme at 4:18 AM on February 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Some parents don't deserve the children they are blessed with.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:26 AM on February 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've fixed the links.
posted by vacapinta at 4:30 AM on February 16, 2009


Yeah, it doesn't look as if the parents are suing because the kid wasn't safe, they're suing because teachers didn't stamp out his gayness. I have a hard time seeing that going anywhere in court.

That said, there was a teacher involved who (IMO) had a fairly inappropriate relationship with the kid with regards to encouraging him with his flamboyance. That crosses the line on a lot of levels, but I don't think it's lawsuit-worthy.
posted by bardic at 4:46 AM on February 16, 2009


For an encore they're filing a suit against the city of Baltimore for failing to urge city youths to tone down their nigga-speak.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:49 AM on February 16, 2009


From the wiki:


The bullying continued when King transferred to E.O. Green School in the seventh grade, and intensified when he began showing up to school wearing women's accessories and clothing, high heels and makeup in January 2008; King's younger brother Rocky also suffered bullying because of Larry's appearance.[2] Legally, the school could not stop King from dressing as such because of a California hate crime law that prevents gender discrimination.[2] The school issued a formal notice to every teacher on January 29 via email. Written by eighth-grade assistant principal Sue Parsons, it read, in part:

"We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so. Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and non-judgmental. They don't have to like it but they need to give him his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If you wish to talk further about it please see me or [assistant principal Joy] Epstein."


As a teacher, I can't imagine how a cross-dressing student wouldn't "cause classroom dicruptions." In hindsight maybe a teacher or administrator should have made him dress down simply for reasons of classroom management. I wonder if his parents would then have sued for the opposite reason of this lawsuit.

The murderer also came from a fucked up family background. Lose-lose all around.
posted by bardic at 5:00 AM on February 16, 2009


In hindsight maybe a teacher or administrator should have made him dress down simply for reasons of classroom management.

Or they could have bothered to do their jobs and protect the children who attend their school.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:08 AM on February 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


By most accounts the kid was pretty obnoxious.

Unlike the untrammeled delight to be around that is the average heterosexual adolescent.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 5:16 AM on February 16, 2009 [53 favorites]


Thanks for fixing everything, vacapinta!
posted by Bango Skank at 5:23 AM on February 16, 2009


Wow, this happened a year ago? Was there a post about it?
posted by smackfu at 5:46 AM on February 16, 2009


What a bunch of crap. Blaming organizations at random for not telling someone to act a certain way. If one of these places would have said "Don't act too gay now" they would have been sued for something else. The only real people that the parents might have a case under would be the school (if it happened there). The school normally has a duty to protect the students. I hope the judge throws this case out like a jug of spoiled milk. I second Malor here. This is the definition of scumbaggery
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:52 AM on February 16, 2009


Flamboyant behavior doesn't necessarily get you killed.

case in point.
posted by 5imian at 5:55 AM on February 16, 2009


Isn't keeping the child in the closet the parents' responsibility?

Seriously, no one deserves to be killed for being a part of any minority, even if they are an annoying member of that minority.

Come to think of it, no one deserves to be killed, period.
posted by SteveTheRed at 6:10 AM on February 16, 2009


If anything, kids should be encouraged to be flamboyant. The world is too much of a fucking bore as it is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:14 AM on February 16, 2009 [18 favorites]


Flamboyant behavior doesn't necessarily get you killed.

In my school, acting like Larry would literally have been suicide, probably by humiliated-farmboy-inflicted shotgun.
posted by pracowity at 6:21 AM on February 16, 2009


I don't care how nice it would be if gay kids had an open, accepting and tolerant atmosphere. A typical junior high is NONE of these things. King's behavior was disruptive and clearly causing difficulties for other students. It wasn't worth the lives of these two children and the anguish among their friends and families just to further the assistant principal's social agenda.

I'm not saying that the school should have started giving King electroshock to Cure Teh Ghey or anything -- just that it seems he was going far beyond being openly gay (and transgendered?) into self-destructive territory. Nor should this in any way mitigate the murderer's punishment. However, the school had choices in how to handle this -- it's pretty clear that they chose wrongly.

I do hope Casa Pacifica and the Ventura Rainbow Coalition are dropped from the suit, and that this affects their outreach programs. Many places can still be very hostile to gay teens, and unless they're taught survival skills (e.g. DON'T OPENLY PROPOSITION UNSTABLE BOYS IN FRONT OF THEIR FRIENDS) I fear a lot more incidents like this will occur.
posted by xthlc at 6:30 AM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pretty good argument for school uniforms IMO.
posted by unSane at 6:32 AM on February 16, 2009


This reads like an alternate, depressing ending to James St. James' Freak Show. My high school had That Guy: so flamboyant that even freshmen knew who he was by the end of the first day of school. The one with the parents who didn't get it and knew as little as he could get away with, because he put on makeup in the bathroom before school, then took it off with a speed that would dazzle an experienced theater troupe as soon as the final bell rung. He's the one you'd hear took yet another mysterious tumble down the stairs, courtesy of, well, sniff for the testosterone and you'll find the culprit. He got a good share of beatings, but no shooting. At least one suicide attempt that I knew of, so maybe they thought he'd do it for them.

Was being flamboyant not the brightest thing he could have done? Yeah, but so what? It veers close to the "she was asking for it" territory. I don't think we made society to justify the predation of the brutal on the occasionally foolish and naive.

We'll get a good number of Larry Kings before this stops happening, and I wish I believed that education was the answer, but I have a horrible suspicion that human nature demands a share of gore before any change can occur. Maybe it is a token number of martyrs or some quantity measured in decaliters of blood, but there's something ancient and unpleasant in primate hardwiring that demands a sacrifice before the tribe will change its ways. I hate being People sometimes.
posted by adipocere at 6:37 AM on February 16, 2009 [20 favorites]


Suing the schools doesn't make sense to me.

Xthic... I really can't understand how you can define this behavior as "disruptive", the response to it may have been disruptive, the behavior itself is no more disruptive than my wearing a blue shirt instead of a red one, I think you've got it backwards. And the assistant principal's "social agenda" is more law than choice.....
posted by HuronBob at 6:38 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't care how nice it would be if gay kids had an open, accepting and tolerant atmosphere. A typical junior high is NONE of these things. King's behavior was disruptive and clearly causing difficulties for other students.

Have you ever wondered if, perhaps, the reason jr. highs are the way they are is people like you making excuses for the violence that happens there? Because that's what you are doing.

