an apple a day

When La’Daytra Walker’s 13-Year-Old Gay Son Was Targeted By A Teacher, The School Shrugged It Off

The idea that students are the only bullies in school tormenting gay kids was long ago shot down. As we know, sometimes teachers are the culprits, or at least the co-conspirators acting in unison with a homophobic classroom. For La’Daytra Walker — the mother of a 13-year-old gay student in Montgomery, Alabama (not pictured) — alerting the school about an abusive teacher didn’t help things.

Walker hired attorney Julian McPhillips to reach out to the school after her son came home and told her one of his teachers demanded he “quit acting like a girl and start act­ing like a boy” in front of classmates. The school responded, as is becoming increasingly expected, with nonchalance; the comment was taken out of context, the school district’s attorney Ramadanah Jones replied. Jones insists Walker’s son was acting out, and the teacher said only “to stop acting like that, boy.”

Either way, it wasn’t the apology Walker was hoping for. Her attorney, however, was satisfied with the Montgomery Public School District’s assurance such behavior wouldn’t happen again, and it hasn’t. So long as that remains, McPhillips says he won’t pursue the matter.

So the teacher goes unpunished? Apparently so, even though the instructor is allegedly responsible for targeting one gay boy as well as another girl, the Montgomery Advertiser relays.

The letter that McPhillips sent to Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Bar­bara Thompson stated that the student who was involv­ed is gay. McPhillips said in the letter that Walker told him that her son’s teacher has “continuously harassed her son about his ‘gayness.’” The letter to the school dis­trict states, “Ms. Walker in­forms me that not only her son, but also another girl in his class, have informed you (that the teacher has) contin­ually harassed (the student) every day, blaming him for things you do not blame oth­er students for.”

The letter states that a cer­tain female in the class has confirmed in writing that the teacher said to Walker’s son, “Stop acting like a girl and act like a boy sometimes.” “The same female student says that you, (the teacher), criticize (the student) even for the way he looks, dresses, sings, talks and walks,” the letter said. “You have also criticized the appearance of (the stu­dent’s) hair,” the complaint said. “The female student says you criticize (the stu­dent) virtually every day.” In his letter, McPhillips stated that he considered the “continued harassment to constitute ‘anti-gay bully­ing.’”

So while it appears Walker is leaving the situation alone for now, she’s still not comfortable with how the school approaches issues of bullying, especially of the anti-gay variety. Teachers “shouldn’t even be in a posi­tion where they can’t deal with situations,” Walker says. “I just hope out of this, that nobody else will have to go through it. I hope it is a message to the teachers to wake up and have to deal with it. I didn’t want to come off as a person trying to make something out of nothing. It really hurt me and my son.”

It certainly doesn’t sound like she’s making something out of nothing. The situation is this: a gay tweenager believes he’s being targeted by his own teacher because of his sexuality, or his expression of it, and the school simply says “nah, that can’t be true.” But in the eyes of the student, he doesn’t feel safe in the classroom. Apparently, neither does one of his female classmates. So whether the teacher is purposefully marginalizing this young man because of his sexuality, or acting in a way that makes him feel he is, the situation is important enough that school officials need to address it. Perhaps with mandatory training about how not to make students feel ashamed or singled out because of their gender, sexuality, or any outwardly display of it? It sounds so simple, when we’re talking about a place that’s supposed to foster acceptance and critical thinking.

And yet.

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  • Francis

    And this is a prime example of just what LGBT teens are going through in these schools in rural places, and most other places countrywide as well. A prime fucking example. Nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide. The place they should feel safe they feel hated.

    Since this situation has been corroborated by another student, if I were Ms. Walker, I would sue the pants off of the school board. She can’t allow this shit to go down quietly. It’s going to take a hit in the pocketbook for these schools to get the message.

  • NY152

    Even a hit the pocket book doesn’t seem to fix the problem anymore. They just write the check and move on, really never addressing the real issue! Faculty and school board members need to start losing their jobs over this type of behavior. And once terminated they need to be denied unemployment benefits. Maybe then will the true message sink in! When are we going to up the consequences to these acts of hatred and homophobia? How many more teens need to go through this????

  • NY152

    Even a hit to the pocket book doesn’t seem to fix the problem anymore. They just write the check and move on, really never addressing the real issue! Faculty and school board members need to start losing their jobs over this type of behavior. And once terminated they need to be denied unemployment benefits. Maybe then will the true message sink in! When are we going to up the consequences to these acts of hatred and homophobia? How many more teens need to go through this????

  • ChicagoJimmy

    Bring a digital recorder to class in your pocket and tape the fucker calling you out. Distribute online and watch how quickly things change.

  • Tessie Tura

    In the late seventies I was bullied by teachers in school – two in particular. One was a football coach who taught driver’s ed as well. When he first asked us individually what driving experience we had, I replied that I didn’t have much experience, just driving the truck in the hayfield while bales were tossed on the truck, and driving a tractor. He went off on me in front of the class saying things like “YOU worked in a hayfield?” I gave it right back to him – “don’t think that because I’m not on your losing football team (they won ONE game that season) that I’m not capable of farm work…”

    The other instance was a teacher who was gay himself, and there is animosity between us to this day – even after 33 years. Because I was a fem little piano player instead of a jock, he ridiculed me in class, even ignoring me for a whole semester (he would even skip my name on roll call) because I wouldn’t donate blood at his precious Key Club’s annual blood drive (I have a morbid fear of needles, even now). He did not acknowledge my presence in class unless I spoke first. He finally stopped when I renewed my drivers’ license and listed myself as a medical donor.

