AC360 Takes on Arkansas School Board Member Who Wants ‘Fags’ To ‘Commit Suicide’ And To ‘Give Each Other AIDS And Die’
Anderson Cooper is really terrible when it comes to covering politics a lot of the time, but when it comes to issues like this and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community, I've got to give the man a lot of credit. It is completely unacceptable for a member of a school board anywhere to be acting this way and I'm glad Cooper decided to give it some national attention on CNN.
Here's more from Think Progress -- Arkansas School Board Member Wants ‘Fags’ To ‘Commit Suicide’ And To ‘Give Each Other AIDS And Die’ :
Last week, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) asked people to “Go Purple” to call attention to the suicides of six teenagers who were victims of homophobic bullying. In response, a myriad of high-profile figures “jumped at the opportunity” to voice their support as part of YouTube’s “It Gets Better” campaign, including 40 Broadway actors, Google, Inc., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama. Yesterday, Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent new official guidelines on school-bullying to 15,000 school districts and 5,000 colleges and universities as a message that “bullying is not acceptable” and could violate federal civil rights laws.
Despite a chorus of support, GLAAD’s anti-bullying message is falling on deaf ears in Arkansas. Specifically, the ears of Arkansas District School board member Clint McCance. In response to GLAAD’s appeal to wear purple, McCance, an elected member of the Midland school board, unleashed a tirade of anti-gay bigotry on his facebook page. In a series of posts, McCance actually encourages “fags” and “queers” to kill themselves and says that, if his kids were gay, he’d “run them off“.
Cooper did a great job of pointing out that there are real faces and real children who have committed suicide because of this type of attitude and bullying. It's completely unacceptable that this man is still allowed to keep his job in the Arkansas school system after these revelations. This sort of hatred and bigotry should not be condoned and has real life and death consequences for children who are struggling with their own identities as Cooper pointed out.
Transcript from CNN below the fold.
COOPER: We begin, though, tonight, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest," with an Arkansas public official whose response to the school bullying problem and the rash of suicides by gay kids is that he likes it when gay people die. He said that on his Facebook page. He likes it when gay people die.
Now, if these were just the comments of an everyday person, this wouldn't be news. No doubt plenty of people probably say stuff like that. But these comments were being made by a public official, and not just any official, a school official, elected to the school board in the Midland School District in Eastern Arkansas. In fact, he's the school district vice president.
As with any bully, we think it's important for you to see his face. This is the only picture we could get from his Facebook page. This is the face of the man who says he likes it when gay people die. We think you should know his name as well. It's Clint McCance, Clint McCance. This picture that we showed you is from Facebook. The man with power over kids in Arkansas public schools was apparently ticked off about a nationwide call by activists last Wednesday to wear the color purple in support of gay kids.
Here's some of what he wrote on his Facebook page. And I remind you the words are his, not ours, and the language is offensive.
"Seriously," he wrote, "they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way I'm wearing it is -- for them is if they all commit suicide. I can't believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid."
He goes on -- and what you see is his spelling not ours -- "We're honoring the fact that they sinned and killed themselves -- thereselves because of their sin. Really, people."
Mr. McCance apparently doesn't know or does not care to use the names of the five dead kids he's attacking and mocking. He simply calls them queers, fags.
But these kids do have names, and they have families, and they have friends who are still mourning their loss and will mourn for the rest of their lives. These kids have names. And you should know their names, and so should he.
Tyler Clementi, 19 years old, he jumped off a bridge after his college roommate allegedly streamed live images of him with another male onto the Internet.
Asher Brown, 13 years old, who put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger after what his parents said was years of bullying.
Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old California boy who hung himself after taunts and bullying.
Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old Indiana boy who also hung himself.
And 19-year-old Zach Harrington, who killed himself, it should be noted, after attending a city council meeting in his Oklahoma town where anti -- anti-gay comments were being made.
Now, these are not queers or fags, as Mr. McCance calls them. They are people. They are human beings. They're our fellow citizens.
And when Mr. McCance posted his rant on his Facebook page, half a dozen or so people actually pressed the like button. He also received some positive comments. But others did challenge him. And he responded to their challenges on the comments section with more words.
He said -- quote -- "It pisses me off, though, that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can't procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die."
