Nevada passes LGBT inclusive anti-bullying bill, and what that tells us
May 15th, 2015
It is the nature of social struggle that we tend to focus more on the next mile than on how far we have come.
As we approach the deadline for the Supreme Court’s ruling a lot of attention is given to the raving loons in Texas who are putting on a good show of defying the Court and the nation’s constitution (without quite actually doing so). We hear the absurd positions of some of the more extreme GOP presidential contenders ranting about constitutional amendments and executive powers. And we can be tempted to think that the nation remains polarized on gay issues, with Democrats in support and Republicans dead set on opposing anything and everything that would make the life of a gay person have more rights, dignity or respect.
But that isn’t how things are.
Yes, it is definitely true that Democrats are, as a whole, supportive of our community. And it is also true the Republicans are, as a whole, less supportive, especially relating to the legal parameters of marriage.
But though blowhards like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz rant and spew invective, they do not represent all Republicans. And even within positions like marriage equality, there are subtleties and nuances that suggest that today’s GOP is far from the party that in 2004 seemed hell-bent on showing gay couples just how much they were despised.
One such shift is the way that Republicans now view policy differently from personal action when it comes to same-sex marriage. While the numbers are marching steadily towards equality, still only about 32% of Republicans say that same-sex marriages should be given the same legal status as heterosexual marriages. However, in a seeming contradiction, 56% would personally attend the wedding of a same-sex couple they knew. This double position is also reflected in some front running presidential nominees, with some not only saying they would hypothetically go but already have or are planning to.
This suggests that a significant portion of opposition to equality for gay people is rooted in identity rather than personal opposition. They support the traditional definition of marriage being opposite sex as a Republican or as a conservative or as a Christian, but not out of personal hostility.
And I believe that those who feel some identity-based obligation to support a position will find it easy to capitulate to equality once their obligation is lifted. And for many of them, this is the final hurdle to full acceptance and inclusion.
As an example, let’s look at Republican Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada.
Sandoval was a supporter of civil unions, but has never endorsed marriage equality. And he felt some obligation to support the state’s restriction on same-sex marriage.
Yet when the Ninth Circuit ruled the state’s marriage ban to be unconstitutional and determined that anti-gay legislation is to be subjected to an enhanced scrutiny, Sandoval found his obligation lifted. So the State of Nevada ceased its defense of the ban.
And unencumbered by some duty to be anti-gay, Sandoval and the Republicans in his state are now free to approach legislation based on what they believe to be good for the state rather than on obligation to anti-gay policy. As they have just demonstrated.
Governor Sandoval has been pushing the state to adopt anti-bullying legislation that would protect students in schools and hold principals and administrators liable for the well-being of students. The bill specifically includes protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Earlier this month the state Senate, which has a Republican majority of 11 to 10, voted 18 to 1 in favor of the bill. Yesterday the House, which holds a Republican majority of 25 to 17, voted 36 to 6 in favor of the bill.
This does not mean that opposition is dead. Or that politicians in places like Indiana or Arkansas or Texas will not go out of their way to show contempt for gay people. Nor does it suggest that Republicans are now somehow on par with Democrats when it comes to respect and inclusion.
But it does suggest that once the nation has crossed the great hurdle of marriage equality (and unless we find some foolish way to alienate the public), the changes in public policy, partisan posturing, and social inclusion will be significant.
Do not mess with ‘flamboyant’ Dynasty or his Mama. Just don’t.
July 10th, 2013
Darnell “Dynasty” Young, a 17 year old gay kid, attended Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis. And last year, Dynasty got a bit tired of being bullied and harrassed at school – and of the administrators telling that if he didn’t want to be bullied he shouldn’t be so flamboyant.
So he turned to someone much more pragmatic (and kid savvy) than his school administration: his mother. And Dynasty’s mother, Chelisa Grimes, had a solution. Like many a parent, she had the philosophy that if someone is picking on you, you find a way to defend yourself.
And when complaining to the administration didn’t work, she sent Dynasty to school with a stun gun.
And, on April 16, 2012, when Dynasty was cornered by six kids threatening to beat him up, he pulled out his stun gun, pointed it at the sky, and set off a stun charge. The bullies quickly discovered that they had other compelling engagements and couldn’t hang around to beat up Dynasty this time.
The school’s response was to expel Dynasty. As it turns out, while the school does not have a zero tolerance policy for beating up gay kids, it does have a zero tolerance policy for using quasi-sorta-gun-like-items to defend yourself from physical harm.
Dyanasty’s mama wasn’t buying it. (CNN)
Grimes told CNN’s Don Lemon on Sunday that she would do it again, despite the threat of expulsion.
“I do not promote violence — not at all — but what is a parent to do when she has done everything that she felt she was supposed to do … at the school?” Grimes said. “I did feel like there was nothing else left for me to do but protect my child.”
