Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student whom friends say had been frequently harassed on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation, is now brain-dead after he was allegedly shot in the head by one of the bullies on Tuesday.
[Update: An alleged assailant was charged with premeditated murder with a special allegation of using a firearm in the commission of a hate crime, the LA Times reported late today.]
The Los Angeles Times reported this morning:
Police have not determined a motive in the slaying but said it appeared to stem from a personal dispute between King and the suspect.
Keith and Totten declined to elaborate.
But several students at the south Oxnard campus said King and his alleged assailant had a falling out stemming from King’s sexual orientation.
The teenager sometimes wore feminine clothing and makeup, and proclaimed he was gay, students said.
“He would come to school in high-heeled boots, makeup, jewelry and painted nails — the whole thing,” said Michael Sweeney, 13, an eighth-grader. “That was freaking the guys out.”
If King was bullied frequently as some reports indicate, then an obvious question arises: Did school officials, parents, and peers of the bullies take adequate action to stop the harassment? Sadly, all too often bullying is encouraged when families and peers of the bullies turn a blind eye toward brewing violence.
Some of us are troubled, in particular, by Exodus International’s own recent contributions to a milieu that tolerates hate crimes:
- Exodus International’s leaders have campaigned against anti-harassment programs in schools. They have sidestepped well-documented tragedies and instead issued blanket accusations that anti-harassment programs somehow promote a “gay agenda.”
- Exodus also opposes the inclusion of felony violence committed on the basis of the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation under existing state and national hate-crime laws.
- Exodus ally PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) recently faked a hate crime against itself. Exodus’ reaction: No comment.
- Exodus and its religious-right allies have conducted ad campaigns which falsely state that ex-gays are excluded from hate-crime laws that address sexual orientation, and they have equated violent hate crimes with protected free speech.
- Exodus’ new “Allies Too” campaign calls for antigay students to be free from harassment but does nothing to formalize schools’ opposition to harassment and violence that are based upon sexual orientation. Indeed, the program implicitly denies the existence of sexual orientation and antigay hate crimes, referring instead to chosen identities or behaviors that supposedly should be changed.
Exodus presents itself to churches as a model of compassion, but a trail of tragedies such as the death in Oxnard reminds us of Exodus’ ongoing refusal to take basic steps to deter violence that is committed against people based upon victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Update: The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network commented on the alleged attempt to kill Lawrence King:
California is one of only 10 states that protect students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and one of only five that protect students from bullying and harassment based on gender identity/expression.
“Safe schools laws and policies are vitally important, but simply having a law is not enough,” [said Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of GLSEN]. “Schools need to implement staff development and trainings to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Schools also need programs that teach young people respect and tolerance. Every student deserves to feel safe in school. We must take action and take responsibility for our inaction.”