A northern Arkansas school board member, commenting on a campaign to get people to wear purple to show support for bullied gay and lesbian youth, purportedly posted a Facebook message saying the only way he would wear purple is “if they all commit suicide.”
The Arkansas Department of Education on Oct. 27 condemned the alleged Facebook message by Midland School Board member Clint McCance.
The Advocate, a magazine that reports about gay issues, first reported the anti-gay posting on its web site. The Facebook message in question has been disabled, but the Advocate posted a screen grab of the purported posting that it says someone forwarded to it.
McCance’s alleged posting came in response to a Facebook campaign that asked supporters to wear purple on Oct. 20 to show solidarity after several gay and lesbian youths killed themselves, reportedly as a result of bullying.
“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves,” McCance allegedly wrote in his Facebook message. “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.”
McCance didn’t immediately respond to a message from the Associated Press seeking comment. But he told the Arkansas Times that the issue had been “blown out of proportion” and he planned to issue a statement soon. Officials at the Midland School District said Superintendent Dean Stanley was out of the office and not available for comment.
The Human Rights Campaign, which seeks equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, has called for McCance’s resignation. A Facebook group, “Fire Clint McCance,” had more than 15,000 members by midday Oct. 27.
The state Education Department said in a statement that it had no jurisdiction over elected school officials, but it would investigate any reports of bullying that arise because of the incident.
“The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and is dismayed to see that a school board [member] would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook,” the department said.
News of McCance’s alleged Facebook message comes in the same week the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter warning schools: Tolerating or failing to address ethnic, sexual, or anti-gay harassment could put them in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.
After several high-profile cases of bullying, ED sent letters to schools, colleges, and universities across the country on Oct. 26, reminding them of their federal obligations. Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, said ED was responding to what it senses as a growing problem within schools.
She said the Office for Civil Rights had received 800 complaints alleging harassment over the last fiscal year, and that reports from the field indicate an increase of anti-gay harassment.
In September, 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate secretly webcast his dorm-room tryst with a man, police said. The roommate and another student have been charged with invasion of privacy, and authorities are considering whether to add a hate-crime charge.