Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Remarkable Neglect

A lot of good California's bias crime provisions did Larry King.

That would be the late Larry King, not the author or the guy with the suspenders. On February 12, 2008 Mr. King was a gay junior high school student in Oxnard, California when classmate Brian McInerney took a .22 caliber handgun from his backpack and twice shot King in the back of the head.

Mr. McInerney was charged with first degree murder and committing a hate crime but the jury failed to reach a verdict. When the prosecution moved to retry the defendant, the 17-year old pled guilty to second degree murder and manslaughter and pursuant to terms of the plea bargain, will be 39 years old when released from prison.

The Hueneme Elementary School District paid the victim's father $25,000 toward a $255,000 civil settlement.

But the father, Greg King, remains angry at the offender, the criminal jury for failing to convict and, most notably, the school district. The latter failed to intervene in the conditions which led to the murder and has refused to to make any changes in policies or procedures, claiming school officials followed state law.

Larry King was gay and, according to Catherine Saillant of the L.A. Times

Educators knew that his son had a history of acting provocatively for attention, yet they did nothing to stop King after he started going to E.O. Green Junior High School in women's high-heeled boots and makeup and began aggressively flirting with boys, the father said. The middle school student had been removed from his home for unspecified reasons and was in foster care.

Instead of protecting him from his "poor impulse control," King's father said, "they enabled and encouraged him to become more and more provocative," putting him in an unsafe position. During the trial, several teachers testified in the murder trial about their deep worries that King's feminine attire and taunting behavior could provoke problems — and that E.O. Green Junior High administrators ignored them.

It wasn't just that King, 15, had begun wearing makeup and women's spiked-heeled boots, witnesses testified. It was that he seemed to relish making the boys squirm at his newly feminized appearance and was taunting them with comments like "I know you want me."

"They wanted to beat Larry up for what he was doing to them and they came to me because I wanted to keep them out of trouble,'' E.O. Green teacher Jill Ekman testified. "I told them that I would work on getting assistance from the office and we would work this out."

But that didn't happen, Ekman and others testified.

Apparently, the discomfort experienced by (presumably straight male) students did not excessively alarm school officials with one teacher. As Saillant describes it, one teacher, Jill Ekman, testified that an Assistant Principal "sent an e-mail to the staff telling them to leave King alone unless his behavior was disrupting a class" and another, Joy Epstein,

advised her to teach tolerance if students were upset by King's behavior.

But that wasn't working, Ekman said. A group of male students in her classroom told her they wanted to beat King up because he would seek them out and follow them into the bathroom. Ekman considered that sexual harassment and went back to Epstein with her concerns, she testified.

Epstein told her there was nothing the school could do, Ekman said. When the teacher attempted to press her case, Epstein shut the door in her face, Ekman told the court. The next day Ekman filed a grievance with the school's principal, Joel Lovstedt, alleging that her concerns were being ignored.

Make no mistake about it. Brian McInerney, who was tried as an adult, should have been convicted of first degree murder and punished accordingly. He and he alone was responsible for killing an innocent boy in a premeditated, cold-blooded fashion, as demonstrated by his possession of a weapon in school.


when boys in school taunt girls repeatedly, or even make passes at girls, they have a phrase for it: sexual harassment. It should not be ignored and it is not ignored. However, when a boy- and one who clearly was having trouble with his identity- harassed boys, the objects of the harassment were fair game. The school district turned a blind eye and, it would appear from Epstein's testimony, the State of California was just fine with that. If the straight students couldn't handle it, Epstein had a remedy: Ekman could teach them tolerance. The problem, it seems, was not a troubled student whose behavior- not sexual preference, but deviant and extraordinary behavior- was disruptive. No, it was the other students because they just couldn't handle it. Get with the program, the administrators urged.

They wanted to make sure not to offend. And not only is a boy dead but, as Greg King put it at the sentencing hearing, "rather than learning from it and striving to make a safer environment for our children, they hid behind lawyers."


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