Arkansas School Board Member: “The only way im wearin (purple)…is if they all commit suicide”

Two news items from yesterday:

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 2/3 of harassed GLBTQ students do not report the problem, believing educators will do nothing, and that 1/3 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.

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/cosoa/ Cosoa

    Sometimes I wonder how people can stand to feel so much baseless hatred for others. His comments makes me physically sick…how could anyone be so cruel and careless? Someone who supposedly works on behalf of children?? I don’t get it, I literally don’t understand how anyone could say things like that and still think himself a good person.

    • http://feministing.com/members/evelyn/ Evelyn

      Welcome to biblical literalism. His god supports his ideology; thus, his ideology is infallible.

      My question is: to what end should we tolerate religious faith? I do not doubt that there are healthy ways of practicing religion. However, when condemning people like Clint McCance, we are also condemning the way he practices his religion. When are we justified in condemning a person’s faith and when are we not?

      • http://feministing.com/members/doctorfaustus/ Jake

        I think that we are completely justified in condemning a person’s faith when we condemn an attitude that is a part of it–I don’t feel that bigotry is at all justified by the Bible, even if you believe that an almighty being said that “A man shall not lie with a man as he does with a woman.” I don’t feel that any type of bigotry being backed by the Bible or any other religious teaching or text makes the attitude at all legitimate or tolerable.

      • http://feministing.com/members/teenagemalefeminist/ Ryan Velasquez

        A very interesting point. Though I wouldn’t say it’s COMPLETE biblical literalism that’s plagued the man since truly taking that section of the bible literally would also require people like him to condemn mixed-fiber clothing and shellfish with equal fire and hate, we still have to recognize that the cause of this hate is his religious practices.

        • http://feministing.com/members/evelyn/ Evelyn

          I agree that “the cause of [McCance's] hate is his religious practices,” but I also think that most of his actions–both hateful and altruistic–can be attributed to his religious faith. If he is wrong for using the Bible to justify his bigotry, then is he wrong for using the Bible to justify his altruism?

          • http://feministing.com/members/doctorfaustus/ Jake

            Ryan: I was raised Jewish, so am not familiar with the New Testament, but is there not an injunction against homosexuality inside of it? I think the problem here is not Bible literalism per se, but bigotry based on a religious faith, regardless of the religion’s “official” beliefs. Fundamentalist Christianity is a different belief than Catholicism, and each individual interprets religion in a different way, so it’s safe to say every person has a different religious belief.
            Evelyn: My point is not that we should condemn an action based on the bible, but that when we make a value judgment about that behavior whether that behavior is based on the bible should not be a factor. He is wrong for his bigotry, and if the source of that is his belief, we can condemn the belief; we can praise the belief if it promotes altruism. The point is that the belief merely being religious does not cause the positive/negative judgment. There is a point, though, about a religion that has both negative and positive attributes. I believe that in this case the belief should be condemned. I believe that, without faith, the person would be able to find a reason for actions which are positive (I am altruistic because it helps the community), but they will not find a reason for bigotry. Since bigotry is by definition irrational, there would be no other reason to be a bigot. (I am here using faith to mean a belief that cannot be backed up by logic, which can be independent of religion; I am not suggesting that religion is the cause of all bigotry.)

  • http://feministing.com/members/smiles/ Smiley

    Bullying.

    My oh my. This is what happens when the lawyers get involved. Bullying is bad because it is gender-based, is it? How about removing that restriction, eh?

    Bullying should be illegal, regardless of the reason. I’d be ashamed to state that you can bully someone because, actuall,y, technically, legally, it is not gender-based. Go ahead, mock young Bruce because of his accent. Be my guest if you want to bully Alice because of her big teeth.

    Shameful and ridiculous.

    • http://feministing.com/members/libdevil/ Nick

      The Department of Education is working with the tools they have. We can’t get an anti-bullying law passed because conservatives look at bullying as their birthright, and an acceptable way of enforcing social control and hierarchies. So the Department of Education does what they can with the laws that are actually on the books. Again (because I made a similar comment in the “It Gets Better” thread), as much as Obama’s administration disappoints me sometimes, this is another good, positive step by the administration that would never and could never happen under a Republican president.

  • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

    Did you hear the latest from Tony Perkins? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/27/tony-perkins-gay-teen-suicide_n_774580.html After reading that and the garbage from Arkansas I feel like somebody just stomped on my head.