Then he wrote this: "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."
Clint McCance has had more than a day now to apologize for these comments. He's had more than a day to cool down, to reflect and make some sort of public statement. He has said nothing. We have called him. He's not taking our calls.
Now, that often happens with bullies. When you challenge them, when you stand up to them, when you face their anger with rational thought and calm questions, they retreat. They run away. They show their own fear. Sometimes, they even hide behind their parents.
And that's what Clint McCance is doing tonight. His father, Ron, did speak to us on the phone. He told us -- quote -- "I don't know why he said it. All this caught everyone by surprise. He said it was his page, he pulled it, and he got caught up in the moment. This was out of character," Clint McCance's father claims. "I didn't read the blogs or nothing, but I don't know the context of who he was talking to or what led up to that heated moment."
Mr. McCance concluded, saying: "I do defend his right to say what he wants to, but we have all been blind sided. I'm so shocked."
Well, school officials in Arkansas said they are shocked as well. They put out numerous statements saying they don't support what the school official says or believes. They say it doesn't represent the attitudes or beliefs of school officials in this country or the state.
Well, let's hope that's true, for the sake of the kids, gay or not, in that community and in that state.
Joining us now, the man who blew the whistle on all this, Anthony Turner, a graduate of Midland High School who has written a letter to the school board complaining about Clint McCance, also Rosalind Wiseman, a bullying expert, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabes."
Anthony, first of all, did you know him when you went to this school?
ANTHONY TURNER, GRADUATE OF MIDLAND HIGH SCHOOL: Yes. Clint was a couple of years older than I am, a couple of years ahead of me in school. But I knew him. It's a small community, a small town.
So, everyone there pretty much knows everyone -- weren't not close or anything, and I haven't seen or talked to him in years. But I am acquainted with Mr. McCance.
COOPER: And what would -- what did you think when you saw this Facebook posting?
TURNER: Oh, I will tell you, oh, this is something that really struck home with me.
I have never really thought of myself as any kind of activist or anything, but, as I started seeing these Facebook posts from kids -- about kids who have committed suicide because they were bullied and taunted and ridiculed because they were gay, I mean, it -- it really struck home with me, because I have been there, and I have lived through that, actually in the same school district that these Facebook postings from Mr. McCance are coming from.
So, I know what it's like. And it's rough. And so I started posting on my Facebook, encouraging people to take part in the spirit day, to wear purple, to remember the lives of these -- these kids who tragically lost their lives...
TURNER: ... and to -- to stand up to bullying, stop bullying in schools.
And so, you know, it was really near and dear to my heart. And, then, to see his response to that, to see him say, you know, that the only way he would ever participate in such a day is if all queers -- I hate to say the word -- killed themselves, you know, it really struck home with me that -- that something needed to be done.
COOPER: And, I mean, Rosalind, to -- to -- people say this stuff probably online all the time. They hide behind the anonymity of it, but he put his name on it. And he's a school official.
I mean, you're an educator. You work with schools around the country to try to stop bullying. How do you work with a school when the people -- when the guy, at least one guy on the school board, the vice president, is saying this kind of stuff?
ROSALIND WISEMAN, AUTHOR, "QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES: HELPING YOUR DAUGHTER SURVIVE CLIQUES, GOSSIP, BOYFRIENDS, AND THE NEW REALITIES OF GIRL WORLD": Well, I think he reminds me of a kid in seventh grade who says the most obnoxious things, and everybody hates him, and he's just trying to get a reaction.
And -- but he's not in seventh grade. He's a school official. So, what -- you know, people are always -- there's going to always be someone like this.
I think what's really important here is that the people around him, the adults, the school officials, speak out and say, we cannot have this here. Treat him with dignity, but get him off of being responsible in any way for kids.
But the other thing I want to do is, I want to really have a callout to the people who have been talking about the, you know, bullying agendas and all of this. If we're going to have a problem with openly gay teachers, for example, I think we have to have a really big problem with mean, mean school officials, and that people like Focus on the Family or other organizations who are really focused on getting gay people out of the schools, that we have got to say, but you know what, it's not tolerable to have mean people in the schools. It's not tolerable to have mean teachers, because that's, frankly, worse.