“I brought the stun gun ’cause I wasn’t safe,” the teen said.
So Grimes and Young sued the district. The asked whether “butch up, young man” was really the appropriate response to a kid being taunted and harassed and subjected to threat. And, this week the school admitted that maybe that was a good question. In fact, it was the $65,000 question. (WISHTV)
An openly gay Indianapolis teenager who was expelled for bringing a stun gun to school to protect himself from bullies has agreed to settle his lawsuit against Indianapolis Public Schools for $65,000.
The proposed settlement filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis also calls for the school district to remove all references of Darnell “Dynasty” Young being expelled from school from the 18-year-old’s academic record.
So to all you principals out there who look the other way when some gay girl gets beat up, or who tells some gay boy that if he wears womens boot that he deserves what he gets – and there seems to be a lot of you – listen up. I have some advice.
The next time you go to dismiss some flamboyant little queeny thing, give that a second thought. The next time you ignore a parent who is desperate to protect their child, you might want to pay attention. Because that little boy – and his mama – may be a whole hell of a lot tougher than you think they are.
Update: I also want to point out that Arsenal Tech has a higher than 50% dropout rate. But this young gay bullied black young man is so determined to have an education that he fought for that right. And he learned to value education somewhere – obviously somewhere other than his school.
Bad, But In Some Ways Better: GLSEN School Climate Survey Shows Mixed Results
September 5th, 2012
Moments ago, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released its 2011 National School Climate Survey, which includes responses from 8,584 students from all fifty states and the District of Columbia. GLSEN has been conducting the survey now for over a decade, and this latest survey has found, for the first time, decreased levels of biased anti-LGBT language and decreased levels of student victimization based on sexual orientation. The survey also found increased levels of student access to LGBT-related school resources and support.
But a quick look at the survey when compared to 2009 shows that the situation is a classic glass-half-full/half-empty situation. Despite the improvements, LGBT students continue to experience hostile climates in the schools. According to the 2011 survey, 81.9% of LGBT students said they were verbally harassed, 38.3% were physically harassed and 18.3% were physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. (In 2009, those same figures were 84.6%, 40.1% and 18.8% respectively.)
In addition, 63.9% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.1% were physically harassed and 12.4% were physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression. Those figures are virtually unchanged from 2009. The 2011 survey also found that 63.5% reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43.9% felt unsafe because of their gender expression. Those numbers are actually higher from 2009. About a third reported skipping class and a third reported skipping an entire day because of safety concerns.
The survey found that having a Gay-Straight Alliance, an LGBT-inclusive curriculum and anti-bullying policies which specifically addressed sexual orientation correlated with an improved school environment. The presence of teachers and other school personnel who were visibly supportive of LGBT students also resulted in higher grade point averages and lower absenteeism among LGBT students. Unfortunately, only slightly more than half could identify six or more supportive teachers, less than half attended schools with GSAs, and only about 7.4% attended a school with an anti-bullying policy which specifically addressed sexual orientation and/or gender expression.
Support is sweeter when it comes from unexpected places
August 23rd, 2012
My very first real job was at an auto-body shop. They were all really great guys and I have nothing but appreciation. But … well, when I was 16, auto body shops were not the single most gay supportive places in town.
Which is what makes this so sweet to me:
Shirvell’s lawyer had a fool for a client
August 15th, 2012
Do you remember Andrew Shirvell? He was the Michigan assistant attorney general who became obsessed with Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan’s student body president, and starting stalking him and ranting on a blog about him. Here’s a reminder from September 2010:
Of course eventually the Attorney General fired him and he was sued by Armstrong for inflicting intentional emotional harm.
Well finally Shirvell had his day in court.
And do you recall the old phrase about the lawyer who represents himself having a fool for a client? It turns out that it’s true.
Shirvell, who is representing himself, questioned himself on the witness stand for more than an hour this morning, trying to convince the jury he was upset by Armstrong’s push for gender-neutral housing at the school. Shirvell graduated from U-M in 2002.
“My blog was political speech,” Shirvell testified. “I viewed my blog as a movement to get Mr. Armstrong to resign. I personally felt Mr. Armstrong was too radical for the position.”
And though he rambled about Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda”, Mr. Armstrong’s attorney got Shirvell to admit that he hadn’t written about any of the others involved in pro-gay policies. Or lurked in their bushes. Or even complained to the school’s administration.
I think we all can surmise why it is that Shirvell focused his attentions on the rather handsome Armstrong. In fact, I think the only person who Shirvell has fooled is himself.
More callous than Marie Antoinette
April 16th, 2012
As the lore goes, she was told about the plight of the French people who were suffering during a famine. And upon learning that there was a shortage of bread, a staple of the diet, she said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”. And since that day, the term “let them eat cake” has been a symbol of the callousness or obliviousness of the wealthy elite.
Actually, she probably never said it. A story written when she was a child (living in Austria) was combined with anti-royalist sentiments and, as is often the case in politics, actual truth was far less interesting than a story too good not to repeat. The real Marie was less villainous than the cartoon characterization and was reportedly concerned about the plight of the people and generous with charity. Had she also not been even more generous with herself while France was in financial disarray (or had royalists quelled the revolution) history would be kinder.
But whichever noblewoman (real or fictional) uttered the phrase, they don’t deserve to be the symbol of callousness.
The response reflects on a character so self-absorbed that it isn’t aware of the plight of others and so oblivious of the lives outside their experience that they make absurd assumptions. But at least she offered a solution. An ignorant foolish solution perhaps, but one that hints that she cared at least some little bit about their plight.
Which is more than I can say about some today in the anti-gay movement.
I don’t think we need to reiterate here that there is an epidemic of bullying in schools across the nation. At this point, it is not speculative or alleged or partisan. On this, voices as diverse as Lady Gaga and Mike Huckabee can agree.
And it is simply irrefutable that gay students are more likely to be a target than are most students. And after several kids who identified as gay (or were assumed to be) took their own lives, our community coalesced around a serious effort to reduce the terrorism that gay kids experience. One of the efforts implemented is to encourage schools to establish anti-bullying programs that specifically address anti-gay bullying. And related to that is an annual Day of Silence to bring attention to the problem and the encourage students and staff to take this problem seriously.
But solutions are not easy or obvious. Even schools that have implemented anti-bullying programs still experience levels of bullying that would have been considered unacceptable a decade ago. And people of good intention may differ on the response.
Some religious conservatives also have been worried that in their advocacy for gay kids, schools might not fully consider the consequences of some messages. Many people of faith have restrictions on sexual behavior as part of their moral code and teach their children certain rules about sex outside of marriage. Sometimes those outside the faith do not understand the nuance of such teachings. And should a public school misrepresented such teachings or declared them “harmful” and those who followed such rules as “bigots”, it could make targets out of religious kids.
Replacing gay kids as a target for scorn and humiliation with Christian kids doesn’t solve the problem, and it is valid to raise that point. And, indeed, some school districts listened to those views and were able to bring in gay people and pastors and people of diverse communities to make sure that the programs addressed everyone’s concerns and were supported by the full community. This is an area about which there should be no disagreement and, when all parties want to work together consensus is possible.
Alternately, some chose to respond directly by participating in a Golden Rule Pledge. Rather than discuss the possible implications, they sought to offset any possible negative views of Christian kids by visibly breaking the association with bigotry. By having religious kids say, “Yes, we agree, no one should be bullied and we promise to stand with you and protect you”, Christian kids could oppose the harm without having to defend their own values.
But there were those among conservative Christianity who had a less generous response. For example, Dr. Michael Brown writes today about the Day of Silence in a way that makes it clear that kids bullied to death are the least of his concerns.
Brown sets the tone by starting with dishonesty:
On April 20th, in thousands of schools across America, your hard-earned tax dollars will help underwrite the homosexual indoctrination of your kids.
Setting aside the absurd notion that protecting children from bullying is the same as “homosexual indoctrination of your kids”, the Day of Silence is not funded by tax dollars. It doesn’t really cost much of anything for students to be silent for the day and the direct costs of posters and other publicity are not paid by the schools. I suppose that one could argue that anything that occurs on a school grounds is “underwritten” by “your hard-earned tax dollars”, but by that logic it would be much more truthful to say, “your hard-earned tax dollars help underwrite the abuse of gay kids today”.
Dr. Brown is a careful writer. He usually avoids sentences or short passages that can be extracted from his writing to illustrate his animosity. He doesn’t use words like “pervert” or “abomination”. He works with innuendo and insinuation and plays on the existing biases of his target audience. Consider:
But don’t some schools already have generic, anti-bullying programs in place along with special, daylong events to highlight the destructive effects of bullying, a subject that should concern all of us? Of course they do, but that’s not enough. GLSEN insists that a special focus must be put on LGBT kids, as if bullying a gay kid was worse than bullying a fat kid.
It’s clever. In one sentence absent of any slurs he manages to insinuate that gay people are demanding special consideration, that any attention given to gay bullying takes away from other targets of bullying, and that gay activists are unfairly demanding resources that aren’t needed.
Of course, that isn’t close to true. As the epidemic of bullying illustrates, most schools have, at best, a perfunctory anti-bullying program (that isn’t implemented with seriousness) coupled with a devoted commitment to denial. The movie Bully provides an illustration of a child being tormented daily on a school bus while administrators assured the documentarian that the other children were “good as gold”.
