LOS ANGELES (AP) — There were many missed opportunities to prevent the murder of a 15-year-old gay student at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard.

Teachers and students saw a simmering feud between Brandon McInerney and Larry King, but said they were either ignored by administrators or did little or nothing to intervene. King’s mother said she pleaded with school officials to help tone down her son’s increasingly flamboyant behavior. One teacher encouraged King to explore his sexuality and gave him a dress.

Nearly four years after McInerney, then 14, shot King in the head before stunned classmates, plenty of questions remain about what went wrong and what can be learned to prevent future tragedies.

King’s death illustrates the difficulty schools have balancing a gay student’s civil rights with teaching tolerance to those who feel threatened by or uncomfortable about someone who’s different. It also highlighted the importance of setting clear policies to eliminate confusion among educators.

“Something was brewing and lots of people were uncomfortable and people didn’t know what to do and where to turn,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. “It reflects a profound inability for the adults to provide them with support and intervene when problems are developing.”

McInerney, 17, pleaded guilty this week to second-degree murder and two other counts for killing King, which will send him to prison for 21 years. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next month.

McInerney had reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him and other boys, defense lawyers said. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, school administrators allowed King to wear heels and makeup because federal law provides the right of students to express their sexual orientation.

King’s mother, Dawn King, said she met with school officials four days before the February 2008 shooting hoping they would help tone down her son’s behavior. She said she was told King had a civil right to explore his sexual identity.

“I knew, gut instinct, that something serious was going to happen,” she told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “They should have contained him, contained his behavior.”

Hueneme School District Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg told The Associated Press he was not aware of that meeting. He said an outside investigator hired after the shooting determined there was no wrongdoing by any of the teachers or staff.

“I believe the staff did what they were supposed to do,” Dannenberg said, calling it a horrific event. “If we could have changed it, we would have done it.”

One teacher said she gave King her daughter’s homecoming dress. Another said he did nothing when King paraded around in makeup and high heels in front of McInerney the day before the shooting because he assumed a school administrator who had watched what was going on would take care of the situation.

Some teachers also testified their concerns weren’t addressed by school officials when they tried to report escalating tensions between the two teens, something Dannenberg denied.

Some observers said school districts have focused too much on meeting academic standards.

“I think schools need to take two to three steps back and look how we get along with each other as part of what they teach,” said Ron Astor, a professor in social work at the University of Southern California. “It’s all about academics these days and the social aspect is pushed aside.”

Byard’s organization has created an anti-bullying policy and training to identify harassment. They hope school districts across the nation will employ those efforts.

Last week, the group released a guide for school districts to adopt or modify policies dealing with transgender and gender nonconforming students.

“The cost of not acting when bullying and harassment occurs is astronomical,” Byard said. “We lost two people because of the failure to act.”

Testimony during the trial centered on McInerney’s growing rage toward King. Prosecutors said at least six people heard McInerney make threats against King in the days before the shooting, including one who said the teen told him he planned to kill King.

Astor said schools need to do a better job informing students that they won’t get in trouble or be ignored if they report possible threats.

“Had students felt comfortable to let an adult know he said he was going to kill somebody, I think this child’s life could have been saved,” Astor said.

King’s family has settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district, McInerney, a gay rights organization, a shelter and others. The suit claimed that everyone from King’s teacher to his social worker failed to urge the effeminate teen to tone down flamboyant behavior.

Most details of the settlement were kept confidential. The Ventura County Star reported the majority of the settlement — just over $200,000 — was paid by a homeowner’s insurance policy held by McInerney’s grandfather. Dannenberg said the district’s payout amounted to “peanuts, really.”

Since the shooting, counselors at the junior high help students deal with their anger and offer group sessions.

A bill introduced by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., is pending before the House Education and Workforce Committee that would prohibit discrimination in public schools against lesbian and gay students.

If passed, violating the Student Non-Discrimination Act could lead to districts losing federal funding. Polis said he had King and other teens like him in mind when he wrote the bill.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. bounce says:

    >> King’s mother said she pleaded with school officials to help tone down her son’s increasingly flamboyant behavior.

    I can’t help but think that the next time a school official tries to tone down flamboyant classroom behavior, there will be a discrimination and/or civil rights violation lawsuit filed. It seems that no matter how officials respond, someone will find fault with how they handle the situation.

  2. Tim says:

    For a minute there, I thought the other Larry King was murdered.

  3. cory says:

    Let’s leave political correctness out of the equation and give the murderer the harshest penalty sans making this a cause celibre by gay activists!!

  4. GZ says:

    “The mother pleaded with the school to tone down her son’s behavior?” Who’s kid is it? It’s her responsibility to wrangle her son whatever his behavior may be–she’s at fault, so is the school. The two boys were just stuck in the middle. I think the shooter should sue the school for not providing a safe learning environment, they did nothing to help the situation.

