Richard Sutton on bullying and the gay student

Dateline: Fri 04 May 2012

This reflection is from my friend Richard Sutton, an activist on behalf of gay civil rights.

"Hollabird readers are very likely following the strange and sad tale of the Tech High School gay student who was suspended for carrying a taser to school for protection. Here’s some back-story.

Cross-file it under two categories:

“'Desperate moms' and 'sad reality.'

"Dynasty Young is a 17-year old junior at Tech. He is loudly and proudly gay. His mom and his five siblings proudly embrace Dynasty. His twin brother joined him in a stark and poignant video that accompanied an IndyStar article on the boy’s plight: student-faces-expulsion-fired-stun-gun-mom-gave-him?odyssey=tab|topnews|img|

"So much information, so little space.

"Some up-front qualifiers: I am the president of Indiana Equality Action, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group. We worked hard on Indiana anti-bullying legislation, only to see it killed because some right-wing senators didn’t want to infringe on the free-speech rights of students who might spew hate.

"And I served on a school board where Dr. Eugene White was superintendent. He’s properly passionate about many things, but in my experience, he’ll back a school principal beyond all reason. Dr. White’s IPS tenure isn’t the issue here, even though it could fill a blog.

"Also: the recent movie 'Bully' is an over-shadowing presence. No one in America knows the reality of 'Bully' more than the gay community. It’s so painful I couldn’t even watch it. Mainstreet America has no idea how real that movie is.

"The issues here boil down to just a few.

"First: this child’s mother was Urban Desperate. Unemployed, mother of six, seeing her son bullied repeatedly at school. She made the requisite trips and calls to the school, only to be told, as the principal in the Star article notes, the following, which is Problem Two:

"School to gay student: butch up. boy, and then we can protect you. Otherwise, 'kids will be kids.'

"Which led to Problem Three:

"Mom buys son a taser for protection. When confronted again, son pulls out the taser and fires it in the air. It momentarily worked.

"Problem Four: Dynasty is suspended, and recommended for expulsion, because he carried a weapon to school and discharged it, albeit in the air, and not on another person.

"Almost all school policies are firm on the weapons issue. As they should be. Dynasty’s family is ready to accept the 5-day suspension for that infraction. But IPS went the extra mile, and will recommend expulsion. That sad case is still winding its way through administrative channels (three appeal venues are allowed: building level, superintendent, and school board). Then, a student’s family can seek court action if they’re unsatisfied.

"We all lose here. No clear-cut answers, no crystal-clear remedies. So we have to do some Gray Area Pondering on much of this case.

"Vigilante justice cannot be taught or tolerated. But if you could hear the cases offered up to LGBT activists, of bullied and abandoned students statewide, your hearts would break. Kids are attempting suicide a record levels—and too many are successful. They feel voiceless, left out and their youthful minds cannot imagine life beyond their miserable existences. Most do not tell their parents.

"Here’s what needs to be said:

"The Young family recognizes the error of their ways. They want Dynasty’s education continued—he wants to continue to college to become a choreographer. This bright young man has a supportive parent—not all gay kids have that. He says he has a clean school record otherwise—and that’s important. Not a trouble-maker.

"When a school principal in 2012 is allowed to comment publicly about a pending disciplinary case, we should demand action. It’s a symptom of severely-broken priorities.

"Think what you will about Dynasty’s IPS future. I’ve heard it all in the last few days, from inside and outside the gay community.

"But this principal’s loud and obnoxious comments sent a stunning message to bullies: green light.

"The principal should be severely disciplined for making public comments while his office is directly in the appeal path. It’s completely improper, prejudicial to the likely appeal, and our tax dollars cannot be spent on that kind of ignorance.

"In today’s IPS, administrators get more cover and tolerance than federal law demands for student expression (See Title 9, US Code). There is no room in any school district for this attitude.

"The final straw: Dynasty’s family confirmed to me that his main 'non-butch' expression was: jewelry. You see, Tech students wear uniforms -- khaki pants and polo shirts.

"So this kid is threatened because he’s got individual style?

"And finally: THIS is what occurs in a school district out of control. It won’t get better until we demand our administrators behave like, well….adults.

