One year ago today a fifteen year old boy went to school in Southern California. By 8:30 a.m. Lawrence “Larry” King had been shot twice in the head. The following day he was declared brain dead and over the next few days his organs were donated to help others in need. Why was Larry King murdered? Because he was gay. And because he did not hide it. According to recently released documents from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Brandon McInerney shot King with “premeditation and deliberation” and is currently being held for trial as an adult, although just fourteen at the time of the murder. Investigators found a shooting training video in his possession and have witness statements that McInerney said, just hours before the shooting, “Say goodbye to your friend.”
A lot has been made about Larry’s flamboyance, wardrobe and use of makeup. Undoubtedly, these topics will be significantly discussed during the trial and in the media. Larry was unique. It is not easy for any teenager to be perceived as different, especially in school. Nerds get teased. Overweight students get taunted. And certainly kids that are even “perceived” gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender are often bullied. The school that King attended, E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, CA, did take steps to alert the faculty that a student needed to be protected under CA Law that prevents gender discrimination. A note written by an assistant principal reads in part,
We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so. Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and non-judgmental. They don’t have to like it but they need to give him his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If you wish to talk further about it please see me or [the other assistant principal].
The Youth Violence Project reports an increase in bullying at all school levels with middle (junior high) reporting the highest at 43%. What might be even more shocking is the number of expulsions for firearms violations in schools. In California, during the 2003-2004 school year, 151 students were expelled for bringing firearms to school. And that is just those that were caught. What is even more terrifying is that is a 57% increase over the previous school year. Organizations such as the GSA Network here in CA, and national organizations such as GLSEN and The Trevor Project, assist students and faculty by offering safe spaces, social networking opportunities, and diversity and acceptance programs. No student should be unsafe in our schools. Larry King is remembered today because he chose to live life as he was, who he was. A vigil is planned to honor Larry beginning at 6 p.m. tonight at 856 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura.