LGBT students bullied – by their schools

No one ever said going to school was fun, but for many LGBT students, it can be a downright nightmare – or even impossible.

For two students at Del City High School in Oklahoma, the latter appears to be the situation. According to KWTV, neither student will be allowed to graduate because of their sexuality.

Melissa McKenzie alleges that she was kicked out of DCHS after administrators found she had moved out of her family’s house to live with her girlfriend. School administrators apparently refused to readmit her unless she moves back in with her parents – though, at 18, she is legally an adult.

McKenzie’s Facebook page implies that, after the expulsion, she went through some emotional turmoil. A few days ago, she changed her status to “single.”

Her former classmate, Kelsey Hicks, dropped out of school about a month ago. After thinking about it, she decided she wants to return to school to pursue a diploma. She dreams of becoming a firefighter and, to pursue that career, she needs to graduate.

Hicks told KWTV that she was not allowed to return to Del City because of her “lifestyle,” saying, “The principal will say ‘Well, you’re gay. You’re not going to do anything with your life. You might as well just drop out now.’ It’s stuff to put you down that makes you want to drop out.”

Both students said they were kicked off the school’s softball team for the same reason.

“I played softball since I was 14. Softball was my life,” Hicks said.

Other students said that they had experienced the same sort of harassment and homophobia from some – but not all – faculty and staff.

“He had found out that I was gay, and he was on my case about every little thing,” Britney McDowell, another DCHS student, said of the softball coach in the same news segment. She added that the coach told her that gay and lesbian students have “an unhealthy lifestyle.”

School officials denied that there were any complaints filed. The students said that they had, however, contacted members of the school board. Those officials who spoke to the World on condition of anonymity said that the students’ statements were either false or exagerated. One of the officials said that the district worked to foster a tolerant environment, but that she could not comment on the students’ cases, out of privacy concerns. She said she felt hamstrung by the situation.

“It’s really not fair,” the official said. “Some people are putting out false information, and all we can do is say that they are false. They don’t have to abide by the same privacy concerns we do.”

According to the Advocate, the school department released a statement saying, “It is the policy of the Mid-Del Public School District not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs, services, and activities.”

Absent from that list, notably, is sexual orientation.

While some have questioned the veracity of the students’ stories, a number of LGBT-rights advocates say that it is troubling enough that there is no policy on record prohibiting discrimination against students based on their sexuality.

In an unrelated case, Clint McCance, a board member of the Midland School District in Arkansas, attracted controversy Oct. 25 for posting anti-LGBT hate speech publicly on Facebook. Even worse, the tirade was in response to a wave of suicides by young gay men, all of which were linked to anti-gay bullying.

“Seriously [sic] they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide,” McCance posted. “The only way im wearin [sic] it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant [sic] believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves [sic] because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.”

In the comments under his original post, McCance also said that he would disown his children were he to find out that they were gay. Further, he wrote, “I like that fags cant [sic] procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids [sic] and die.”

In response, more than 70,000 people joined a “Fire Clint McCance” Facebook group. But the school district did not fire him. Instead, he was allowed to resign, which he did Oct. 29.

According to Joe Solomonese of the Human Rights Campaign, “What remains troubling is that Mr. McCance focused his regret on particular word choices, not the animus behind those words. We hope he will take this time to reflect not only on the language he used but on what he can do to make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people better.”

Activists say that though there has been an increase in efforts to stop bullying and homophobia, more needs to be done.

Image: David Michael Morris // CC BY-SA 2.0