by Max Brantley
A timely announcement from the U.S. Education Department yesterday. It says school districts that fail to protect gay students can lose federal dollars.
The letter said schools “must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring.”
I reached him again at 4 p.m. today after a day in which local school officials bunkered up as worldwide reaction rained down in the tiny rural district near Batesville. He said, "I'm going to remain tight-lipped for now." He hung up as I asked him if he planned to remain on the School Board.
What follows is the episodic development of the story today, starting early in the morning.
UPDATE II: The Midland School District has removed the names of School Board members from its website. Its e-mail account is not accepting outside e-mail. It has disabled the public comments page. The Board members, in addition to McCance, are Bub Beel, Connie Blevins, Brandon Bowren, Debbie Frazier, Bob Rhew and Bryson Wood.
UPDATE III: A statement from the state Education Department:
The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and are dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook. 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.
The department also has worked with the State’s Office of the Attorney General during the month of October to provide training to counselors across the state regarding cyberbullying, “sexting” and texting, which included a portion on how to watch for and deal with bullying of this kind.
UPDATE IV: A statement from Dan Farley, executive director of the Arkansas School Boards Association:
Members of the Arkansas School Boards Association Board of Directors and staff were appalled to read the comments purportedly made by the Midland School Board member in which he denounces gay students. Our organization expects school board members to support the education and promote the welfare of all students in their districts. With 1,500-plus school board members in Arkansas, we are saddened that the comments made by one individual will reflect poorly on other board members who work hard on behalf of the children in their communities.
ASBA has no tolerance for bullying or attacks on children, and we certainly would not tolerate such actions, either physical or verbal, by adults.
When school board members take the oath of office, they swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas. ASBA expects board members to adhere to state and federal laws, and bullying would certainly fall under those statutes.
The Center for Artistic Revolution, which works in gay rights causes, announces a meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at Christ Episcopal Church to discuss a response to the remarks. It has called for McCance's immediate resignation. It plans a "visibility action" Thursday at Midland School District offices if he does not resign.
Stonewall Democrats commented:
Members of the Stonewall Democratic Caucus are saddened and angered by the inappropriate and dangerous comments made by Clint McCance concerning the recent suicides of gay teens.
Bullying and violence against LGBT teens and those perceived to be LGBT has led to a number of suicides around the country in the last few months. Mr. McCance's incendiary remarks perpetuate the cycle of violence and show an incredible lack of leadership. His remarks should be condemned by other members of the Midland School Board and citizens of the community.
A reminder of what McCance was reported to have said on his Facebook page, now disabled:
"Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. 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."
After being challenged by a commenter, this was Mr. McCance’s reply:
"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 shit 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."
"I would disown my kids 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."
The news landed me on MSNBC: