Alex Blaze

Larry King's parents are suing school for shooting

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 15, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Brandon McInerney, genderqueer, homophobic behavior, Larry King, LGBT youth, Religious Right, school shooting, transphobia, violence, youth violence

Let's see, a Nazi-obsessed and troubled 14-year-old boy gets a gun, takes it to school, and shoots a femmy kid. Do you get stuck at the "femmy"? Do you think that if that was removed from the equation everything would be alright? Do you think that's where the blame should be placed? Because I'd say "no," but I'm beginning to think that I'm just crazy.

The parents of Larry King are suing the school district because they didn't enforce the dress code on their son. You know, if he didn't wear heels he'd still be alive, forget the fact that he didn't pull the trigger:

The King family is suing the Oxnard school district claiming its failure to enforce the dress code led to King's death. King reportedly wore feminine clothing and makeup to school.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

In a notice of claim, Dawn and Gregory King allege that administrators and staff at the school knew their son had "unique vulnerabilities" and was subject to abuse because of his sexuality.

Larry was pulled out of his parents' home because of child abuse (his father denies it), so I'm wondering where his father's place to talk is. I'm also wondering wondering why they decided not to sue whoever gave Brendan McInerney the gun he used, or the school for not promoting tolerance and for letting the bullying get out of control (maybe that's included as well but wasn't mentioned in the 365Gay article).

But that's besides the point. The AP, The Advocate, Newsweek, and McIrnerney's defense attorney have all decided that Larry's behavior caused his death, so why shouldn't his parents fall in line? It's apparently a lot easier to get people to agree that his flaming ways caused his own death than to start with the assumption that he had the right to act the way he did and that other people's negative reactions to his gender and sexuality are their own fucking problems.

Are we living in a culture that's so obsessed with gender conformity that the best thing it can muster is "Of course nothing can justify murder, but he did wear make-up to school"? Is our mainstream discourse so messed up that being obsessed with Nazis isn't considered inappropriate, but spending a Target gift card on heels is a perfectly good reason to kill someone?

I understand that his murder was the result of many, complex factors. It wasn't one thing or the other that caused it, and we don't know everything about this situation. There are Nazi-obsessed youth who don't shoot kids at school. Kids bring guns to school for many reasons. Schools can't control everything that goes on in their halls, as much as we want them to. Bullying can be a reaction to many experiences.

But why is Larry getting painted to be the culprit here when the victims of any other school shooting would never be blamed the way he has been?

And now the parents are buying into it. For most people, that's it. That's the final sign that the issue is, in fact, Larry's actions. Anyone who's against teens defining for themselves their own gendered appearances will be using this as ammunition. They're the parents! If a parent has a problem with his or her kid being queer, then obviously the kid has stepped over the line!

The lesson from all this is that anyone who thinks that violence against queer people is universally condemned or isn't a threat is full of shit. We need to be working towards solutions and ignoring those on the Religious Right who say that we don't need any protections because everyone already loves queer people, or because we have a lot of money, or because it's really them who's the persecuted minority. This kid got killed and everyone, even his parents, is obsessed with his what shoes he wore.

For some reason I have the nagging feeling that this is exactly what the Religious Right wants.

Update: The Ventura County Star has more on the specifics:

In the claims, the Kings say school and county staff members failed to enforce the middle school's dress code.

That put the feminine-dressing King at particular risk at a time when staff members knew he had "unique vulnerabilities" and was "susceptible to abuse" because of his perceived sexual orientation, the claim says.

The family says educators knew the boy was at risk because he had been subjected to death threats at Hathaway School, an elementary campus he attended in Oxnard.

King had told friends he was gay, and he wore makeup, jewelry and high-heeled boots with his school uniform -- something Dannenberg said the teen had the freedom to do under his First Amendment rights.

Assistant Principal Joy Epstein, the only person named in the complaint, is accused of encouraging the boy to wear "women's clothing, shoes and makeup." She created an environment of "perceived safety" for King when "in fact she could not and did not protect Larry from the threats and ultimate death," the claim says.

Officials expect the claim to fail. It was filed almost on the deadline, the school didn't have a dress-code that prevented Larry from dressing the way he did, and it was the job of his parents (in this case, the county) educate him about the safety issues here.

