Monday, May 7, 2012

Openly Gay Student Suspended For Using Taser For Protection

Transcript below the fold

Darnell "dynasty" Young:  I was walking to my classroom, and before I was walking to my classroom, six guys came up to me calling me F word, B word, and called me derogatory names about my sexuality and I pulled my taser out. They was coming towards me, trying to jump me and I pulled my taser out hit it and then they backed up a little bit and I went back to my classroom.  The cops came to me, locked me up and took my taser - talking about how I am too flamboyant.  "That's why people was messing with you cause you are too flamboyant."  I was like wow, I didn't say nothing and they took me to the principals office and I was suspended for five days and I'm up for expulsion.

The bullying was bad enough that sometimes I would think to myself, was it me.  Sometimes I would think, do I have to change for them? It was bullying that was effecting my home life with my mom.  It was effecting my life at my work.  I was always sad, I was down, I was scared for my life. And these guys were throwing rocks at me and bottles at me, people were trying to spit at me and everything, so I told my mama and she went off.  So she went to a place and gave me the taser to protect myself, 'cause I do work at night and I have to protect myself and all that.  I feel like I was using it for my own protection and my own personal gain for me to be safe at that school. Y'all not doing nothing about it. Y'all not doing nothing about it and they gave me five days suspension and they put me up for expulsion.

Friend: In other states you can go to jail

Darnell "dynasty" Young: Yeah you can go to jail

Friend: You name who you bully because people suicide themselves  and they suicide, you can go to jail.

Darnell "dynasty" Young:  I don't know if y'all believe in God, but I believe in God and God blessed me with this life and at one point when the bullying was really effecting me, I just looked and thought, I thought that I was like don't want to be here.  I don't want to be here at all - I don't.

Darnell begins to cry and mother embraces him.

Mother: different is good. You hear me?
If ever there was a case of self defense, this is it.  The Indianapolis Star reported Darnell's mother apparently approached the school more than ten times before giving her son a stun gun, and their response was that Darnell needed to change, and not that the bullying was unacceptable and needed to stop.  No person or child should have to live with fear to get an education.  
Grimes said she called the school about students following Young home from the bus stop, but school officials said they could not do anything since the students were not on school property. When she complained other times, they brought up his sexuality.

Larry Yarrell, the Tech principal, said school staff were trying to help Young by suggesting that he "tone down" his accessories.

"If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids and they're going to say whatever it is that they want to say," Yarrell said. "Because you want to be different and because you choose to wear female apparel, it may happen. In the idealistic society, it shouldn't matter. People should be able to wear what they want to wear."

However, he said, no one was trying to blame Young for the bullying.

"They're just trying to make his transition over here as easy as they possibly can," he said. "They've said, 'If you're going to dress the way you're dressing, people are going to say things. If you could tone it down as much as possible, then people won't have as much to say.' "

Yarrell said the school tried to investigate Young's complaints, but Young could not always identify the students who bullied him. Administrators have to be sure that students did something wrong before they can punish them, he said.

"In my opinion," Yarrell said, "if we had known who the perpetrators were, the aggressors were, we would've dealt with them immediately."  [source]
This sounds like classic victim blaming to me.  Darnell is not responsible for the bullying and homophobic beliefs of others, but you wouldn't know that based in the school's response to this situation.   It doesn't matter what Darnell wore or how he acted.  Nothing he did justified being beaten, verbally assaulted and having rumors spread about his sexual behaviour.

This is a child that has said repeatedly that he was scared for his life.  What was he supposed to do?  Would it have been better if he had the let the bullies continue to beat him?  He didn't even stun his attackers, he aimed the stun gun in the air, and that shows a level of restraint.  He didn't want to hurt anyone, he only wanted to be safe and go to class, and yet he is the one who has been classed as a threat.

As a parent these incidents terrify me.  I know first hand after dealing with racist bullying in my child's school that you can go to the school, call the administration, but it will not get you anywhere unless the school is determined to maintain a no tolerance policy for bullying.  I am thankful that Darnell has a mother who loves him and supports him, but even with that support, it is clear that this child is hurting.  He openly said that he has thought about committing suicide.  How much more of a warning does this community need to take bullying seriously?   Had he died, this is the same community that would have held a vigil, cried a few crocodile tears and moved on with their lives as though nothing had happened.  I am tired of the fake sorrow after the fact, when schools have it within their power to make changes in the here and now.

I don't know what the solution in this case should have been, but I know that Darnell acted to protect himself and his mother armed him because she loves and support her son.  The school created the situation that they are now punishing Darnell for through their inaction.  When you corner someone, abuse them and threaten them with physical violence, they have a right to not only stand up for themselves but to protect themselves.  I hope that this incident does not push Darnell further over the edge.  He is right, we are all God's children and every single one of us is precious.  Stay strong Darnell, God does not make mistakes, and you are meant to be here no matter what these hateful homophobes think.

Finally, to the parents of the bullies, shame on you.  Shame on you for raising children that believe that this sort of behaviour is okay.  Shame on you for encouraging them to believe in their straight privilege.  Shame on you for not challenging homophobia in your home.  You have failed in your role as parents, and I hope it keeps you up at night.