Some of the football players were incredibly disruptive at my school. They bullied, sexually harassed girls, pulled "pranks", caused property damage to the school and to students' cars and possessions. But had I taken a shotgun to one, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be defending me. Because it's not the disruption, it's who's doing it. And gay kids, apparently, just better not usurp the rights of their bettors to pull stupid shit and get away with it without being killed.
posted by emjaybee at 6:41 AM on February 16, 2009 [22 favorites]


In my school, acting like Larry would literally have been suicide, probably by humiliated-farmboy-inflicted shotgun.

No, that wouldn't literally have been suicide. What you're talking about would literally have been murder as well. Are you suggesting it would have literally been his own fault?
posted by creeky at 6:42 AM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Maybe it is a token number of martyrs or some quantity measured in decaliters of blood, but there's something ancient and unpleasant in primate hardwiring that demands a sacrifice before the tribe will change its ways. I hate being People sometimes.

repeated for tru dat.
posted by CitizenD at 6:44 AM on February 16, 2009


if for no other reason than that doing so would make such an occurrence less likely in the future. Maybe save some lives going forward, prevent a little misery, achieve a little justice.

Except if you accept the parents reasoning, the way to make this 'less likely in the future' would be to crack down on "gay behavior". Hardly progress.
posted by delmoi at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2009


Remember, there is what you claim and what your lawyers claim for you. I can easily imagine a case like you describe going to court, where what is filed on the parents behalf is nothing like what the questions the parents are asking. I have no idea if that's the case here.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, I find this whole thing to induce unhealthy levels of both rage and depression so I'm probably only going to make one post about it. First, given the media's freakshow approach to covering transgender and gender-variant issues I'm not taking at face value reports of how King presented in school. It feels like it's becoming something of a witch hunt, and to me that is reasonable grounds for caution.

Second, the notion that it is the responsibility of LGBT people and those who support them to prevent violence by just doing a better job at conforming strikes me as beyond offensive, and an ugly slippery slope in the wrong direction. It only takes the perception that one might be less than heterosexual to become a target of violence and harassment in schools. My very real fear of the danger of this suit is that it would hamstring school administrators who support queer kids in the coming out process. (Note that this may not necessarily require a broad jurisdictional ruling in order to create a chilling effect among risk-adverse school district.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:13 AM on February 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm not saying that the school should have started giving King electroshock to Cure Teh Ghey or anything -- just that it seems he was going far beyond being openly gay (and transgendered?) into self-destructive territory.

Why not electroshock therapy then?
... For flamboyant Muslim girls who inflame rage by wearing hijab?
... For flamboyant African American boys who wear wrath-inducing gangsta outfits?
... For flamboyant obese teens who incite mockery for their huge girths?
... For huge-breasted teen girls who provoke lust by wearing form-fitting sweaters?

Yes, you are so right. They are going far beyond being openly normal into self-destructive territory.
They must be stopped.
posted by terranova at 7:18 AM on February 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait a minute. Casa Pacifica is a residential treatment facility. It takes a whole hell of a lot to get kids placed in such facilities. So, why was he there in the first place? Was he abused, placed in foster care and then ended up at Casa Pacifica because his behavior was extreme and he was a threat to himself or others? Were his parents placing him directly there because he had RAD? His sexuality may have been the least of the issues he faced. His appearance also may have been the one thing he had control over.

There's a lot more to this story than we're seeing in this collection of links.
posted by onhazier at 7:21 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, I lied.

In the last 20 years, a lot of people have put in a ton of work to get to the point where queer kids could come out in some schools at all. My concern is that it's a hop skip and a jump from holding a school liable for supporting Larry King, to holding a school liable for kids coming out at all.

onhazier: Good catch on that.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2009


I find it weird that the kid was living at a shelter but his parents apparently cared enough after he was dead to "speak up" for him. Did I miss something somewhere?
posted by rubah at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Folks who haven't read the Newsweek article all the way through before deciding how they feel about this are making a mistake. Page three particularly, the lesbian vice-principal's involvement complicates the story in ways that has potential to make things really ugly for other teachers out at work:

When Larry wore lipstick and eyeliner to school for the first time, a teacher told him to wash it off, and he did. But the next day, he was back wearing even more. Larry told the teacher he could wear makeup if he wanted to. He said that Ms. Epstein told him that was his right.

Joy Epstein was one of the school's three assistant principals, and as Larry became less inhibited, Epstein became more a source of some teachers' confusion and anger. Epstein, a calm, brown-haired woman with bifocals, was openly gay to her colleagues, and although she was generally not out to her students, she kept a picture of her partner on her desk that some students saw...Some teachers believe that she was encouraging Larry's flamboyance, to help further an "agenda," as some put it. One teacher complains that by being openly gay and discussing her girlfriend (presumably, no one would have complained if she had talked about a husband), Epstein brought the subject of sex into school...

William Quest, Brandon's public defender, hasn't disclosed his defense strategy, but he has accused the school of failing to intercede as the tension rose between Larry and Brandon. Quest calls Epstein "a lesbian vice principal with a political agenda." Larry's father also blames Epstein. He's hired an attorney and says he is seriously contemplating a wrongful-death lawsuit. "She started to confuse her role as a junior-high principal," Greg King says. "I think that she was asserting her beliefs for gay rights."


bardic: As a teacher, I can't imagine how a cross-dressing student wouldn't "cause classroom disruptions."

As a former teacher, I can't imagine letting a cross-dressed student become a disruption I couldn't deal with.
posted by mediareport at 7:31 AM on February 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


electroshock therapy [...] For huge-breasted teen girls

Get out of my head, damn you.

Ahem.

There was a kid at my school who was openly out, and got all kinds of stick for it. Now, I feel for him. Then, I kept out of the way. Teenage boys are complete dicks. Not sure what can be done about that.

Not letting complete dicks have access to handguns might be a step in the right direction, though. Then at least the poor kid who's trying to swim against the herd (sorry) just ends up beaten, bruised and scarred, rather than dead.
posted by Leon at 7:32 AM on February 16, 2009


Wait a minute. Casa Pacifica is a residential treatment facility. It takes a whole hell of a lot to get kids placed in such facilities. So, why was he there in the first place?

According to the Newsweek article, he was placed there after reporting physical abuse by his foster father.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:32 AM on February 16, 2009


There's a lot more to this story than we're seeing in this collection of links.

Not really. That Newsweek piece is pretty good.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 AM on February 16, 2009


I wore eyeliner in high school. But, then, it was the 80s, and we all did.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:46 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


In general you can't just sue for precipitating someone's death. There has to be some grounds for liability, independent of a causal connection to the death. The people you're suing have to have done something wrong -- hence "wrongful death" suits rather than simply "death" suits. Even in the context of whatever special responsibilities the shelter and school might have had toward the kid, it seems crazy that being insufficiently repressive would be a legal wrong. The suit should be thrown out at an early stage; here's hoping it happens soon.