The only person names in the suit is Joy Epstein, the lesbian vice principal who Newsweek all but accused of being a rabid activist more concerned with the homosexual agenda than the welfare of the students because she had the audacity to say Larry had a right to be the way he was. (Never mind that one straight teacher agreed and went so far as to buy Larry a dress. It's the lesbian's fault.)

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I read about this earlier today on MSNBC, and visibily cringed as I did so. I share many of your same sentiments in regards to placing the blame on how he choose to express himself to others.

The unfortunate thing is if this does get won based on this wording, I have to wonder what affect it may have on other GLBT youth, especially trans youth in their ability to express themselves at school in a way which may go against a dress code or open one up for oppression.

Not to mention, had he been not allowed to express himself in the manner in which he wished, who's to say he wouldn't be yet another number in the all too large suicide statstic that exists as well.

Thanks for sharing :)

Sure, it's what the Reich wants. They want the victim's manner of gender presentation to be the issue. They want to obfuscate the fact that Mcinerney BROUGHT A GUN TO SCHOOL AND MURDERED A FELLOW STUDENT IN COLD BLOOD.

Any respect or sympathy I had for King's parents just left the arena, too. The parents did have the power to say "no, you are not wearing that to school, wash your face, put on boy clothes, do that after school......" They obviously weren't on the job, or didn't care. I hate when parents let the schools do their parenting for them.

Still, I believe that trying McInerney as an adult is all wrong - he's clearly a mentally ill young man and needs help - but by trying him as an adult, McInerney is either going to get off scot-free, or is going to do hard life time - and both are wrong in this case.

They couldn't tell him how to dress - Larry was living in a group home because he was removed from his parents due to child abuse. He told teachers his dad was beating him up.

Let's see... which one is worse, a dress code violation or murder?

C'mon, let's just put it out there.

His parents abused him and he was sent to a foster home. He was killed and they didn't act like they cared at all. Instead, they cared about whether or not people said he was gay. It wasn't about Larry, it was about what people would think about them.

Now they're suing the school. Why? They hope to make a fast buck; again, it's all about them.

They don't care that their kid is dead. They're holding out for a TV movie produced by Focus on the Family about the dangers of "being seduced into the homosexual lifestyle" in our middle schools.

"It's apparently a lot easier to get people to agree that his flaming ways caused his own death than to start with the assumption that he had the right to act the way he did and that other people's negative reactions to his gender and sexuality are their own fucking problems."

Well, of course. People are always responsible for others violent actions. That's why I have no sympathy for those writers at the AP, The Advocate, Newsweek or McIrnerney's defense attorney should someone feel threatned by their statements and assualt them.

They deserve what happens if they make such provocative statements in front of millions of people - many of them are bound to be highly offended and have poor impulse control. Especially if they're queer teenagers feeling that such statements put their lives at risk.

They're just asking for it.

These people are sickening.

I was willing to give the parents the benefit of the doubt as to whether they really abused their son up until now (DCFS has been known to make mistakes), but this has pretty much convinced me that as Bil said, these people really don't even care that their kid is dead, only what they can get out of it.

I want to know who is paying their legal fees or whether their attorney is a religious right hack.
This definitely sounds to me like a case of people wanting to make a fast buck and being used by the religious right. If they really cared that their kid was dead,, they would also be suing Brandon's parents, rather than simply going for the deeper pockets of the school district.

This lawsuit could have a chilling effect on both ENDA and anti-hate laws (federal and state).

I really do feel for the parents because they lost a child however I hope that they loose this case. If they win it will mean that young trans youth will not be allowed to publicly express themselves. It will further entrench the idea that it is the fault of the trans person when they get assaulted instead of the bigotry and hate that is rampant in our society.

Alex, this is more that a case of a gay bashing and murder. This case is far more complicated that u think it is, including the events that lead to Kings death The failure of the school to stop the sexual harassment by King on McInnery.