And as any gay kid – and most fat kids – will tell you, bullying of gay kids really is worse. Fat kids have families to turn to while gay kids often do not have that option. And on most campuses there is an agreement that calling a fat kid names is “a bad thing to do” while many children attending churches of which Dr. Brown would approve do not share the belief that saying “you’re an abomination and going to hell” to gay kids is “a bad thing to do”.
But that isn’t really the most telling point about that paragraph. I’ll come back to that.
He goes on with artificial concern about ex-gays being excluded from the Day of Silence (as though there has ever been a single kid to identify as ex-gay who was in any way excluded from this student organized event). He rants about a nameless black teacher who “did not approve of equating gay activism with the civil rights movement.” He makes the usual intentionally dishonest false equation in which the balance to “don’t bully gay kids” is “a religious or moral objection to homosexuality”.
But all of that is just filler and fluff; it’s what he didn’t say that is worth noting. At no point in his 869 word essay did Dr. Brown ever express the slightest concern about the plight of tormented gay kids or provide any alternate solution. His position – that which is opposite of GLSEN’s position, can be seen in the paragraph we noted above.
Of course they do, but that’s not enough.
Dr. Brown and GLSEN are both aware of the high rate of gay teen suicides. Dr. Brown and GLSEN are well aware that openly gay teens – and even those suspected of being gay – are tormented at rates far higher than any demographic. Including the “fat kid” demographic. GLSEN believes that the current status is “not enough” and Dr. Brown disagrees.
Now Dr. Brown would never use the words. He would never say them out loud. And he’ll likely send me an email telling me that I’m misrepresenting his position and putting words in his mouth. But the message is clear.
When told that due to the famine the peasants had no bread, Marie Antoinette’s solution was, “let them eat cake”. When told that gay students are being bullied to the point that they kill themselves, Dr. Michael Brown’s answer is, “let them die.”
Marie Antoinette got a bad rap.
Anoka-Hennepin School District Agrees To Anti-Bullying Settlement
March 6th, 2012
A school district outside of Minneapolis agreed last night to a settlement in which the district will implement specific anti-bullying measures to address a rash of suicides at the school district over the past few year. In a 5-1 vote, the Anoka-Hennepin School District agreed to settle a Justice Department civil rights investigation and a lawsuit filed by six former and current students.
The settlement creates a five year partnership between the school district, the Justice Department and the Department of Education to establish new policies and programs to address school bullying generally and anti-LGBT bullying in particular. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the settlement will:
- Retain a consultant on sex-based harassment to review its policies and procedures.
- Develop and implement a plan for preventing and addressing sex-based harassment of students in middle and high school.
- Enhance training of staff and students on the issue.
- Retain a mental health consultant to address needs of students victimized by harassment.
“This partnership will strengthen the support that the district provides to all students, including students who are gay or perceived to be gay,” said school board Chairman Tom Heidemann. He added that the consent decree builds upon the work the district already has done to step up its anti-bullying efforts, including staff training.
The settlement comes after more than a year of controversy in which the school board initially denied there was a problem despite nine suicides taking place over the previous two years. Not only that, but the board also instituted a policy backed by Focus On the Family and a local conservative parents group requiring teachers to remain “neutral” in any discussions on sexual orientation, a policy which effectively prevented teachers from adequately addressing anti-gay bullying in particular. At one point, the Parents Action League demanded that ex-gay therapy be presented to students as a means of making what they thought the real problem was — the existence of gay kids — go away.
The lone dissenter in last night’s vote, school board member Kathy Tingelstad, resigned after casting her no vote.
Ohio Teen Speaks About Bullying
February 3rd, 2012
We reported last October about fourteen-year-old student Zach Huston’s vicious beating at Scioto-Union High School in Chillicothe, Ohio. The attack occurred two days after the attacker, Levi Sever, 15, posted anti-gay comments on Zach’s Facebook page. He also posted video of the attack itself on Facebook. Zach was left with a chipped tooth and possible concussion. The attacker was suspended from school for three days. After public outcry over the slap on the wrist, local prosecutors intervened. Sever was arrested, tried and sentenced to serve 90 days in a juvenile detention center.
Zach and his mother, Becky Collins, have appeared on a video released by the ACLU:
Zach and Becky describe years of unending discrimination and harassment that Zach experienced at school based on his perceived sexual orientation. As the years went on, the abuse only escalated. Becky’s pleas to school officials to protect her son were ignored.
According to the release from the ACLU, they are working with the high school to implement anti-bullying policies to address problems like this in the future
Rolling Stone takes on Anoka-Hennepin
February 2nd, 2012
Those who read here know the name Anoka-Hennepin School District. You know that this district, Michele Bachmann’s home turf, has the worst record in the nation for anti-gay bullying and for student suicides. You know that the school board is determined not to notice the connection or do anything which will lessen the terror for the gay students forced to attend their schools. You know that I personally believe that the members of the school board along with a few principals should be brought up on conspiracy charges and jailed for torture.