Interesting variation on the facts: if Larry's "sexually assertive" behavior had risen to the level of sexual harassment, would the school be liable for Larry's death at the hands of his classmates?

on gingerism: FPP, last acceptable prejudices
posted by grobstein at 7:50 AM on February 16, 2009


Yeah, I should have started with the Newsweek piece instead of all the other links.

From the Newsweek piece, we learn he had RAD, suspected Autism and had been medicated for ADHD. We also learn that his birth mother was a drug abuser which lead to his adoption at age 2. I wouldn't be surprised if he had been exposed in utero and had lasting effects from that, too. He had a history of theft and vandalism which, all combined, lead to him being taken from his adoptive parents and placed in a treatment facility.

As for his father hitting him, he would have been removed during an investigation. However, he would not have been placed directly into a residential treatment facility. Even if his parents were cleared of the allegations, which the article does not mention, his behavior while in care could have been extreme enough that it was decided, with or without his parents agreement, that he needed the services of Casa Pacifica.

From the Newsweek piece, we also learn that the other boy also had a some issues.

Still, it is an ugly situation and I still don't think we have a good understanding of all the dynamics involved. I posted earlier to try and point out that more was at play than just his sexuality and appearance.
posted by onhazier at 7:56 AM on February 16, 2009


Some teachers believe that she was encouraging Larry's flamboyance, to help further an "agenda," as some put it. One teacher complains that by being openly gay and discussing her girlfriend (presumably, no one would have complained if she had talked about a husband), Epstein brought the subject of sex into school...

William Quest, Brandon's public defender, hasn't disclosed his defense strategy, but he has accused the school of failing to intercede as the tension rose between Larry and Brandon. Quest calls Epstein "a lesbian vice principal with a political agenda." Larry's father also blames Epstein. He's hired an attorney and says he is seriously contemplating a wrongful-death lawsuit. "She started to confuse her role as a junior-high principal," Greg King says. "I think that she was asserting her beliefs for gay rights."
Well, all that sounds kind of obnoxious, but it hardly seems like something you would expect to result in someone's death.

Also, I think the enforced PC orthodoxy in school is ultimately damaging. When kids see political correctness as something forced on them by authority, then they view that as something they need to rebel against. I know in my high school there was a lot of PC nonsense and everyone hated it.
posted by delmoi at 8:11 AM on February 16, 2009


I know in my high school there was a lot of PC nonsense and everyone hated it.
And then they grew up and realised that it was as necessary as arithmetic, which they also hated.
posted by asok at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, all that sounds kind of obnoxious, but it hardly seems like something you would expect to result in someone's death.

Also, I think the enforced PC orthodoxy in school is ultimately damaging. When kids see political correctness as something forced on them by authority, then they view that as something they need to rebel against. I know in my high school there was a lot of PC nonsense and everyone hated it.


"Obnoxious" and "PC Orthodoxy"? A woman keeping a photo of her partner at her desk, and speaking of her own relationship as a heterosexual would? This is her gay agenda? This is bringing sex to school?

I didn't realize "don't ask, don't tell" also pertains to academia.
posted by terranova at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2009 [15 favorites]


HuronBob:
Xthic... I really can't understand how you can define this behavior as "disruptive"
According to the Newsweek article, Larry wasn't just wearing lipstick and acting sassy. He was chasing boys around and openly propositioning them, specifically to discomfort and embarrass them. His being bullied was unacceptable and was hopefully punished, but his reaction to it was sexual harassment of other kids in the school.

emjaybee
But had I taken a shotgun to one, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be defending me.
Nice strawman. I'm not defending the murderer in the slightest, nor excusing the bullying that Larry endured. But the kid's behavior was apparently beyond "flamboyance" and well into pathological and self-destructive territory. I give him props for standing up to his bullies, but he was going beyond that and escalating the conflict while school administrators stood by and applauded his diversity.

And honestly? Yes, at a certain point, it's better to clamp down on kids' behavior and make them conform. It would wonderful and sparkly if school administrators could just change the hearts of an entire diverse school population at once, but it's an imperfect world. Children must be taught tolerance, bullying and harassment must be punished, but if those things don't work then something has to give. The school's responsibility is to the safety and well-being of its students; if a kid is forced to wear sneakers and take off his lipstick as a result, too bad.
posted by xthlc at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


xthlc: According to the Newsweek article, Larry wasn't just wearing lipstick and acting sassy. He was chasing boys around and openly propositioning them, specifically to discomfort and embarrass them. His being bullied was unacceptable and was hopefully punished, but his reaction to it was sexual harassment of other kids in the school.

Pardon me if I see sexual harassment as being a rather different issue than coming out of the closet as gay or transgendered in a school. It's a big problem that the two are being conflated, both by the lawyers and by the news media covering this case.

Children must be taught tolerance, bullying and harassment must be punished, but if those things don't work then something has to give. The school's responsibility is to the safety and well-being of its students; if a kid is forced to wear sneakers and take off his lipstick as a result, too bad.

I take it as a given that the rights of GLBT students to be reasonably safe from harassment trump those of bullies and harassers. But as even the most trivial forms of expression of queer identity can be either used a pretext for violence, or claimed as such after the fact, it raises the question as to where do we draw the lines.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2009


I think the reaction would have been different if Larry had made a girl the center of his unwanted attention. I'd bet he would have been stopped. Because his target was a boy, and because Larry was also being targeted by boys, it confused the issue and it became a gay thing instead of a stupid-teenage-harassment thing. I think the parents had every right to expect the school to deescalate the situation.
posted by desjardins at 8:54 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I leave my front door unlocked and someone robs my house, presumably none of you would hesitate to tell me that I was foolish not to lock my door. And yet my behavior doesn't make the thief any less of a lawbreaker.
posted by Slothrup at 8:56 AM on February 16, 2009


Sounds like King was pretty into sexual harassment as a tool. Also sounds like his life was pretty messed up because of environment and biology. There are so many wrongs here it is pretty sad. The family suit just perpetuates the wrongs further. The line of thinking behind "He was killed because he was flamboyant" is too much like "She was raped because she dressed that way". Sounds like he was killed because his harassing behavior triggered a wildly inappropriate response in someone else who had issues and access to guns.

Appropriate responses? Discipline for everyone involved in dishing out the harassment, both to and from King.
posted by edgeways at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2009


desjardins: Well again. To me it seems that they are conflating two entirely separate issues. I fail to see how the color of King's lipstick or the heel on his footwear relates to whether he sexually harassed anyone. In my experience, it doesn't except that apparently straight and gender-conforming men have an easier time getting away with it.

And like it or not, "he hit on me" seems to be the standard rationalization for anti-gay violence these days. This makes me more than a little bit skeptical.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a side note: It is interesting that clothes and makeup are seen as so necessary to being gay or transgendered.

