by Jody Marksamer, Esq., NCLR Youth Project Director
Fifteen-year-old Lawrence King identified as gay and was out to many of his classmates at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California. Like many other LGBT youth, Larry was the target of ridicule and harassment. But this harassment and bullying escalated far beyond what many LGBT youth have endured. On February 12, 2008, in the middle of his morning computer class, Larry King was shot twice in the head by his classmate, 14-year old Brandon McInerney. Larry died two days later.
As the second anniversary of his death approaches, we join with organizations and individuals across the country to remember Larry King. Numerous vigils are scheduled across the country in memory of Larry, to celebrate his life and raise our voices in unity to call for an end to violence and harassment directed at LGBT youth. To find a vigil or other community event in your area, or to list a remembrance event in your community, visit www.rememberinglawrence.org.
With LGBT youth coming out at younger ages, it is vital that our schools—especially our junior high and middle schools—create safe and positive environments for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Schools must teach students tolerance and respect. Passing state laws and implementing district policies aimed at preventing harassment and violence in schools is a necessary starting point. We also must ensure that teachers and administrators are well-trained and are able to respond to harassment in a way that stops it and keeps it from escalating.
The change that we are calling for is vital to the future of our community. Today, because of our persistent, hard work and the hard work of fellow LGBT youth advocates, we are a little bit closer to living in a world where all LGBT young people can grow, thrive, and live authentic lives free of violence and discrimination—but we still have a long way to go. We must continue to write and help pass laws and policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment in schools. We must continue to train teachers, lawyers, and administrators on meeting their legal responsibilities to better protect LGBT youth and create environments that foster respect. And we must continue to work with youth to empower them to know their rights so they can demand that the adults responsible for their safety and well-being treat them with the respect that they deserve and that the law requires.
Today, as we remember Larry King, we renew our commitment to changing the culture of violence and intolerance in schools so there are no more deaths, and all LGBT youth know they are valued and respected.