Rolling Stone investigates Anoka-Hennepin. When you are done reading you just may agree with me.
Thomas More Law Center – a rare glimpse at evil
December 19th, 2011
The Thomas More Law Center is the Catholic version of the Alliance Defense Fund. Created by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan as part of his billion dollar campaign to promote Catholicism (of the more fanatical Mel Gibson variety), it exists to defend the “religious freedom” of Catholics, a notion which seems to be based on the presumption that Catholics have the God-given freedom to dictate all matters of social or civil policy. Among the sparks of brilliance that have graced its board have been presidential candidates Alan Keyes and Rick Santorum.
Thomas More Law Center is perhaps best known for losing a lawsuit seeking to force Planned Parenthood to warn about (unproven) links to breast cancer, losing the defense of a website which encouraged the murder of abortion doctors, losing a case against Ann Arbor Public School District to stop it from providing insurance benefits to same-sex partners, seeking to interfere in Judge Roy Moore’s failed attempt to thwart the courts and erect a huge “Ten Commandments monument” at the Alabama Supreme Court, shopping school districts until it found one willing to go to court to defend “intelligent design” and then losing the case, unsuccessfully suing Los Angeles County when it removed a small cross from the county seal, and authoring an amendment to repeal non-discrimination protection in Gainsville, FL, which the voters soundly rejected.
Though they have won some cases, the term that comes to mind isn’t “winners”.
While they rely primarily on the pro-bono contributions of devout Catholic lawyers, Richard Thompson is the Law Center’s President and Chief Counsel and the current mental giant directing the organization’s path. Thompson did pass the bar exam in Michigan so he can’t literally be dumber than a box of rocks. But when it comes to matters where his faith and reality conflict, he and the other Thomas More lawyers seem to contain the ability to believe and argue the absurd. In fact, their irrationality is only outpaced by their smug contempt and their shocking nastiness.
Take, for example, his latest denunciation of a gay teacher in Howell, Michigan. First let me give you the back story
- On October 20, 2010, teacher Jay McDowell wore a purple shirt to class to express solidarity with students who are bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay or lesbian. Specifically, McDowell was responding to the suicide of Tyler Clementi two weeks earlier.
- This led to a discussion about bullying and why it should be opposed.
- One student, who had come to class with a Confederate Flag belt buckle was asked by McDowell to remove the item (she did).
- In response, student Daniel Glowacki declared that he opposes rainbow flags because, “I don’t accept Gays. It is against my religion. I am Catholic.”
- McDowell attempted to explain how “I don’t accept” followed by any group was disruptive and when the student refused to back down, suspended him and another student from the class for the day.
- The school board responded by accusing McDowell of bullying the students, of denying their right to “not accept” their fellow students and in response to his defense of gay students from being bullied (or “not accepted”), they order him to “cease from engaging in the promotion of your personal social issues.”
But that just wasn’t good enough for the budding gay-not-accepter or his mother. No, he has been “blasted” as being a bigot and accused of hate. So on behalf of him and his mother, Thomas More is suing the school district. They want the school’s harassment speech policy to be declared unconstitutional, and that the district’s “training, supervision, policies, practices, customs, and/or procedures that promote a school environment that favors homosexuality and disfavors religious viewpoints that oppose homosexuality violate [bullys’] fundamental constitutional
rights to freedom of speech and the equal protection of the law.” Oh, and money.
The Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit yesterday afternoon against the Howell Public School District located in Howell, Michigan, and teacher, Johnson (“Jay”) McDowell, for punishment and humiliation heaped on a student after he expressed his religious belief opposing homosexuality when asked by the teacher during class.
By taking a look at this lawsuit, we can see not only why they fail so very often but also a glimpse into mindset that is so shockingly based in hatred and contempt that it distorts reality and leaves its victims incapable of rational thought.
Let me pause for a moment here to remind you that the Thomas More Law Center is a law firm, and thus is supposed to base its argument in fact and law. It is also a Catholic advocacy group and is supposed to base its ideology in the teachings of Christ and the traditions of the Church.
It is not the KKK.
I remind you of this because as we delve into the lawsuit presented in federal court, you may find yourself wondering about the degree of depravity and viciousness necessary to file this piece of filth. You may find yourself breathless and confused at the contrast between the Catholic Church declaring this to be a time of peace on Earth in which we reflect on a God who loves us, and the unvarnished hatred spewed in this document.
To introduce you to the mindset, let me present the words of Richard Thompson on this matter, (WorldNetDaily)
“It defies common sense for schools to ban all sorts of unhealthy foods while at the same time promoting the homosexual lifestyle, which hard statistics show increases drug abuse, suicides and reduces the life expectancies by several years. Schools that promote such lifestyles are engaging in a form of child abuse,” he said.