It seems, clothes wise, there is much more that is socially acceptable for women, as women are socially permitted to wear just about any item of clothing, jeans, skirts, button down shirts... there are lines, but it is a lot harder to cross them. With men there is such a huge repository of "forbidden" clothes it doesn't take much.
posted by edgeways at 9:08 AM on February 16, 2009


Sounds like he was killed because his harassing behavior triggered a wildly inappropriate response in someone else who had issues and access to guns.

Quite possibly the best distillation of the whole issue. Being uncloseted, openly gay or even flamingly flamboyant isn't grounds for retribution, but in the mind of a kid who is troubled in the first place, persistent sexual harassment by another student in a situation where the school fails to intervene over the course of months sure does build up an awful lot of resentment.

The killer's access to guns turned what I believe to be an inevitable outcome (since the school apparently had no intention of stopping the harassment) from a major fist fight into a shooting.
posted by chimaera at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2009


Pardon me if I see sexual harassment as being a rather different issue than coming out of the closet as gay or transgendered in a school. It's a big problem that the two are being conflated, both by the lawyers and by the news media covering this case.

Actually, it looks like Larry conflated them, too. I'm having a hard time *not* seeing at least some of Larry's behavior as harassment. Look at this again:

She was approached by several boys in her class who said that Larry had started taunting them in the halls—"I know you want me," he'd say—and their friends were calling them gay. The teacher told some of her colleagues that when she went to the office to file a complaint, Epstein said she would take it. "It's about Larry," the teacher said. "There's nothing we can do about that," Epstein replied.

Note there's no indication that the boys Larry was taunting were also the ones bullying him. If they weren't, then it's a horrible mistake on the school's part to ignore the episode. I mean, come on, if ever someone needed help with boundaries, Larry did, and a clear statement from the school that "I know you want me" taunts in the halls were completely unacceptable is the least the school should have done. Setting clear limits to harassing behavior is a far cry from stomping on a queer kids' right to self-expression, and we should be very clear to ourselves about that.
posted by mediareport at 9:24 AM on February 16, 2009


"If I leave my front door unlocked and someone robs my house, presumably none of you would hesitate to tell me that I was foolish not to lock my door. And yet my behavior doesn't make the thief any less of a lawbreaker."

It's a slippery slope though, isn't it? It's a variation of the old "she shouldn't have been wearing a skirt that short in a bar like that" argument.

People who commit crimes, particularly non-ambiguous crimes against persons and property gain from laying some blame on the victim. Yes, one is foolish to make an error of judgment and I suppose there are degrees of foolishness. But that error of judgment is vastly outweighed by someone actively exploiting it.

The reason people make those statements is because they lump those errors of judgment in with situations like not wearing the right shoes and slipping on ice - i.e. downgrading the motives and actions of the perpetrator to the level of physics or chemistry, or non-conscious reasoning.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:27 AM on February 16, 2009


mediareport: Note there's no indication that the boys Larry was taunting were also the ones bullying him. If they weren't, then it's a horrible mistake on the school's part to ignore the episode. I mean, come on, if ever someone needed help with boundaries, Larry did, and a clear statement from the school that "I know you want me" taunts in the halls were completely unacceptable is the least the school should have done. Setting clear limits to harassing behavior is a far cry from stomping on a queer kids' right to self-expression, and we should be very clear to ourselves about that.

Well, let's start with the basic problem that this has apparently become a witch hunt around King and Epstein, and hearsay regarding what did and did not happen should be taken with about a kilogram of salt.

But that's clearly not what this suit is about, not if the Mercury News is correct in saying one accusation is the school system and social worker "failed to urge the effeminate teen to tone down flamboyant behavior." Or if the shelter is being sued for providing King with "cross-dressing clothes and makeup and women's boots."

Neither the suit, nor the accusations of responsibility by the various groups are starting from the reasonable perspective that King crossed the line by sexually harassing McInerney, but from the unreasonable perspective that King crossed the line by coming out, wearing makeup and cross-dressing.

And this is of course ignoring the huge whopping double-standard that treats m/m same-sex flirtation to a much different standard as to what constitutes "harassment."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:40 AM on February 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


this has apparently become a witch hunt around King and Epstein

Well, not in this thread. Unless looking clearly at what Epstein did or did not do in response to complaints about Larry's behavior now counts as witch hunting. Kirk, we agree on so much, but you seem intent on denying there's anything the school could have done to reign Larry in that wouldn't have been a fundamental trampling of his right to be queer.

Oh, and re: the shelter being included, it's worth mentioning that Newsweek noted Larry's foster father "still isn't convinced his son was gay."
posted by mediareport at 10:14 AM on February 16, 2009


Speaking as a survivor of that school system: WELCOME TO VENTURA!

I was expelled for similar reasons after being physically assaulted a few times (somehow spun into my "instigating fights.") It was after Columbine. There still isn't any excuse for not taking action against my, or anyone's, bullies. The argument that cookie-cutter future-lawyer/teacher/doctor/domestic-abuser types' lives shouldn't be upset by my science, plainly, is bunk. But that's VCUSD for you.

What a truly, universally unredeemable rathole filled with the most despicable elements of humanity. As, I'm sure, most school districts' upper management tend to be classified, from time to time.
posted by electronslave at 10:21 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is practically impossible to convince me that this is really about harassment when everyone is obsessed with lipstick and boots. Pull the other one, it's got bells attached.

And even if we take for granted the worst accusations leveled at King's behavior, the only thing that makes it stand out from the dozen other ways that middle school students go to war with each other is that King identified as bisexual.

mediareport: Well, not in this thread. Unless looking clearly at what Epstein did or did not do in response to complaints about Larry's behavior now counts as witch hunting.

I've not seen any information that permits us to look clearly at what Epstein did or did not do.

Kirk, we agree on so much, but you seem intent on denying there's anything the school could have done to reign Larry in that wouldn't have been a fundamental trampling of his right to be queer.

Oh, except that I did suggest that the school could have separated the issue of harassment and self expression back here. But again, there is such a long history of guys accusing queers of sexual harassment as a pretext for violence that I feel some skepticism is warranted as to the scope, scale, and existence of that harassment.

