We’ve talked about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids and classroom safety before. Usually though, we’re not talking about a teacher allegedly asking one of his pupils to kill another student. Today we are.
Reports have surfaced that teacher Randolph Forde, who works at Mundy Mill’s High School, Clayton County, Georgia, took a 16-year-old teenager out of class to ask the youngster if he was gay. The word inappropriate doesn’t even seem worth using in this instance, but this incident was just the first of many.
According to the student’s lawyer, Terrence Madden, Forde then got into a verbal altercation with the student on the very next day, resulting in the teacher threatening that he would hit the boy in his “f-ing mouth”.
Then, if police reports are to be believed, the situation escalated further. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
A few days later, Forde asked another student to “put a hit” on the teenager, according to a police report.
“The suspect advised to the witness that he would pay him to kill the victim,” the report states.
The teacher wrote the victim’s name on a note and showed it to another student on the school bus, the report says.
“I have no idea why teacher would want to hurt my son,” Killebrew said. “But all of it came after the teacher asked my son if he was gay. For the teacher to ask that, he had to have a motive. That’s not a random question.”
Forde, who was arrested last month on charges of making a terrorist threat and was then released on a $10,000 bond, denies the allegation. He says that he asked about the boy’s sexuality after having seen him dance “inappropriately” with another male student, and says that the “hit” request was just a joke.
He also contends that the witness is lying, and that the student’s name wasn’t written on the paper he allegedly used to indicate the victim, and that it was, in fact, blank. The student’s lawyer says says the opposite.
Forde’s attorney, Borquaye Thomas, contends that this incident arose only after the student in question received a suspension of seven days due to behavioral problems. The inference is, then, that the kid is blowing this story up out of all proportion as some form of revenge against a teacher he’s had dealings with in the past.
Still, the teenager’s mother says that the boy was genuinely scared when he came home after finding out about the alleged “hit”.
She speaks here to the Associated Press about it:
What I find most disturbing about this case, actually, is the conduct of the school’s administration. You see, Mrs. Killebrew’s son is said to have reported Forde over the initial incident, where Forde asked about his sexuality, but the school didn’t take action.
From the CNN coverage, which includes a statement released by the boy’s attorney:
“Not only did my client report the verbal altercation and verbal threat to the vice principal of Mundy’s Mill HS, he also reported that Mr. Forde asked him outside the classroom for the inappropriate question of whether he was gay,” the statement said. “Apparently nothing was done by the school administration to either Mr. Forde or my client, because Mr. Forde was back in the classroom on October 1, as was my client.”
You can pinpoint that incident right there, and say that this is where things could have been stopped if the school had only stepped in. The school didn’t. Why?
A school-board employment hearing on the matter was set for this week. It’s been put back until after Thanksgiving.
Forde is on “paid administrative leave”. According to Forde’s lawyer, the school is recommending that the teacher be suspended without pay for a total of five days because of “inappropriate and unprofessional” conduct, and that he be made to attend training on how to interact with his students.
The school refused to corroborate that there was any serious threat made against Mrs. Killebrew’s son. The school’s final word will not be given until after the school-board hearing, though.
Put aside the ridiculous “hit” the teacher may or may not have taken out. There’s so much “He said this…”, “Well, he did this…” in this case so as to make it not even worth debating until the full facts are available.
Joke or not, there’s one thing both sides agree on, and with it there’s a smattering of anti-gay feeling bubbling away under the surface: That the teacher removed the student from class and asked if he was gay.
Why did the teacher need to know that? If a student is dancing “inappropriately” with another student – of any gender – ask him to stop. If the pupil refuses, you take appropriate steps to discipline him. You don’t threaten to hit him, and you certainly don’t threaten his life, even jokingly. And why didn’t the school respond to this immediately?
This case serves to highlight why there is a need for a federal framework to deal with issues surrounding sexuality and gay bullying in schools. Feel the same way I do?
Support the Safe Schools Improvement Act to stop anti-gay bullying in schools, and make sure that schools can respond appropriately to issues surrounding sexuality and gender identity. Sign the Care2 petition now.