"Boil it all down, desired outcome: suspension served. Dynasty’s family apologizes for taser. Principal disciplined. Tech attitudes change. Dynastys everywhere feel more safe. IPS refuses (LOUDLY) to give Safe Harbor to bullies.

"And of course, pigs fly."


Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

"THIS is what occurs in a school district out of control."

And, of course, THIS is the bottom line. IPS is a disaster, not only for its students, but for the reputation of Indianapolis.

Who would want to move a company here when the public schools are "out of control"?

2012-05-06 13:27:10

John Howard [unverified] said:

I stumbled across a Gannett paper that already has the paywall up and running, if you are interested in seeing it in action:

2012-05-06 17:57:03

hendy [Member] said:

IPS sucks, so it's ok to carry and fire a taser on school property. Uh, no. IPS is within their rights to expel this person.

This person also has a reasonable expectation to prevention of harm. That fact is a separate issue. This individual should be able to wear whatever is within the published constraints for anyone on a campus. No harm should come to this individual as a result of their sexual preference or gender state, but there is no protection from this under Indiana law. The law needs to be changed.

IPS needs to as a first matter of course, ensure this student's safety no matter the sexuality or gender position of the individual, so long as the individual is a student there. Not protecting this individual is a problem. Jewelry is not an attractive nuisance. Gay, straight, indefinite gender, makes no difference. Safety is paramount.

I would hope that the ACLU or another sponsor would take up the cause of this person; this person deserves protection. However, having violated non-ambiguous rules, this person, knowing that there is zero tolerance for weapon possession on IPS property, knowingly violated that rule and should accept the consequences. From there, litigation should ensue.

I don't care who you are: don't bring a weapon on to IPS grounds as a student. If you do, you face expulsion. Every IPS student knows this fact cold. It's drilled into them. Drilled. This person knew. This person knowingly violated that.

That others violated his personal security is possible, even probable. This is an injury caused by IPS to the student, and must be handled separately, and hopefully soon. IPS can't be a coward in these situations. Being gay isn't being different, it's a human variation. We're all human and we all deserve protection.

2012-05-06 21:49:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

You just made a very reasoned argument, Hendy. The mom doesn't have the same otions, nor likely the same background or future, as you.

She was indeed Urban Desparate. She made a lousy choice.
I completely "get" why she thinks she had no other choices.

This case will get uglier. IPS, specifically Dr. White, will make the Luigar-Mourdock commercials look like cotton candy, if there's the slightest hint the district is going to look bad. Remember the out-of-town folks who dared video-tape a meeting Dr. White ran at a school? Because they'd roudly criticized IPS, the sistrict's (paid) hack was sent to usher the videgraphers out of the public meeting in a public building.

Adults snooze. Kids lose.

And this to ponder; Dynasty reports he's far from alone in the Bully-Victim Dept.

2012-05-07 16:51:19

hendy [Member] said:

I understand why she thought it may have been a viable choice. It wasn't. There are two problems, first an individual now stigmatized with an expulsion, and with being gay. As far as the expulsion is concerned, it can be eventually rescinded. Gay is probably forever, but the stigma has diminished over my lifetime dramatically, and I hope the trend continues. There should be none, in the real world. For everyone, there seems to be someone to hate for some reason.

I don't know if Dr White can't turn this into lemonade. But it's unlikely. There are no leaders left, only the fear instilled by rules.

Could Dr White go thru and be a hero? Rescind this and do a pro-LGBTQ educational mission? Maybe. He's now hemmed in. The young person involved? I hope he finds a good landing spot. Somewhere that an education is available that doesn't care about his sexualness, and is more interested in instilling good values and cognitive prowess. That's unlikely.

What happens in reality? Another kid lost. Another family, already broken, with less luck. A bunch of bullies that won the fight think they can do it again. And times keeps on slipping into the future where these lives play out.