The problem is that you absolutely can't convince me that this is really about harassment when the lawsuit targets one organization for giving King the wrong sort of clothes and boots, while other defendants are attacked for not telling him to tone down his effeminate behavior. Nor can you convince me that this is really about harassment given the ways in which both Newsweek and The Advocate openly questioned whether tolerating King's effeminacy was a good thing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:41 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


this is thorny, for sure. jeez, where to start? school: if hetero girls can wear makeup and heels, then so can homo boys. if it's not okay to for hetero boys to sexually taunt girls, then it's not okay for homo boys to sexually taunt boys. both boys here had psychological/emotional (possibly neurological, in king's case) issues that even if the school was aware of, to what degree are the schools equipped to function as mental health professionals? it is certainly the school's responsibility to maintain discipline, and also to protect the civil rights of the students. and, i guess, to determine a compromise when those mandates conflict? the rainbow coalition: their mission is to support those who are out or coming out of the closet. and to any degree that they, even if inadvertently, contributed to the conflict immediately above, it still falls to the school to resolve the issue. exactly how aware was the coalition of the problems at school, and how sensitive were they to the fact that they might be complicating an adolescent's already tumultuous life? in short, do they have a moral responsibility to the individual that supersedes their responsibility to a larger, and thoroughly just, cause? and finally, the parents: what does this lawsuit contribute to the understanding, confrontation, and eventual resolution of this ugly bramble? seems to me they have covered all their bases, targeting every possibly liable entity.

(and i admit that this comment is essentially a regurgitation of the exchanges above. apologies. but sometimes writing through it all clarifies . . . and then sometimes not.)
posted by barrett caulk at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


and did someone actually post the 'what what (in the butt)' vid earlier?! i thought i had logged onto facebook for a moment.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:54 AM on February 16, 2009


you absolutely can't convince me that this is really about harassment

Well, there's the difference. You absolutely can't convince me this is "really about" one thing, period. It's a complex case with all sorts of blame to go around and lots of questions we can only hope will become more clear at trial. Somehow I kind of doubt that, though. The anti-gay and anti-transgender elements will come shining brightly through, eclipsing any other more thoughtful look at what the school could have done differently to defuse the ongoing situation.
posted by mediareport at 11:58 AM on February 16, 2009


mediareport: Well, there's the difference. You absolutely can't convince me this is "really about" one thing, period. It's a complex case with all sorts of blame to go around and lots of questions we can only hope will become more clear at trial. Somehow I kind of doubt that, though. The anti-gay and anti-transgender elements will come shining brightly through, eclipsing any other more thoughtful look at what the school could have done differently to defuse the ongoing situation.

Ohh, bullshit.

There's a ton of very thoughtful discussion around this issue. Because this isn't just about Lawrence King, it's about the needs of LGBT teens in just about every school system. It's about the issue of inclusion vs. an LGBT high school in Chicago. It's about the Trevor Project, PFLAG and every other group out there that works with LGBT youth. There's even some very good peer-reviewed research out there documenting needs and health outcomes of LGBT youth. We're going on about 40 years now of very intense and thoughtful discussion about these issues.

You don't engender thoughtful discussion about the needs of LGBT youth by holding their advocates legally responsible for the violence and prejudice they face. You don't do it by holding witchunts against administrators based on ungrounded claims regarding their agenda because they are out of the closet. A shotgun lawsuit like this putting advocates on trial for the crime of letting King be effeminate doesn't push those conversations forward.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:41 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I take it as a given that the rights of GLBT students to be reasonably safe from harassment trump those of bullies and harassers.

In this wonderful country, we blame the victims first.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on February 16, 2009


This story is sooo depressing.

I hate that the assistant principal Epstein is getting blamed. It seems as though she was (rightly) protectly King's right to wear make-up, high heels, etc. (As barrett caulk wrote, "if hetero girls can wear makeup and heels, then so can homo boys.") If I were a California school principal, I would have done exactly the same thing. Now Epstein was pushing a gay agenda, because she's lesbian. Sigh.

The taunting back and forth -- I'll bet anything that after any incident reported to the principals, all of the kids involved (King, McInerny, and the others) were counseled and disciplined repeatedly. (Lots of times things aren't reported.) School records are considered private, and the school officials can't talk to the press about everything they may have tried to stop the taunting.

I'm going to crawl under the covers now and weep.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:14 PM on February 16, 2009


counseled and disciplined repeatedly

Actually, I don't know if this was done or not. But the (disruptive) back-and-forth taunting should be separated from the (protected) clothes and make-up. And all of the blamers in the links are melding them together.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:21 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


ClaudiaCenter: Yes, that's my concern. And my big fear is that a finding that school administrators, social workers, and/or the Ventura Rainbow Coalition are liable for not restraining King's gender expression sets a precedent that would be big and ugly in a lot of different ways. It would cripple youth advocacy organizations, hinder educators' attempts to help those students, and would establish passing as an imperative.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2009


“Or they could have bothered to do their jobs and protect the children who attend their school.”

They have to follow the law. In some respects, it seems like the law can interfere with that function. I don’t know any teacher that would want to see any of their kids die.

As it is, it seems were at a stetch between the enlightened behavior and tolerance we seek, the law, and the social situation.

There’s little question there should be tolerance. By the same token, it’s not bigoted to assert some recognition of the practical realities.
I understand the basis for this lawsuit, I disagree with its execution and the expression it takes.

Hell, I think some folks should be flamboyant. I’ve got zero ‘gaydar’ so it’d be easier on me. I’ve got a neighbor a bit away who is absolutely flaming, but he’s got a wife and a couple of kids, so I’m totally clueless. Seems to me there are straight guys who are effeminate. Of course, most folks shy of Charles Bronson seem that way to me, so...

But I’m in the ‘yeah so what? ’ frame of mind as well. A lot of kids make bad decisions at that age. They’re just finding ways to express themselves.
They need to be protected from those while giving them the latitude and freedom to make mistakes or personal gains in order to find themselves.
I was kicking everyone’s ass at that age. Or getting mine kicked (bullies are easy targets so I was a bit of a hero, but y’know, they gang up). I’d probably be in jail now if it hadn’t been explained to me that it’s ok to be angry, but not ok to bust up on people.

You really just don’t know simple things like that as a kid. All you know is what you feel and you act on it.
Same deal for this kid.
It’s tough to learn that one’s own sexuality isn’t threatened by someone else’s. But if you don’t learn it as a kid, where the hell are you supposed to learn it?
That said, if he’s sexually harassing other kids, that would be over the line as well - doesn’t justify shooting him of course.
Hypothetically - were he not effeminate, perhaps imposing, and sexually harassing other kids, that’d be a problem as well, no?
And still no excuse. Ok, ‘she was asking for it’ - sure. So, you’re admitting you raped her - we’re just dickering about motive. Well, you don’t have to deal with motive in court so, end of story. (Given you’ve got a jury that will convict on that and not be sympathetic to that ‘she was asking for it’ B.S.)

Either way - so often we don’t teach important things. How to behave tends to get dropped to whatever’s expedient.
And often the law restricts flexibility for teachers to address those matters. I know it was hard on me losing family as a kid. And I know there were some teachers who wanted to reach out, but couldn’t.

