Gender Differences and the Law

In Oxnard, California, Larry King, 15, was shot to death in his computer classroom by fellow student, Brandon McInerny, also 15. The reason: Larry expressed his gender in a way that was different. He told students he was gay – he sometimes wore earrings and make-up to school. He often sported his favorite high-heeled boots. Apparently, in the days before the shooting, he’d been teasing the shooter that he “liked” him.

How do we stop another killing in our classrooms over gender expression? I can tell you, the problem runs deep in the American culture. As I wait in the car line to pick up my kids at the elementary school, I’ve heard children teasing others about being “gay.” I see the facial expressions of horror or revulsion as a child denies being “gay.” In my home, we teach tolerance, but our words don’t seem strong enough to counter the undercurrent of homophobia in the schools.

Some might say, turn down that First Amendment when it comes to k-12 schools. Institute school uniforms, haircut requirements, jewelry and shoe limitations. Slam shut hallway and schoolyard speech. Some say, leave the freedoms instact, but put the burden on schools to heighten punishment for discriminatory or bullying behavior based on race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Require schools to incorporate education on gays and lesbians into their general curriculum.

Some say, do nothing further than what’s been done. The education on tolerance belongs with the family.

What do you think should be done? Can the law really fix this problem?


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