2012-05-08 17:21:55

Rob [unverified] said:

This is a lose-lose situation. Dynasty and his mother report that he is being bullied but can't identify the bullies. Tech's principle does discipline one student who was bullying Dynasty in class, but makes the mistake of suggesting that Dynasty keep a lower profile. After Dynasty takes a stun gun to school, and waves it around at a group of six students, he gets sent to the principle. Then the family speaks out to a newspaper reporter which makes the issue public IPS has to follow their policies and expel the student with a weapon.
I am not saying that anyone should be treated like Dynasty, but he and his mother threw gasoline on the fire by taking the stun gun to school and then going to the newspaper. Avoiding escalating issues can be effective advice.

2012-05-09 20:21:19

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

"Gay is probably forever?" Damn, hendy, really? I'm hoping you're kidding.

Rob: and all: new news: the "stun gun" was purchased for noise effect; can't hurt anyone, was bought at a ghetto variety store that sells no weapons at it was basically a noisemaker.

I suspet the family spoke out because they felt vulnerable and alone. It's not like they're full of options in life. It's wrong, yeah...but on a scale that needs better definition.

And the district's expulsion policy says the Supt. "may" expel Dynasty for carrying a dangerous weapon "for up to a year."

And now, it's not a dangerous weapon, and the Supt. is asking for the max.

Yep. Nobody wins, all right. And I'd better check to see if gay is forever. I'll get back to you.


2012-05-09 20:45:07

hendy [Member] said:

TTT, five decades ago, when I was in school, the stigma was strong. Now, much less so, depending on the school, and certainly not gone.

Kinsey cites a scale where you can identify solely with the opposite sex, ending at only the same sex in at least the dimension of sexual attraction. I know people that have swung both directions; often it's a long grey scale. To me, there is no stigma of being gay or straight or in between. It is, what you are or declare yourself to be.

Others are more polarized. Some people don't expose to the world their inclinations. Some waffle, some move around the scale a bit.

One of my difficulties is with the concept of absolutes, and that you're born one way or another. While I believe you can be born with an inclination, I don't believe it has to remain static through your life. People change. They go straight, they go bi, they go gay. Some gay people believe that there is no "middle ground" of being bi; I believe they're wrong and as prejudiced as many straight people, using only their own context to judge others. I don't do that. Any confusion that you may have derived is hopefully clarified. Geesh.

2012-05-09 21:43:05

Rob [unverified] said:

So, Dynasty should not have been expelled because the stun gun was fake? My point about escalating things needlessly still is valid, even if the stun gun was fake, trying to use it to intimidate other students is wrong.
The expulsion is until Jan 7th and Dynasty and his mother can appeal (and probably should).
And the IPS board guidelines about expulsion, list the reasons for expulsion include "Using violence, force, noise, coercion, threat, intimidation, fear, passive resistance, or other comparable conduct constituting an interference with school purposes". The guidelines do not include any verbiage about dangerous weapons, just that issues involving deadly weapons have to be referred to the prosecutor.

2012-05-09 22:26:58

hendy [Member] said:

Rob, I'm pretty sure that if you search more deeply, you'll find the ban on weapons. And I agree that carrying one to school unless you're a peace officer is wrong and probably illegal according to Indiana State law.

The other problems regarding bullying also apply. It's lopsided in the case of this young person. This person needs a legal defense fund.

2012-05-10 07:49:29

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Rob: here's the appropriate IPS Policy:

IPS Policy 5610: A student who is identified as bringing a deadly weapon as defined in I.C. 35-41-1-8 to school or on school property or who possesses a deadly weapon on school property may be expelled for a period of not more than one (1) calendar year.

And here's the definiton of a stun gun under Indiana law:

As used in this chapter, "electronic stun weapon" means any mechanism that is:? (1) designed to emit an electronic, magnetic, or other type of charge that exceeds the equivalency of a five (5) milliamp sixty (60) hertz shock.

So, this boy defended himself with the shocking power of a loud noisemaker that uses a 9v battery.


Yeah, he probably still shouldn't have brought it to school. The family felt hemmed-in and helpless. It's a sad excuse--sad for them and everyone else.

But the above policy notes the Supt. has the discretion to recommend an expulsion much less-harsh.

He damned well should.

"Intimidate other students?" Lord help us.

They'll appeal. They'll lose, and probably for only one reason: Eugene White plays for keeps.

2012-05-10 21:52:27

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