(Don’t get me started on the media bullshit. That’s not sex, eroticism, anything like it. It’s titillation for pruriency sake so they can sell dishwashing liquid or whatnot. It’s deliberately lascivious and provacative yet frigid and phony, like softcore porn really)

“With men there is such a huge repository of "forbidden" clothes it doesn't take much.”

Yeah. I tend to get that when wearing my utilikilt.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:34 PM on February 16, 2009


“A shotgun lawsuit like this putting advocates on trial for the crime of letting King be effeminate doesn't push those conversations forward.”

Yeah, solid point. I didn’t really comment on the componant of the lawsuit going after the VCRA because it’s pretty obviously bullshit.
But there are two dozen other defendants including the school district. I don’t know in what world they wouldn’t get sued. Although this ‘letting him be effeminate’ crap is a damned stupid way to go about it, yeah.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2009


Also, I think the enforced PC orthodoxy in school is ultimately damaging. When kids see political correctness as something forced on them by authority, then they view that as something they need to rebel against. I know in my high school there was a lot of PC nonsense and everyone hated it.

Ah, I don't know. In middle school I'd eat nails if someone told me not to do it, but there's ways to go about everything. Cracking the whip and bullhorning kids to "tolerate each other or else" would definitely elicit a strong rebellious response, yes. But teaching tolerance can be done without making it a tedious lesson in learning the rules. "Kids don't like being told what to do" isn't a good enough reason, to me, to not teach them about proper behavior.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:49 PM on February 16, 2009


SB 777 (prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination) had just gone into effect the month before King's shooting, placing additional burden on school officials to not prohibit King from wearing "flamboyant" attire nor treat his alleged overtures toward other boys any differently than they would heterosexual flirtations.

The 911 post-shooting audio is bizarre: a school employee reports that a victim committed suicide by shooting himself, and that security staff were holding the gun.
posted by terranova at 1:56 PM on February 16, 2009


witchunts against administrators based on ungrounded claims regarding their agenda

I wish you'd actually respond to what I've been saying. I pointed out a specific allegation from someone involved that, if true, points to what I think was a serious mistake on the part of a vice-principal. That's something very different than the vague claims of a nefarious "agenda" which we've seen from some folks involved. Of course we have to wait until trial to learn more, since the VP's understandably not talking, but denying that there are quite possibly legitimate issues surrounding the schools handling of Larry's behavior with "oh bullshit" borders on ridiculously close-minded.
posted by mediareport at 2:25 PM on February 16, 2009


I love the "idea" of preventing taunting and bullying in high school. High school is a society designed to taunt and bully anyone with a view that dissents from the perceived norm.

Groups, cliques, allegiances made in high school form the outlook that will be carried for the rest of one's life. The in-your-face fag or the fag-basher is made between 9th and 12th grade, just like the sleazy used car dealer and the pedophile priest, the date rapist or the next president.

Preventing these tragedies or encouraging the success of some preferable alternative results from enforced awareness of the situation on the part of the administrators and parents.

High school will be over for all, but as the valedictorian will remind us, the memories will last forever.
posted by pianomover at 2:53 PM on February 16, 2009


"Or they could have bothered to do their jobs and protect the children who attend their school."

Teachers teach. Parents should parent. It obviously doesn't work out this way in the real world, but stop expecting us to raise your kids for you. Or else, pay us three times as much, and maybe we'll consider doing your fucking job for you.

Beyond that, I taught at a high school where girls weren't allowed to wear make up or high heels (lip gloss was OK). Why is it abominable to say that having basic rules like that are civil rights violations? Granted, I've only read about this horrible event as a second-hand witness, but it blows my mind that something as simple as a unisex dress-code could have prevented all of this from happening in the first place.
posted by bardic at 3:01 PM on February 16, 2009


Teachers teach. Parents should parent. It obviously doesn't work out this way in the real world, but stop expecting us to raise your kids for you. Or else, pay us three times as much, and maybe we'll consider doing your fucking job for you.

Just three times?

We have established what you are now we'll negotiate the price.
posted by pianomover at 3:08 PM on February 16, 2009


Pretty good argument for school uniforms IMO.

Pretty good argument for fewer guns IMO.
posted by sour cream at 3:10 PM on February 16, 2009


Eh, let's go for five times then. Or ten. The point being, a story about administrators trying to suss out how a 14 year-old kid should demonstrate his "sexuality" really bother me. And granted, it was a complicated issue. But taking a cue from California state labor laws and applying it to day-to-day classroom conduct really strikes me as a fuck-up of enormous proportions.

And the more I think about it, his parents would probably have a strong legal case if they'd shunned the all too obvious "ZOMG U MADE MY KID TEH GHEY" and focused on the more pertinent issues: Why allow any kid, of any gender or gender identification, to wear high heels and make-up to class? Ever?

A sad story all around.

But please, allow me to signify the fag-hating nazi in this thread.
posted by bardic at 3:22 PM on February 16, 2009


mediareport: I wish you'd actually respond to what I've been saying.

Have you considered that it's not just about you? Have you considered that we are talking about a very specific lawsuit and media coverage of the Lawrence King murder? And have you considered that pretending that this conversation exists on some rarefied decontextualized moral plane in which there is not a lawsuit with potentially chilling implications and media coverage that basically amounts to a witchhunt of Epstein is both stupid and dangerous?

I pointed out a specific allegation from someone involved that, if true, points to what I think was a serious mistake on the part of a vice-principal. That's something very different than the vague claims of a nefarious "agenda" which we've seen from some folks involved. Of course we have to wait until trial to learn more, since the VP's understandably not talking, but denying that there are quite possibly legitimate issues surrounding the schools handling of Larry's behavior with "oh bullshit" borders on ridiculously close-minded.

Oh, bullshit again. First of all no one has denied that there are legitimate issues surrounding the school's handling of Larry's behavior. (Not, in my opinion, ones that come even close to justifying this vindictive witchunt of a shotgun lawsuit.)

And secondly, if you had bothered to read, with the benefit of clear-thinking and an understanding of English, you would have caught that the bullshit I called bullshit was your insistence that the only way in which we can have a conversation about this is through an adversarial civil trial. To which, I pointed out that we've had 40 years of conversations about these issues. We have conversations about these issues in hundreds of school districts.

We don't need a lawsuit that threatens a fucking shitload of hard work done over the last few decades to make schools less threatening for LGBT students to have a conversation about this issue. This lawsuit is a big fucking bad thing, and if you still don't see why, it's made clear in my earlier posts.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:58 PM on February 16, 2009


SB 777 (prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination) had just gone into effect the month before King's shooting, placing additional burden on school officials to not prohibit King from wearing "flamboyant" attire nor treat his alleged overtures toward other boys any differently than they would heterosexual flirtations.