    1. RJ says:

      i agree the gay side says that the shooter made kings life hard harassed him ok so did king not harass McInerney? yes gay kids need to be protected from bullys but by the same measure straight kids need to be protected from a gay student being allowed to come on to them in the school? i heard a story where a pre school age boy huged his female friend in class and was suspended from school for SEXUAL HARASSMENT which to me was silly the kid did not know what sex was he just wanted to hug his friend. so if you can suspend a 4 year old for huging then why was a 15 year old gay kid allowed to come on to several boys who were not willing to accept his advances?? and about the mother asking the schook to tone her son down GIVE ME A BRAKE he was YOUR SON it is YOUR job to tone him down not the schools.

  5. Angelae Le'Chastaignier says:

    A unfortunate death, a political trial, and lots of finger-pointing…
    I have deep compassion towards Mrs. King for the loss of her son, and yet, that doesn’t absolve her from the responsibility she had to discipline him – gay or not. The school can only work with what parents mold at home. If her quotes within the article are contextually correct, then Mrs. King shares some responsibility for her son’s demise.
    Secondly, the schools failed, but not because of not caring. I sense that each teacher and administrator felt they were dealing with a Politically Correct time-bomb in trying to negotiate between keeping order and allowing Larry some expression. The problem I have with this is that schools are meant for education, not social laboratories. Would Larry have been allowed to harass others if he were heterosexual and making lewd comments towards girls? This would never have happened.
    With the freedom of gender expression now becoming an entitlement, what is forgotten is the obligation to behave appropriately. If the facts are that Larry was causing problems for Brandon, Larry should have been disciplined and Brandon protected. Unfortunately, neither was.
    So Larry is dead and Brandon will spend years in prison. Such a tragedy.

    P.S. – I’m a woman with a transsexual beginning.

  6. Linda Stevens says:

    No student has a right to repeatedly come on to another student, gay or not. If a male student had been repeatedly coming on to a female student (s), the school would have immediately intervened in a positive manner. I do not understand why they did not. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment! I am truly sorry for the loss of life (Larry King (death) Brandon McInerney (prison)). Enforcement of the sexual harassment laws will go a long way in eliminating tragedies like this one. The only new legislation we need now in regards to sexual misbehavior is making it a federal crime to not report child sexual abuse (i.e. Penn State).

  7. joe says:

    The mother pleaded for others to help raise her son..
    Take responsibility.

  8. Jeezus says:

    I may be a little gay at times but i’m not siding with either side. I’d read early on with this case though that McInerney made it clear in a sexED that he didn’t accept gays in the first place……The only reason of logic that makes sense of why King would harass Brandon with such fervor. Dumb of the mother though to go the route she’s taking. I agree it was wrong to harass BM but LK was also provoked and harassed for being gay, prior to becoming overtly flamboyant-dont be fooled by media. Another blame the victim crowd. Blame the media for how they report on things, and how they try to conform and control society in the first place.

  9. drew says:

    ok yall this is quite simple to me. I am gay and all the kids i grew up with knew it some did not like it some did not care but i NEVER had issues with anyone because i kept my SEXUALITY OUT OF SCHOOL. both of these boys were victims of the stupid adults around them. the story states that little or nothing was done about larrys actions towards other boys and by the same measure if kids were messing with him it seems little or nothing was done. if a straight boy or girl acted in the manner that larry did the school would have acted fast. they would have delt hard and fast suspending them maybe expell them maybe even bringing the law into it. in this case the teachers and staff failed i mean EXCUSE ME a TEACHER gave this boy a dress to wear?? that is WAY OUTSIDE the relm of what a teacher should do. no one in the school delt with the abuse going both directions. and as for larrys mom give me a break she asked the school to tone him down LADY THAT IS YOUR JOB. bandons family if they knew he was being harrassed also failed they should have been in the school office DEMANDING ACTION and if they got non then they needed to take their child to a safer school and same with larrys mom.. so in short the kids did not fail THE ADULTS DID not one adult in this case did anything they should have

  10. FFL says:

    Joe got it on the noggin.. this was a typical liberal school system graduate mother who was NEVER taught coping skills anywhere. She obviously wanted the school and society in general to raise her kid! Hey after all don’t all lib teachers tell them that the world ALWAYS owes them a living (for free)

  11. Dusty Redcliffs says:

    This Crazy World We Live In.
    This Killing Was Useless, People had better learn to get along.
    Wake up America Your Fighting the Wrong Folks.
    The Fight Is With The LIARS THUGS and THIEVES In Washington,
    On Wall Street and Yes The Federal Reserve.
    Get With It America Our Nation Needs To Take Out All The LIARS THUGS and THIEVES That Keep Pilaging Our Rights and our Retirements.
    Lets Do The right Thing This Election Vote These LIARS THUGS and THIEVES Out Of Office.

  12. John Ashton says:

    Dusty, you nailed it!

  13. Activist says:

    Larry’s mother was just looking to make money off her son and sue the school. If school’s personnel would act on Larry’s improper advances toward other boys this woman would sue the school for violating her son’s civil right, because he is gay. Teachers probably senced the problem and was trying to cover up, so this idiot can leave the school. They could not possibly imagined how far it can go. The mother is ok, because now she is suing school for wrongfull death of her son, so she is making money either way. Wait, grandpa just got the bank from the homeowners insurance company! This is a lesson what may happenned in a country where everybody is suing everybody and nobody cares about what is right and what is wrong, as long as they are not being sued.

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