In this direct comparison, Thompson asserts that just like eating certain foods, “the homosexual lifestyle” (we’ll get to his definition later) directly causes increased drug abuse, suicides and reduced life expectancies. Cause and effect. Just like avoiding bad foods, avoiding “the homosexual lifestyle” can keep one from these risks of increased drug abuse, suicides and reduced life expectancies.
I don’t know what “hard statistics” he is referring to for his drug abuse claim. And I’ll discuss suicide in a moment. But those who read here know full well that his claim that “the homosexual lifestyle… reduces the life expectancies by several years” is a pernicious lie based on fraudulent “research” by Paul Cameron which has not only been proven to be false (in no small part by Box Turtle Bulletin) but has been denounced by all reputable scientists and scholars, including a number of conservative Christians. It is not fathomable that Thompson is unaware of this lie, and so I can only conclude that lying is intrinsic to his nature and a reflection of his moral condition.
But that is just the polished up portion presented for public consumption. In the brief – which is assumed not to be of interest to the average person – true evil arises.
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines evil thusly: “Evil – In a large sense, described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among humans beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds.” It is a term that is fraught with religious overtones. For our secular readers, it can seem gothic or irrelevant to modern discourse. Comical, even.
But as a Christian I take the concept seriously, and I don’t use the word “evil” lightly. Though it sounds like a phrase from a bad 70’s horror flick, evil exists. And I believe that as we progress you will understand why I see this intentional abandonment of decency, love, compassion, and all that is good, when placed in a religious context, as nothing other than evil.
I’ll only offer three passages from the brief. You can read the rest if you can stomach it. First is how Muise set up the scenario.
34. On or before October 20, 2010, the School District permitted teachers at Howell High School to sell purple t-shirts with the slogan “Tyler’s Army” to other students and teachers to promote the 2010 Spirit Day at the high school.
35. “Tyler’s Army” is a reference to Tyler Clementi. While a freshman at Rutgers University, Tyler had sex with another male student in his dorm room. Tyler’s homosexual acts were captured on video and posted on the Internet. Embarrassed and ashamed, Tyler committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.
For clarity, let’s recall that when TMLC says Tyler “had sex” and discuss his “homosexual acts”, they were limited to kissing and hugging. Further, there is no evidence – strike that – there is no suggestion of any possible hint at a likelihood that Tyler was “ashamed”. Ashamed means that Clementi felt remorse for actions that he took, that his conscience convicted him of his behavior that was dishonorable. Clementi wasn’t ashamed – he had no reason to be.
Tyler committed suicide because a cruel person, his roommate Dharun Ravi, video taped him in a private moment and intentionally subjected him to public humiliation.
But the Thomas More Law Center exonerates Ravi. It sees the villain in the situation clearly: to TMCL the real person who is “to blame” is Tyler Clementi, for his “destructive lifestyle”. Bullying isn’t the problem, it is to be commended. Bullying is to be protected. Bullying is godly.
40. The purpose of the “anti-bullying” day, the “Tyler’s Army” t-shirts, and the movie was to indoctrinate students into believing that homosexuality is normal and to shift the blame for the destructive lifestyle of homosexuals to those who believe it is wrong and immoral.
Only those who hate homosexual persons – not “the sin”, not “intrinsic disorder”, but the actual gay people – could find virtue in bullying. Only truly those consumed by hatred would find excuses for the behavior of Ravi or suppose that Clementi experienced “shame”. Only those who presume as a matter of course, contrary to all evidence given by gay people, that homosexuality inherently produces shame would make such a claim.
But the real revelation of the mindset of Daniel Glowacki, his mother Sandra Glowacki, their TMLC attorney Robert Muise, TMLC head Richard Thompson, and those who support, celebrate, and promote the Thomas More Law Center can be found in paragraph 39 under “Statements of Fact”.
Here on the Glowackis’ behalf, Muise is discussing the situation in public schools in which young gay kids – and kids who didn’t identify as gay but were tormented with homophobia – have been bullied to the point where they can’t take it any more. These kids include:
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover – Springfield, MA. In April 2009, eleven year old Carl tied an electrical cord around his neck and hung himself. He had been subjected to a constant barrage of harassment at school where he was taunted and threatened by classmates for weeks, calling him gay and making fun of his clothes, before he killed himself.
Eric Mohat – Mentor, OH. April 2009. The seventeen year old was a quiet but likable boy, who was involved in theater and music> He was called “gay,” “fag,” “queer” and “homo”, often in front of his teachers, who did nothing. When one bully said publicly in class, “Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you,” he did.
Billy Lucas – Greensburg, IN. September 2010
The 15-year-old never told anyone he was gay but students at Greensburg High School thought he was and so they picked on him.