I'm not sure how that changes the situation.

Look, what King was doing was sexual harassment, plain and simple. It would have been punishable regardless of his gender, and regardless of the genders of the people he was taunting, and regardless of his orientation, his openness about it, or the clothes he was wearing at the time.

Do you think it would have prevented this if the school had punished King for harrassing McInerney? Well, they could have done that even under the current law. (Me, I'm not convinced it would have helped — but it would certainly have been legal.) On the other hand, if you really think punishing this kid for coming out of the closet or wearing dresses would have prevented his killing, you're missing the point. If he'd gone after McInerney while wearing a goddamn football uniform (or while stuck in detention for wearing a dress again) it would have had the same outcome.

Please don't blame a useful piece of human rights legislation for this stupid clusterfuck. Blame the school, blame Epstein, blame McInerney, blame King's parents, blame American culture — I don't much care there — but don't blame that law.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:02 PM on February 16, 2009


I should make it clear that I'm not blaming King or exonerating McInerney. King's murder was disgusting and totally unjustifiable. I'm just pointing out that letting the school discriminate against gay students wouldn't have prevented it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:04 PM on February 16, 2009


bardic: And the more I think about it, his parents would probably have a strong legal case if they'd shunned the all too obvious "ZOMG U MADE MY KID TEH GHEY" and focused on the more pertinent issues: Why allow any kid, of any gender or gender identification, to wear high heels and make-up to class? Ever?

Is that really important to this case? Even if you made everyone in the entire school dress the same way, he was obviously trying to express an identity. He would have just done it another way. In fact, from the article, it sounds like he already was - it's not as if you can throw normal clothing on someone trying to act flamboyantly gay and it would suddenly not be obvious. The reason this occurred is that someone had a problem with the identity he was trying to express, and unless you prevent him from expressing that identity at all, it's not going to solve the problem.

Now can we please stop trying to prevent jerks from having problems with diversity by aggressively stamping diversity out?
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:09 PM on February 16, 2009


Aww, heck. I apologize for my tone. I shouldn't have gone there and I should probably bail out of this discussion.

This lawsuit and the media blitz focusing on King's gender expression profoundly offends me, threatens a lot of hard work, and is really unnecessary to have conversations about how to support LGBT kids in school.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:29 PM on February 16, 2009


your insistence that the only way in which we can have a conversation about this is through an adversarial civil trial

Good lord. Where on earth did I say that? Given the current situation, in which some participants are refusing to speak because because they're being sued, we have to wait for a trial. But turning that into my "insistence that the only way in which we can have a conversation about this" is through a trial is an absurd distortion, and one that not only puts you in no position to be yelling at anyone else about reading comprehension, but makes it obvious you're not able to talk about this complex, emotional situation carefully.

We're done.
posted by mediareport at 4:30 PM on February 16, 2009


And, upon posting, I'm glad to see the apology, and accept.
posted by mediareport at 4:31 PM on February 16, 2009


When I was in high school we didn't know what flamboyant even was. Yeah, kids called other kids fags. But the irony was most kids didn't really even know what that was. Or what gay was. We couldn't even be correct or accurate in our idiotic bigotry.

Considering the biggest bad ass wrestler in the school turned out was about as gay as Gay Gayerson from Gayville.

I think back now and the guy sang a Donna Summer song for the talent show and wore pink Izod. But he could also crush anybody on the mat. And for good luck he painted his toe nails pink. What? It was for good luck. Nobody ever once thought twice about this dudes manhood. As that would implicate their OWN. Since he could destroy you.

I mean, these gays we heard tell about in 1978, they didn't lift weights like lunatics and win State and go to an Ivy League on Div I wrestling scholarships, right? Right?

Personally I welcome our flamboyant overlords.
posted by tkchrist at 4:46 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now can we please stop trying to prevent jerks from having problems with diversity by aggressively stamping diversity out?

Well. In principle I completely agree with you.

But there is an argument to be made for school uniforms etc to alleviate all sorts of troublesome issues with teenagers. Becuase it does seem to work. As long as it's the same for everybody. I suppose if the kid wanted to wear the 'female' school uniform one would have to respect that choice.
posted by tkchrist at 4:51 PM on February 16, 2009


tkchrist: But there is an argument to be made for school uniforms etc to alleviate all sorts of troublesome issues with teenagers. Becuase it does seem to work.

That stamping out individuality and self-expression does eliminate conflict doesn't excuse it or make it acceptable. Also, aren't you afraid of turning out a generation that isn't able to dress themselves?
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2009


Please don't blame a useful piece of human rights legislation for this stupid clusterfuck. Blame the school, blame Epstein, blame McInerney, blame King's parents, blame American culture — I don't much care there — but don't blame that law.


Who is blaming a law which, apparently, was needed to strengthen a prior protective law?

"Despite an anti-harassment law that took effect four years ago this month, harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation remain persistent and pervasive in California schools. 7.5% of California’s middle and high school students, more than 200,000 students every year, are targets of harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, according to a study released today by the California Safe Schools Coalition." (1/04)


Could you plz cite King's specific actions and utterances that constitute harassment? Also plz cite the complainants and the school authority's responses. (No credit for quoting vague third-party paraphrased quotes from Newsweek).
posted by terranova at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2009


That stamping out individuality and self-expression does eliminate conflict doesn't excuse it or make it acceptable.

Ii don't think there is any evidence that school uniforms stamp out self-expression. Highschool kids by-and-large don't dress to assert their individuality. They dress to blend into norms and to establish cliques and class delineations. If anything youth fashion reinforces the herd. On NPR a ways back I remember just such a discussion between various school district officials and a couple of researchers. Uniforms tended help alleviate some the most negative experiences for individual teens not to mention be cheaper for their parents. Not just make The Man laugh his evil soul crushing laugh.

Also, aren't you afraid of turning out a generation that isn't able to dress themselves?

LOL. Well IMHO The last generation that could dress it self well graduated from college in 1958. Not sure this self-expression thing means what you think it means. Or teaches the lessons it should. Taste wise.
posted by tkchrist at 5:15 PM on February 16, 2009


I keep looking for the 0fag hating Nazi in this post but I can't find her.
posted by pianomover at 5:20 PM on February 16, 2009


Re: dress codes - my high school had a policy that girls could not wear skirts that fell above the knee (this was early 90s, btw). For the straight guys reading this, do you not think that miniskirts would have been distracting when you were a 16 year old boy? It wouldn't absolve you of any harassment, but skirts are not essential to a person's self-expression.

I was good friends with an extremely effeminate boy in junior high who wore "normal" clothes and yet everyone still figured out he was most likely gay (his Madonna photo album probably gave them another clue). He deserved the same protection as anyone else - to be free from harassment and abuse - and from what I could tell, he got that from the teachers and staff. (Boys were punished for calling him names, and AFAIK he was never in a fight.) He did not have some god-given right to violate the dress code or any other rules just because of his sexual orientation.
posted by desjardins at 5:31 PM on February 16, 2009


It seems like this was a collision of two profoundly abused and traumatized kids, set off by America's rigid code of masculinity.

Kids who have been severely neglected and have RAD are not good at social cues-- what I find sad here was that no one took him aside and said, "Look, we may not like this, but in 00's America, there's too much homophobia for you to proposition boys at school. You are putting yourself and the boys you like at risk by doing this. Don't do it-- if you really like someone, you are setting you and your crush up to be harrassed or worse."

It's possible, of course, that they did and he didn't listen.

It's also tragic that it's the case that the killer thought the only way to defend his manhood was to kill Larry King. But you aren't doing gay kids any favor by pretending that such things can't happen. I guess these lawsuits are an attempt to get at this-- but they are absurd and counter-productive too. It's just awful all around.
posted by Maias at 6:00 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


We don't know if King was violating the dress code (viewing the dress code in a gender neutral way).

We don't know if adults spoke to King about his safety (I'll bet some did).

The counselors and school officials can't talk openly about everything they tried to do to address the situation.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:16 PM on February 16, 2009


tkchrist: Highschool kids by-and-large don't dress to assert their individuality. They dress to blend into norms and to establish cliques and class delineations.

I don't remember doing that. Are you sure you aren't so old that you just haven't forgotten what you were like, back then? Also, identifying into cliques is still a form of social expression. I know you worry people will be excluded, but sometimes a whole group of excluded people forms - I think otherwise, they'd probably not find each other, and simply remain isolated.

I don't know I there's much point in debating this, ultimately. The fact is, I view that sort of thing as being fundamentally wrong. Suggesting that it would result in better results is immaterial to me - it's like arguing that eliminating free speech would reduce crime.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:11 PM on February 16, 2009


Mitrovarr, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you aren't a teacher.

Even with a dress code, kids are pretty darn good at expressing themselves. They become the ultimate "rules lawyers," actually.

I guess there's also a philosophical difference between us. School should be about education, first and foremost, and a dress code IMO does a little bit to help prevent obvious distractions. (I can grok the make-up, but high heels? Seriously? A kid of any gender or orientation was allowed to wear heels on any day other than Halloween?) Self-expression is all well and good under the supervening goal of educating, and if self-expression ends up as a distraction, it should go out the window, at least temporarily.

The more I think about this sad murder, the more it does seem like exactly the tragic sort of collision that Maias says it was.

But this was also a situation that was allowed to come to a boil. Lawrence King was arguably stalking the other kid, and if he'd been straight and done the same thing to a girl in front of her friends we'd agree that it was behavior that was totally out of line. (Certainly not deserving of murder, obviously, but behavior that a teacher or administrator might have caught but didn't act on for fear of some asinine application of CA labor law to school children.)
posted by bardic at 12:46 AM on February 17, 2009


bardic: Certainly not deserving of murder, obviously, but behavior that a teacher or administrator might have caught but didn't act on for fear of some asinine application of CA labor law to school children.

I'm struggling to figure out why this particular law is "asinine" or exactly how it applies to this case. What that law says is that King could not be specifically disciplined due to his stated sexual orientation or gender expression. (An example from a religious private school, a private college example, students suspended for coming out, wearing gay pride emblems.) It does not say that the school can't deal with sexual harassment or inappropriate dress across the board.

The description of King's actions are so ambiguous that I'm not convinced they qualify as harassment. But we are unlikely to see any better light on the subject.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:02 AM on February 17, 2009


“Nobody ever once thought twice about this dudes manhood. As that would implicate their OWN. Since he could destroy you.”

Yeah. S’how I get away with wearing the kilt and no one says anything.
(Some folks have said ‘dude, you’re wearing a dress!’ I typically respond - ‘that depends.’ As in - it depends on if you want people to know you got your ass kicked by a guy in a dress or by a guy in a kilt).
Much as I enjoy the breezy nutsack (that’s right, commando) I like wearing uniforms. Not because of the regimentation. But because you don’t have to devote much thought to what you’re wearing the next day. You just have to make sure it’s clean. Hell, were it up to me I’d have sets of winter, summer and fall/spring clothes by weight only.
School uniforms aren’t a bad idea. I never much liked being singled out either way. When we had money, I was singled out as a ‘rich kid.’ When we didn’t, I wore my stepbrothers hand-me downs and a different group of people looked at me differently. But, too, I wore jerseys on game day. That got a lot of attention as well, which was phoney crap. “Oh, you’re on the football team, ooh. Want to go out some time?”
Uh, huh. Like the muscles just weren’t attractive enough when I was wearing just the hanes t-shirt. Screw all that noise.

I think homosexual folks need that fist up on the Olympic medal stand moment that the black movement had. If, say, Rulon Gardner had come out (I mean, he’s not gay, far as I know, but y’know - the big wrestling dude comes out). More folks coming out openly. Making a strong stand, etc.
I’m not taking anything away from folks who take cover. Obviously it’s a damned touchy thing. I wouldn’t impugn anyone’s integrity for not coming out. (Shitheads like what’s-his-name tapping his foot in toilet stalls while publically attacking other homosexuals - vastly different, and despicable, thing).
I think Barney Frank has balls of steel (on this), but he’s got some money, some power, and he doesn’t live in jerkwater.
I don’t know how Gay Gayerson from Gayville’s dad (Butch Gayerson?) didn’t see his kid was gay. I don’t know how I’d respond if one of my kids said they were gay. Probably “Don’t let people give you shit about it.” But the sticky part - how to support them? Really, I don’t know. And I’d probably turn to those organizations to figure out how.
So from my POV, I think these people are in denial. Last thing I’m worried about is my child’s sexual development. They’re not going to have unprotected sex. Not ride in a car with or drive themselves drunk. Take school seriously. Be a person of integrity all that - who gives a crap if they’re wearing eyeliner or timberlands.
There’s a practical component here, yeah, the streetsmarts not to proposition certain guys, etc.
And the law isn’t always handled to address practical realities.

But I’d be more concerned with how a kid brought a gun to school, pulled it out in English class and fired TWO shots into another kid’s head than pretty much any other practical reality here.

I mean I make Charleton Heston look like f’ing Ralph Nader, but my kid wearing a dress in school does not equal your kid getting his hands on your firearms and shooting someone in school if we’re talking failure of responsibilities here.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:37 PM on February 17, 2009


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