One of the former teachers of a murdered gay teenager not only says that she relates to the motives of the killer. Shirley Brown, who once taught 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King at Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California, says that she would have attacked the teenager herself.
King was shot at point-blank range in the back of his head in a computer science lab by another student, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, in 2008. McInerney was sentenced to 21 years in prison in December of 2011, after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and unlawful use of a firearm.
During the trial, prosecutors presented McInerney as being unable to control his anger and influenced by white supremacist ideology; they argued that the killing of King was a hate crime but jurors rejected this. The defense claimed that King, who occasionally wore jewelry, high-heeled boots and makeup to school, had made unwanted sexual advances to McInerney.
“I do believe in a heaven and a hell, and I do believe Larry honestly did not have a clue, honestly, the consequences of his actions.
“I relate to Brandon because I could see my own self being in that very same position.
“I don’t know if I would have taken a gun, but a good swift kick in the butt might work really well.”
As a teacher, I think that Brown’s remarks are unconscionable. The question begs to be asked, did McInerney not “have a clue” about the “consequences” of his action, of taking a gun and shooting King?
The classroom is a place where people, and especially those who are teachers, need to leave their politics and personal perspectives at the door and all the more so in regard to students in middle school. Adolescents dealing with puberty and their changing bodies are at a transitional period of their lives, on the cusp of childhood and teenager with adulthood very near. Creating an atmosphere of tolerance and openness to a diversity of beliefs and ways of being is absolutely called for.
As adults in a position of authority and de facto role models, teachers, whether they know it or not and for better or for worse, play a huge role in influencing students’ thinking and especially about highly sensitive issues such as sexuality and questions of identity.
Newsweek pronounced King’s murder to be “the most prominent gay-bias crime since the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard.” Hateful and violent remarks such as those made by Brown make it all too clear why all of us, and certainly those who are teaching children, need to recognize that we have to constantly reaccess our own beliefs and prejudices in a changing society.
It’s simply tragic to see how little Brown has learned since one student at the school she taught in murdered another student and to hear her say, if she had had the chance, she would have hurt King, too.
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