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Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Anti-Gay Rant Attributed to Arkansas School Official Ignites Blogosphere

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The gay and lesbian blogosphere went into overdrive Tuesday when The Advocate, a longtime online news source in the LBGT community, posted a series of vicious and inflammatory anti-gay rants, which the Advocate attributed to an Arkansas school board member.

Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves,” a screen shot of the post (since removed from Facebook) said. “The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.

The Advocate identified the writer as Clint McCance, who sits on the Midland School Board in Pleasant Plains, Ark. Politics Daily was unable to confirm McCance wrote the Facebook postings — repeated calls to his residence resulted in busy signals. But on Wednesday morning, McCance did not deny authorship when asked by Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times.
McCance told Brantley that the matter had been “blown out of proportion.” He has hired an an attorney, according to the Arkansas Times Web site.

Arkansas gay activists called for McCance’s resignation by Wednesday night. If he doesn’t resign, they said they will hold a vigil outside Midland High School Thursday morning to pressure him to do so.
McCance’s personal Facebook page was unavailable Tuesday afternoon, apparently taken down after The Advocate post.

On Wednesday afternoon, the school district released a statement, “The Midland School District, Board of Directors, administration, faculty, and staff do not support or condone the comments Mr. Clint McCance posted on his personal social networking page. Mr. McCance was not acting as an agent of the school board, but as a private citizen. . . The district is very diligent in pursuing and addressing bullying of any variety on our campuses.”

A school secretary said Wednesday afternoon that McCance’s position on the school board had not changed.

Julie Thompson, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Education, told Politics Daily that the department also “strongly condemns” the remarks. But “Because Mr. McCance is an elected official, the department has no means of dealing with him directly. However, the department does have staff who investigate matters of bullying in schools and we will monitor and quickly respond to any bullying of students that may occur because of this, as we have with other civil rights issues in the past.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook campaign condemning the tirade — “Fire Clint McCance” – was launched and nearly 20,000 people have joined the cause.

The issue of gay bullying has been in the forefront of the nation’s conscience since Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, killed himself last month after a video of him in an intimate encounter with another man was posted on the Internet.
A series of videos aimed at helping young gays and lesbians, called “It Gets Better,” has gone viral, and even President Obama recently issued a video message to GLBT students after numerous incidences were reported of gay suicides and bullying.

Coincidentally on Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a message to 15,000 school districts and 5,000 college and universities stating that bullying is not acceptable and schools may have an obligation to intervene under federal law.
According to The Advocate’s report, McCance’s status update received six comments from Facebook acquaintances “liking” the board member’s status. One person commented, “Because hatred is always right.”

A person the Advocate identified as McCance responded: “No because being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that s— to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it.”

Another response to a commenter was equally provocative: “I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.”

On Tuesday night, the high school’s principal’s blog page was filled with comments from around the country. One commenter wrote: “Surely by now, you’ve seen the backlash against your board member, Mr. McCance, in regards to his horrifying comments regarding LGBT youth. His comments, while on his private Facebook page, are both inappropriate and dangerous … and indications of a horrifying disregard for human life.”

He continued, “I urge you to dismiss Mr. McCance for his egregious writings and warped sense of right and wrong. He now stands for an idea of hatred and bigotry in your community, without you sending a firm message against such callousness, you will be telling the youth of your community that his actions and hate speech are acceptable.” All comments were deleted Wednesday morning.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, told Politics Daily that his boss “is aware of Mr. McCance’s comments, and while he feels there is never a place for such deplorable comments about any child, school boards are independent and locally controlled. Mr. McCance is an elected official, so any direct action would have to be taken at the local level.”

Pleasant Plains sits in Independence County in north-central Arkansas near Batesville, where President Bill Clinton campaigned recently for Democrats. The town has a population of around 300, and Midland High School has about 292 students.

Some research shows that nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are harassed each year because of their sexual orientation.

They “experience this harassment far too much in schools, but to think that such harassment could come from a school board member is unfathomable,” Daryl Presgraves, a spokesperson for GLSEN, Inc., the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, told Politics Daily. GLSEN recently launched Safe Spaces Kit for classrooms, which includes a 42-page “Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students.”

“These kind of remarks breed hostility,” said Randi Romo of the Center for Artistic Revolution, a non-profit organization that fights for fairness and equality for all Arkansans. “These remarks make people think that it is okay to say such things, making an open season on LGBT teenagers. It gives them a sense of permission and that is wrong.”

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Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:20 pm

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