Quote of the day

"We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. "

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Slaying of Gay teen prompts diversity education bill

A 14-year old Ventura County boy has been charged with premeditated murder – with enhancements for the use of a firearm and commission of a hate crime.

By Gregory W. Griggs, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 19, 2008

Prompted by the fatal classroom shooting of an Oxnard student that prosecutors allege was a hate crime, a state legislator Monday announced plans to introduce a bill to expand diversity education in California schools.

Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park), chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Hate Crimes, said his bill would supplement existing criminal statutes regarding crimes against victims based on their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

"My bill is focusing on [hate crime] prevention," Eng said after a news conference at his El Monte district office. "We already have bills on the books about proper punishment; mine will focus on dealing with hatred in a school setting."

Eng hopes to create a pilot program by allocating up to $150,000 to establish a diversity and sensitivity curriculum at a few school districts. The pilot program would serve as a model to be used to develop lesson plans statewide.

Prosecutors said Lawrence King, 15, was shot Feb. 12 by classmate Brandon McInerney, 14, in front of other students at E.O. Green Junior High School.

McInerney was charged last week with premeditated murder with a special allegation of a hate crime. He will be tried as an adult. He remains in custody at Ventura County Juvenile Hall and faces up to 50 years to life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors have declined to discuss the motive in the case. But several students said that King had argued with other boys, including McInerney, the day before the shooting in a dispute concerning King's sexual orientation.

Students said King had recently revealed that he was gay and had begun wearing makeup and feminine accessories with his school uniform.

On Saturday, more than 1,000 students and parents staged a peace march in Oxnard to pay tribute to King.

Supporters of Eng's bill said they hope that the notoriety of the case may help get legislation passed in 2008.

"Race and religion are more readily acknowledged as unacceptable reasons for treating someone in a negative way, but when you talk about sexual orientation it's more commonly seen that there will be fear, harassment and, oftentimes, violence," said Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.

"All students need to feel like they're safe," Toma said.

Eng said his bill would help develop a procedure for teachers and administrators to notify counselors or law enforcement when they learn of student harassment that suggests a potential hate crime.

"We need to look at protocols to make sure that students are protected from violence," Eng said.

"Current law requires teachers, physicians and counselors to report possible sexual impropriety with youth, but we don't have protocols dealing with hate crimes that could possibly result in violence," Eng said.

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), California's first openly gay legislator, helped pass a state law nine years ago that banned discrimination against and harassment of gay students.

Kuehl, whose district includes Oxnard, said Monday that numerous programs exist to teach faculty and students about celebrating differences among students and embracing tolerance and diversity.

If Eng's bill helps get such programs adopted statewide, then schools may become safer, Kuehl said.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why these kinds of articles keep getting posted here when I keep hearing that what happened at Mt Si was not a gay issue. ?

Anonymous said...

If you don't get it, I doubt an explanation about it's relevance would be if much use to you.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous number one: I guess I do think this is a "gay issue". The LGBT students were the victims here, but are the only ones trying to stay on message, instead of throwing hateful tantrums and spreading lies around via a pulpit and any media that will listen.

May said...

To Anon 2 and anyone else who reads this:
If you can see in Anon 1's query a true question, then you can also see that your rebuff is not going to open any channels of communication. There isn't some kind of exclusivity among those who "get it". We need to talk! Especially with those whose views are not the same as ours!

And when you take the time to answer the question, you can also explore your own deeper feelings and values surrounding this issue. Probing and clarification is at the heart of learning. This is a learning process.

Kit's question challenged the parameters of Hutcherson's stance on equality, for all or just for some.

It cracked the facade of tolerance that MSHS tries to put forth, and perhaps believes in because of not looking and being really truly aware.

And we see that openness, awareness, being pro-active are key elements for safe schools.

Our goal is schools that are safe for all students, not just for some; for students who don't have to hide and create personas just to fit in to avoid the teasing and ire and violence that lurks in non-respectful environments, those just around the corner or down the hall out of sight, or hidden in a non-funny or hurtful joke.

If you read these articles, you see that the violent acts surprised everyone and yet there were signs and pointers, which, if heeded and dealt with appropriately, could have perhaps prevented the tragedy.

We know that bullying and discrimination are present at MSHS and do not contribute to the school being safe for all students.

Tolerance and compassion foster openness and safety, and these are things that can be taught.

Those articles are just a sort of wake up call. Pay attention. Don't let that happen here.

This whole controversy has triggered discussions we may never have had otherwise. We are facing some things that are very uncomfortable - and I think we are learning.

I hope so.

MtSiParents said...

Well said May!

Tyler said...

Dear God. I must say that as a high school student I think the whole thing is absurd. May, you talk about students that are different through sexual prefferance have to have different personas so that they are not insulted or treated differently. But the same can be said for nerds or goths or guys who read poetry, or people trying to keep there relationshps a secret. Personas are part of school. Im sure if a Emo kid started coming to school and wearing a black cape, and a shirt that said death is the best, argued with all the other students about it, and then flaunted his diffrences, it wouldnt be a streach to think that somebody is going to confront him, attack him, or in serious situations kill him. But this also would not be considerd a hate crime.

Mabey I go to a liberal school, but the only homosexual student I know to have been openly insulted or bullied, was for being really annoying, not for being gay.

The whole situation is being blown out of proportion. This bill is like passing a bill for a class about teaching kids to have good relationships and make kids date eachoter in a controled situation, because some guy comes to school and assults his girlfriend after a break up. I agree taht it shouldnt happen but it is going to. And a class is just going to make kids cinical. trust me on that.

If anybody would like to discuss this with me some more you can e-mail me at tylerxkirtley@yahoo.com