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Harassment of gays not OK

By David McEachern

Posted: March 15, 2008 12:42 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
To the Editor:

Last month, a 15-year-old Oxnard student, Lawrence King, was murdered in his classroom by a fellow student. The police ruled this a hate crime because King was killed for being gay. In California, harassing a student because of his or her perceived sexual orientation is against the law.

This fact did not save King. What could his school district have done to avoid this tragedy? The school tried counseling the boys; however, the social atmosphere in the district was such that violence was a predictable response to a gay student.

Most likely, the Oxnard School District is uncomfortable with its gay and lesbian students. At the district level, staff comply with state law, but not much more. This attitude is similar to that of the William S. Hart district in which I taught for 30 years.

I remember at the beginning of each school year an administrator would come down from "the hill" to speak about sexual harassment. Never were gay or lesbian issues mentioned, and the issue was understood to pertain to "straight harassment" only.

When I questioned why gay harassment was not included, I was told that no one could expect teachers and students with strong religious beliefs to come to a meeting where it was suggested that the homosexual lifestyle should have special protection. I wonder if that was the same message delivered by the Oxnard School District?

PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians, Gays and Transgendered People) would welcome an invitation to speak to teachers, administrators and students of the Hart School District about the special problems dealing with harassment of our gay and lesbian children. We may talk about this or you may wait for a tragedy to happen here and wonder what you could have done to prevent it.

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