I know the school would had stop that if Mcinnery was hitting on a another girl the same way the King hit on him. Another failure of the school is that they failed to prepare the staff and the teachers on how to deal with a gay student who is out.In regard to McInnery, in what way is he suppose to react to the to the advances of King when he is just discovering his own sexuality? How is Brandon suppose to react when his hormones are telling him that he is straight and getting attention form a boy who is famboyantly gay? Another scenario, supppose Brandon is gay, and he is terrified that he will be exposed? And further they are men who are deep in the gay closet and will kill or considered killing to prevent from being outed. How is a immature boy suppose to react? Look at this to supprt my arguement. According to the Brain Injury Association:"The bridge between the neo-cortex and the amygdala does not form in the brain until the age of 19 or so -- the parts of the brain govern logic and reason and emotions, respectively. Until the bridge is formed, emotions rule -- ask the parent of any teenager will tell you. " They were other way that Brandon could have dealt with Larry's advances, but is reacion was purely reactionary.

Was Larry King's murder wrong? Absolutely! That's not the question, though. The more relevant question is how, as a society, are we going to react to that murder.Labelling the action as "gay bashing" and ending the analysis at that point is not an adequate answer

This is as much a transgender murder as it is a "gay" murder, probably more so. I hope that people don't diminish Larry's gender expression to highlight the "gay" factor. If allowed to grow up and transition, "Larry" King would more then likely have become a heterosexual female, in other words, not gay. I do not want to see Larry's gender idendity get squashed like what happened to Brandon Teena so gay activists can have another martyr to highlight.

battybattybats battybattybats | August 18, 2008 1:30 AM

Early reports said that Larry responded to bullying with his flirtation. Not the other way round. Who is reporting it correctly?

I've known plenty of people who did that sort of thing. Gay men called 'faggot' blowing kisses at the taunter, a cis girl in high school who when someone aggressively made the 'middle finger' gesture right in front of her face grabbed the hand and fellated the finger..

Me I just went for witty remarks.

All non-physical ways of fighting back, of not being cowed, of showing defiance of bullying.

The early reports of Larry flirting to fight back came from Larry's friends iirc. Unless there is evidence that there was actual sexual harassment then I suspect the early reports of it being a way to fight back or be proud and defiant are accurate.

And do we know the school did nothing about this behaviour from Larry?

I suspect we are hearing this sexual-harassment stuff mentioned the way it was from some sources for several reasons. The assumptions that Larry's behaviour must have been sexual harassment, that being flamboyant near others is harassment, that attention from a same-sex person is harassment even if it would not be considered so in a hetero context, that the bullying was self defence against the harassment rather than the harassment a response to the bullying, that flirtation from a gay person is worse than bullying of a gay person, perhaps even that fighting back against bullying especially in a non-violent non cis/hetero-normative way is especially unacceptable.

Essentially it's another way to blame the victim.
Even to disempower people.

"In regard to McInnery, in what way is he suppose to react to the to the advances of King when he is just discovering his own sexuality? How is Brandon suppose to react when his hormones are telling him that he is straight and getting attention form a boy who is famboyantly gay? Another scenario, supppose Brandon is gay, and he is terrified that he will be exposed?"

True - there's so few options between doing nothing & shooting someone. Call a teacher? Report it to a parent? Maybe even slap him for being forward.

If girls shot every guy who was ever hitting on them when they didn't want it - maybe that would change peoples perspective on these murders. If transwoman shot every unwanted person making advances - well - we'd all be executed preemptively. But - we need to give guys special consideration when it comes to their violence. Isn't that the definition of male priveledge?

Hey - I agree he shouldn't be tried as an adult - he was still a teenager. But I think we also need to look at why we're so ready to excuse violence by males. And why we're so ready to excuse violence against people who don't meet gender expectations. I mean - Brandon never shot anyone else when he was embarrassed by or when he had conflict with them. Even when he was less neurologically mature and might have been embarrassed by girls affection. When society keeps tacitly and explicitly making these excuses for this type of violence - this type of violence is sanctioned to some degree & more likely to occur.

And - wow - don't really care if he was in the closet. Makes no difference if he was straight & embarrassed by unwanted affection or some flavor of lgbt. He murdered someone due to his concern over how others might view him? That sounds like premeditation.

Right on Kathy!

I never even thought about that, but you really gave me perspective. This is a case of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, greed, and sensationalism.

Someone needs to step and react. Where is the HRC now?