What would you rather have? Would you rather have a mean, irresponsible person who is advocating for the suicide of kids, or do you want people who are just trying to be and live in dignity?
COOPER: Anthony, the school officials right now in Arkansas are saying: Look, we can't fire this guy. He's an elected official on to a school board, and there's really not much we can do.
Do you buy that?
TURNER: I will tell you, I'm a real -- really thankful for the It Gets Better campaign, where everybody, you know, from rock stars to the president of the United States has -- has posted online videos telling kids that it gets better, that it's not just high school, that things are better after.
But, you know, I think we really have a responsibility to make sure that it gets better now. Why should students have to wait until they graduate for things to be better?
You know, we need to do something. And if it's the case that -- that the laws are the way they are, the policies are the way they are, and nothing can be done in this particular instance, then that should serve as a wakeup call to -- to all of us that we need to really think about our public policy, and really think about, you know, a situation where hate like this, where -- where this horrible kind of conduct from a -- a board official could be tolerated, and nothing can be done about it.
COOPER: Rosalind, we have talked a lot about bullying over the last, well, years, frankly, on this program, but, you know, we talk about bullies being students. You don't think about bullies as being on the school board for years.
I mean, this isn't some guy who's just -- you know, it's been -- it's been a while he's on the school board. Do you believe that there's nothing that can be done to, you know, make him step down, or...
WISEMAN: I think there's a lot to be done. I think there's a lot to be done.
And, then, this is also about the civic contract that somebody has with -- with the community. And, as a school official, it's even higher. His sacred responsibility is toward the safety of the kids and for the education of the kids.
And so what he's doing is fundamentally anti-child and anti-education. So, the colleagues around him have to be able to say, this cannot stand. And if we don't do that, and if they don't do that, then we lose credibility with our own children. And we have got to be able to stand out and speak out.
COOPER: Anthony, you know, I guess some people would say, well, look, this is a -- a small town. This is just some -- you know, some guy on a school board. What does it really matter? You would say what?
TURNER: I would say that I'm from a small town. And, you know, it's rough for gay kids and kids who are different in general, no matter where they are. But, in larger communities, in larger areas, you know, there are -- there are gay groups for students. There are PFLAG. There are -- there -- there's an alternate perspective telling them, you know, that -- that it's OK to be who you are.
In these small communities, there's -- there's nothing. You know, there -- this is the kind of thing that they often hear. And so we have a responsibility to -- to tell kids everywhere, in rural -- in rural communities across the country, throughout the world, that there are people out here, out there that care about them, and that this kind of thing is not going to be tolerated anymore, that people are going to stand up for -- for their rights.
It's not just about Pleasant Plains, Arkansas, which I love dearly, but it's -- it's about small communities and large communities, communities in general across the country. Kids need to know that people care.
COOPER: And I don't want to paint small communities with a broad brush. My dad's from a small down in -- in Mississippi, and the people there are fantastic.
COOPER: This man does not represent -- clearly, all the other school officials are, you know, making very public statements in Arkansas, saying -- Arkansas, saying, this man does not represent our thoughts.
But this man is on the school board, Rosalind. Where do you think -- I mean, do you think he will step down? Do you think he will make comments? Do bullies, when you confront them, when you call them out, what do you -- you know, he's running behind -- he's hiding behind his dad right now at this point.
WISEMAN: Well, this is what I think. I think that he has got to be a man and step down, because he did something that was not honorable, and that he really was anti-child, and he betrayed the children that he was responsible for.
But the other thing I really want to say is that we have got to get people who are talking about this, you know, anti-bullying education, and say, we don't want certain people in our schools, or we just want to talk about gay issues in ways of, you know, not really -- you know, sort of skirting around the issue, that we have got to get these people to say, we don't tolerate those people as well. We don't tolerate hatred, because what it -- otherwise, what happens is, there's this public feeling of that we can't hold accountable people who need to be held accountable.
So, I'm asking the people in his community to say, with dignity, you cannot be a part of helping and being a part of our child -- of our children's communities. You just can't do it.
COOPER: Well, we continue our invitation to Mr. McCance to come on this program. We would like to hear his perspective.
Rosalind Wiseman, Anthony Turner, appreciate both of you being on with us. Thank you.
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