Dept. of Ed. Calls for End to Bullying But Ark. School Official Says “All Queers Should Commit Suicide”


This article is crossposted from AmplifyYourVoice.org, a project of Advocates for Youth.

Two news items from earlier this week:

1) The Department of Education sent out a letter to schools that “clarifies the relationship between bullying and discriminatory harassment,” observing that since homophobic bullying is gender-based, it violates the law, and schools must address and prevent it.

2) A school board official in Arkansas (Clint McCance) declared on Facebook that wearing purple to honor GLBTQ youth is stupid, because all “queers” should commit suicide.

The first item is great news.  I’m not a legal expert so I don’t know what it means in terms of pending anti-bullying legislation, but the letter is crystal-clear that regardless of state bullying laws or school policies, anti-gay bullying is illegal.

“Title IX prohibits harassment of both male and female students regardless of the sex of the harasser—i.e., even if the harasser and target are members of the same sex.  It also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping.  Thus, it can be sex discrimination if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. 

Although Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination.”

The letter further clarifies this with an example of a bullying situation where a young gay man experienced harassment and homophobic slurs. In the example, because the student was gay/out, the school saw it as homophobic bullying, not a violation of civil rights:
“As noted in the example, the school failed to recognize the pattern of misconduct as a form of sex discrimination under Title IX.”

The Department of Education describes a more comprehensive plan of action which would put the school in compliance with the law: 

In this example, the school had an obligation to take immediate and effective action to eliminate the hostile environment.  By responding to individual incidents of misconduct on an ad hoc basis only, the school failed to confront and prevent a hostile environment from continuing.  Had the school recognized the conduct as a form of sex discrimination, it could have employed the full range of sanctions (including progressive discipline) and remedies designed to eliminate the hostile environment.  For example, this approach would have included a more comprehensive response to the situation that involved notice to the student’s teachers so that they could ensure the student was not subjected to any further harassment, more aggressive monitoring by staff of the places where harassment occurred, increased training on the scope of the school’s harassment and discrimination policies, notice to the target and harassers of available counseling services and resources, and educating the entire school community on civil rights and expectations of tolerance, specifically as they apply to gender stereotypes.  The school also should have taken steps to clearly communicate the message that the school does not tolerate harassment and will be responsive to any information about such conduct.

Interesting.  The Department of Education says that homophobia violates Title IX. On the SAME DAY, the news breaks that a school official thinks GLBTQ young people should kill themselves (further commenting that he likes when “fags give each other AIDS and die”).  I’d say this is a headache for the Midland School District of Arkansas, but it’s not, is it.  It’s simply a very clear cut case of needing to get rid of the charming Clint McCance, in order to be in compliance with the law.   The penalty for NOT complying with Title IX is the loss of federal funds. 

I’m calling on the Midland School District and the State of Arkansas to come into full compliance with Title IX according to the Department of Education’s Dear Colleague letter, including a full-scale response similar to the one described above – and if they don’t, I am calling on the Department of Education to cut their funding.  [EDIT: Also,  I am signing petition demanding Clint McCance's resignation, and I urge you to do so as well.]

GLSEN has found that two-thirds of harassed GLBTQ students do not report the problem, believing educators will do nothing, and that one-third of those who do report find that the school does nothing in response. The Department of Education is sending a clear message that it is time to stop turning a blind eye to the deadly problem of homophobic bullying.

Oh, and a message to the GLBTQ students of Arkansas:  Don’t listen to this Clint McCance person. Each of you has more personal worth as a human in your little finger than this guy does in his entire body.

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  • mechashiva

    In my experience, kids rarely tell authorities about any sort of bullying, but particularly any sort related to sex. I think the anti-snitching trend has a lot to do with it. By the time I was in 2nd grade, no one wanted to be labeled a “tattle tail” because it meant you were admitting you couldn’t take care of your own problems. Kids also labeled you untrustworthy, because who knew when you might tell a teacher about whatever mischief/fun they were having?

     

    This was so ingrained in me by the time I was 7 that I did not report to teachers when several of my peers sexually assaulted me. I imagine the other girls (all the “unpopular” girls) never told anyone either. After all, it always happened at recess in plain view of the teachers. I assumed they had seen and just didn’t do anything about it, which is probably true. This was something that happened regularly for that whole year. My guess is that teachers don’t think kids can be dangerous to each other, which makes them underestimate the influence of bullying. I suppose none of them read “The Lord of the Flies.”

     

    People need to get rid of their stupid notions about children being innocent. They have the same positive and negative motivations that all people have. They aren’t innocent, they’re just untrained… like chiuauas.

  • beenthere72

    Clint McCance, what an asshat.    I signed the petition.

     

    But going off topic for a sec… did you see this article in the Advocate?

     

    http://www.advocate.com/Print_Issue/Features/The_Not_So_Curious_Case_of_Scott_Moore/

     

    Totally fascinating!

  • crowepps

    Yet the Facebook rant — like so many negative outbursts of late — raises a mess of sticky issues, which is why the district has remained conspicuously silent on what actions it can take regarding what McCance says on his Facebook page. Are McCance’s views deplorable? Absolutely. Is it the right of every American to express his or her opinions, even despicable ones? Also yes. As the Advocate noted Wednesday, by Arkansas law, “the only way to recall a school board member is over a felony or absentee issues.” If McCance has any sense of humanity or dignity, he’ll step down on his own. But we should all question seriously whether we want to set the precedent of firing people for saying loathsome things on their own time.

     

    On his program Wednesday, Anderson Cooper lambasted McCance’s words, and noted that he had not responded to his program’s requests to speak publicly on the matter. But Rosalind Wiseman, author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” was present to opine, “We’ve got to say, it’s not tolerable to have mean people in the schools.” Man, are we in for empty schools now, once we figure out who gets to hold the “mean” meter.

     

    The outpouring of disgust for McCance is a welcome sign that the anti-gay bullies are not the voice of this country, its educators or its students. We need to continue to strive toward a culture of tolerance, and to speak out when people say idiotic things, because kids are dying over remarks like McCance’s (and that should absolutely never involve becoming bullies ourselves, like the Facebook members who’ve posted McCance’s home address and phone number). Every time we call BS on the McCances of the world, we have a chance to open minds and hearts, to say that this is not the climate where toxic notions of whose beliefs are “infected” can thrive. I imagine McCance will pause a moment before he spews his invective in a public forum again, and that is as it should be.

     

    But we also need to think long and hard about whether, in the age of Facebook, we are all expected to represent our jobs and titles at all times, and the implications of firing people for being jerks. And ask, who will set the standards of our “meanness,” and decide what we say and do in our nonworking hours?

     

    http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/10/28/arkansas_homophobic_school_board/index.html

  • julie-watkins

    This was so ingrained in me by the time I was 7 that I did not report to teachers when several of my peers sexually assaulted me.

    Teachers should know that “don’t snitch” is ingrained, and a good teacher will proactively look for signs of bullying — and figure out a way of intervening that (if possible) won’t imply the victim “snitched”.

    This reminds me of a family story. One of my young relatives (early teen) mentioned suicidal thoughts to a schoolmate. That friend, scared, went to her mother. And a lot of careful not-telling to be sure 1) my relative got counselling and 2) reenforcement and thanks to the “snitch” that she did the right thing and 3) the friendship intact.

  • arekushieru

    Ugh.  Why do they think this is aBOUT where and what he works for?  This is aBOUT common decency, nothing less, nothing more.  You should be a representative for common decency in EVery aspect of your life.  If you can’t do that when you’re on personal time, what makes anyone think you can do it on working time? 

    I do believe that one can be guilty without intent, as long as they have the awareness to be guilty or innocent.

  • prochoiceferret

    But we should all question seriously whether we want to set the precedent of firing people for saying loathsome things on their own time.

     

    I think I would want to not follow the precedent of allowing people who say such egregiously loathesome things on their own time to continue serving in a public capacity.

  • haltnow

    I have launched a new website that is designed to stop bullying and abuse. http://www.haltnow.ca – HALT.  The more of our voices that say HALT; the more of our children we can save.  This new website offers education, prevention, support and services to abused and bullied victims as well as hopefully finding a solution to stop this local terrorism of bullying, abuse and domestic violence within our communities.  Please help us stop these senseless acts. Please take time to visit this site, become a member and add your voice.