“People would call him ‘fag’ and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he’s different basically,” said student Dillen Swango.
Students told Fox59 News it was common knowledge that children bullied Billy and from what they said, it was getting worse. Last Thursday, Billy’s mother found him dead inside their barn. He had hung himself.
Asher Brown – Cyprus, TX. September 2010. Asher was thirteen when the straight-A student put the barrel of a gun to his head. He couldn’t take any more of the gay taunts, of kids performing mock sex acts on him in his physical education class. Unlike most others listed here, Asher actually identified as gay and was working with his family to come to terms with his orientation. On the last week of his life he was kicked down a flight of stairs. When he tried to retrieve his book bag, other students kicked his books away. The school “turned up no witnesses.”
Seth Walsh – Tehachapi, CA. September 2010. Seth had been picked on for years because he was gay. School administrators said they have an anti-bullying program in place, but schoolmates said staff at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi offered Seth no protection or guidance. After years of abuse, Seth then thirteen, tied a rope around a tree branch.
Tyler Clementi – Rutgers University. September 2010. Tyler had a date and asked his roommate if he could have the room to himself. His roommate agreed, secretly turning on a camera connected to his computer and rushing to another student’s room where they broadcast Tyler’s encounter on the internet. After having his private life exposed – and tweeted about – Tyler, eighteen, leaped to his death in the Hudson River. He is the only one whose “homosexual acts” got as far as a kiss.
Lance Lundsten – Alexandria, Minnesota. January 2011. After Lance took his life by means of a drug overdose, the local newspaper began a campaign of disinformation and lies – with the Lundsten family’s consent – seeking to claim that Lance died of a heart condition. It went so far as to scold his classmates and “anti-bullying groups” for reflecting badly on the city and the school by revealing that Lance had been bullied and tormented.
Jamey Rodemeyer – Williamsville, NY. September 2011. Jamie was always under pressure because of struggles with his sexuality. Jamey’s mother Tracy Rodemeyer said, “So he hung around with the girls a lot, so then the teasing started happening like ‘Oh you’re such a girl or you’re gay or whatever and that bothered him for many years.” After Jamey, at fourteen, killed himself, “those who believe it is wrong and immoral” turned on his sister.
At a homecoming dance she attended shortly after her brother’s death, a potentially poignant moment turned ugly after a song by Lady Gaga, Jamey’s favorite artist, who recently dedicated a song at a concert in his memory.
“She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends,” Jamey’s mother, Tracy, told Curry. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that.
“My daughter came home all upset. It was supposed to be a time for her to grieve and have fun with her friends, and it turned into bullying even after he’s gone.”
“I can’t grasp it in my mind,” said Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey’s father. ” I don’t know why anyone would do that. They have no heart, that’s basically what it comes down to.”
Jamie Hubley – Ottawa, Ontario. October 2011. Jamie was the only openly gay student at his school, a sensitive kid who was struggling with being out in high school and often felt the sting of verbal bullying.
Jacob Rogers – Ashland City, Tennessee. December 2011. Jacob was bullied for the past four years, but in the past few months it had become so bad he dropped out of school. This month, Jacob ended his life. Eighteen years old. This month.
“He started coming home his senior year saying ‘I don’t want to go back. Everyone is so mean. They call me a faggot, they call me gay, a queer,'” friend Kaelynn Mooningham said.
But the Thomas More Law Center has a unique perspective about Carl and Eric and Billy and Asher and Seth and Tyler and Lance and Jamie and Jamey and Jacob and Roger.
In the minds on these people, it was not cruelty that is to blame. It isn’t being pushed down stairs. It isn’t being shoved into lockers. It isn’t being laughed at or condemned or being beaten bloody. It isn’t being tormented daily while the teachers looked on and did nothing. It isn’t having your private moments broadcast for the world to see.
No, Glowacki and Muise and Thompson are Catholics. And though none of the kids who committed suicide did anything which any rational person could condemn, nothing that could even be dismissed as a “homosexual lifestyle”, dangerous or otherwise, they aren’t the victims here. No, it’s the bullies that be defended.
Because Daniel Glowacki, Sandra Glowacki, Robert Muise, and Richard Thompson “are Catholics”. And “as Catholics, they are morally bound to follow the universal, consistent moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church” which “reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world.” And it is their Catholicism which leads them to describe the deaths of Carl and Eric and Billy and Asher and Seth and Tyler and Lance and Jamie and Jamey and Jacob and Roger in this way:
In each of his classes, Defendant McDowell explained to his students that October 20th was nationally recognized as “anti-bullying” day, and he showed his students a movie about teenagers who committed suicide because they were homosexual.
Another Teen Takes His Life
December 8th, 2011
The bullying got so bad, friends say, that Jacob Rogers dropped out at Cheatham County Central High School in Ashland City, Tennessee, just a few miles northwest of Nashville. He took his own life Wednesday:
“He started coming home his senior year saying ‘I don’t want to go back. Everyone is so mean. They call me a f****, they call me gay, a queer,'” friend Kaelynn Mooningham said.
Kaelynn said her friend Jacob felt ignored.
“Jacob told me no one was helping him. He constantly was going to guidance,” she said.
The school says they were only aware of one bullying incident, and said they intervened. But the fact that Jacob quit going to school around Thanksgiving should have been a red flag. Jacob’s grandmother, who was his primary guardian, found some notes Jacob let behind which included passwords to his email and phone to allow investigators to determine why he killed himself.
For more information on suicide prevention, research and help-seeking resources, see the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). If you or someone you know needs help, see The Trevor Project’s web site or call the Trevor Lifeline: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
This Is What Bullying Looks Like
December 4th, 2011
This clip was uploaded on August 10, but went viral over the weekend. Jonah posted a quick update saying “Thank you for everyone’s love and support,” but now that video is gone. I hope someone somewhere knows who he is and is able to make sure he has the support he needs. And I hope everyone who opposes anti-bullying programs in the schools is forced to look this kid in the eye.
Update: ABC News has a follow-up. Jonah Mowry, 14, had posted this video four months ago. His mother now confirms that her son has been “uplifted by the outpouring of support” since his video went viral over the weekend. He is also reportedly receiving counseling.
Teen Attacked, Video Posted On Facebook. Why Wasn’t His Attacker Arrested?
October 27th, 2011
You will have to go to WSYX’s web site to see the video, but a fifteen-year-old student at Chillicothe, Ohio’s Union-Scioto High School was attacked because he was gay, and the attacker posted the video on Facebook. This was two days after the attacker left anti-gay comments on the victim’s Facebook page. The teen has a chipped tooth and possible concussion, and the attacker was suspended from school for three days.
There are two things wrong with this. Number one: a “possible concussion”? Let’s get him to a doctor and find out.
And number two: suspension for three days? Of course that’s not enough, but what can a school do but suspend a student? The mother is considering pressing a criminal complaint. That is exactly what neesd to happen, and it should have been the first response, not a backup plan. We have video evidence of a crime taking place. We have a Facebook account. We have a victim with injuries. We have witnesses who can be identified and possibly investigated as accessories to the crime. We have everything we need for someone to call 911 and launch a criminal investigation. This should not have been brought to the school’s attention first. The first step should have been to call the police.
Apropos of this post yesterday, if we really want for things to get better, then we need to start treating crimes as crimes. It’s not the school’s job to enforce the law. All they can do is suspend students, and sometimes expel them under extreme circumstances. But it’s law enforcement’s job to, you know, enforce the law. And it’s everyone’s job to call the police first when a crime takes place.
“It Gets Better” Needs Some Muscle Behind It
October 27th, 2011
Canadian comedian and commentator Rick Mercer responds to Jamie Hubley’s suicide:
Dan Savage agrees:
So: yes to that assembly, yes to confronting the kids who abused Jamie Hubley. Since the beginning of the project I’ve called for bullies to be arrested and prosecuted. If it’s a crime for a 16-year-old kid to beat up a little old lady in a shopping mall, it’s a crime for for a 16-year-old kid to beat up queer kid in a high school. Parents whose kids are being assaulted need to go to the police first, school administrators second.
Eleven or Thirteen More Dead Gay Kids Ought To Do It
October 26th, 2011
That’s what a Joplin, MO, high school math teacher– or someone posing as him — posted on the Facebook wall of a former student in a debate over fifteen-year-old Jamie Hubley’s suicide. According to the Joplin Globe:
A Facebook comment replying to the (Josh) Gonzalez post that appeared under (Jim) Whitney’s name stated: “Moral of the story: Don’t be gay.”
That comment provoked reaction and criticism from others, including this: “How many more kids have to kill themselves before everyone realizes that this is an actual issue?”
That was followed by another comment attributed to Whitney’s account that read: “11-13 ought to do it.”
The Joplin Board of Education is investigating. Whitney apologized in an email:
I do not condone bullying or harassment of any kind and I am very aware and saddened by the negative impact this type of behavior creates. I regret that the posts appeared on Facebook. They do not reflect my personal views and I apologize for any and all offenses caused by the comment.
Whitney wouldn’t explain to reporters how comments which don’t reflect his personal views ended up under his profile. But Gonzales said that Whitney told him later that Whitney’s account had been hacked. Gonzales said the comments appeared out of character for Whitney, which leads him to believe Whitney’s claim of innocence. “The part that got me really fired up was the ’11-13 might do it,'” Gonzalez said “At that point I was like, ‘OK, that can’t be him.'”