  • Jeffree

    Ms. Walker’s son is lucky to have a mom who speaks out when homophobia rears its ugly head. Not every LGBT tween has such support. [Thanks, Ms. Walker !]

    @ChicagoJimmy: Great suggestion! When I was in middle-school taking a “remedial course” the substitute teacher would routinely call us “tards” so Dad set me up with a pocket-sized voice recorder, evidence was gathered, the sub got canned. It worked!

    @Tessie Tura: I’m sad to read what happened to you, but those stories/events need to be told. I appreciate your comments here on Qty. You def have the stuff for a book/article/play there!

  • M

    I just don’t get it.

    I went to high school in a rural area in a flyover state, but the school took bullying seriously. Didn’t matter if you were dumb, smart, gay, fat, thin. There was no excuse for bullying. The principal was former military and didn’t stand for kids being picked on, especially by teachers. And this was quite a few years ago when gays could be discriminated against in any state or country.

    Looking back, I guess I was fortunate, but I don’t see how any person in a position of watching over young people could just look the other way. So frustrating.

  • Nathan

    The only way to stop bullying in schools in the long term is to lawyer up and sue the shit out of school administrations that allow bullying to occur every single time it happens. This war of attrition might take a while, but eventually these school boards will see cents.

  • Michael

    There’s a lot wrong with this story. For starters, what was Walker doing that prompted the teacher to single out his behavior, in essence, asking him to change his behavior? Let’s assume the teacher did say; “quit acting like a girl and start act­ing like a boy.” Would Walker have been OK with the teacher ending the sentence with “gay” or “gay boy,” rather than “boy?” I make note, Queerty calls Walker a “young man.” Wouldn’t this be offensive to Walker? Surely, “young gay” or “gay youth” is more appropriate. What was the compelling need for the mother, La’Daytra Walker, to hire an attorney, prompting the like need to involve an attorney for the school? This stuff costs money, folks, and we the taxpayers all share here. I’m not seeing “bullyism” in this incident. Rather, this smells like somebody chasing the rainbow for a big fat check.

  • Steve

    The vast majority of teachers really do have the children’s best interest in mind, and work toward that interest whenever they can. They each have professional training. And they have more education and experience dealing with children than most parents. But also, every teach is a human being, and they sometimes make mistakes and fail to perceive or understand situations.

    At the same time, many parents get all upset at every little detail. If a kid comes home unhappy, some parents jump straight up and hire a lawyer. It is almost always unwarranted. In almost all cases, simple communication resolves the issue nicely. The first step for parents is to communicate with the teacher. Until that is done, the principle and school board, rightly, should not be involved.

    Reading the story, there really is no story. The parents over-reacted.

    Parents who over-protect, often end up doing much more harm than good. Parents should work with the teachers, not against them. When a teacher has a bad day, let it go. The only way those days end up harming the kids is if the parents jump the gun and go out and hire lawyers. Administrative processes, and eventually lawyers, are really only appropriate when it is clear that the teachers is intentionally harming the kids.

  • Francis

    It isn’t a mistake to call a boy a girl, telling him to stop acting, looking and dressing like a girl, and intentionally singling him out for criticism. Also, it’s hard to discuss the situation when the situation is being covered up by the teacher/school board.

  • Francis

    Oh, and the comments section on this article are about 70% trash. Anti-gays hate homosexuality more than they actually care about the well-being of these kids.

  • Michael

    @Francis: Well and fine, but none of this is part of the story.

  • Danny

    They should simply sue under TITLE IX for sexual harrassment since it was based on his sex, or perception of his sex. The Supreme Court has confirmed that schools have an obligation under Title IX to prevent and address harassment against students, whether perpetrated by peers or by employees of the school system. Typical harassment complaints include: making sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks; claiming that a person is gay or lesbian (although note that harassment based on sexual orientation is not directly covered by Title IX, but harassment based on gender/sex is); spreading sexual rumors about a person; touching, grabbing or pinching someone in a sexual way; intentionally brushing up against someone in a sexual way; and flashing or “mooning” someone. Telling someone to act like a boy is a sexual comment.

  • DeGuyz in Mississippi

    You would think that a student has a right to make a formal complaint that has to be documented. I’m pretty sure they do, the same as a sexual harassment complaint against a teacher. This is all to real with the teachers targeting a kid and becomes fixated or maybe envious of that person.I know we were both targets. We just stand out against the typical kids. (You know I mean that in a good way) Follow up with a complaint through law enforcement. Just to make a record of the incident. These intimidations can go on for months so at the end of the day, you don’t hear the school saying they were not informed. Thats why the schools get away with so much is because there’s no evidence to prove otherwise. If I was a student today with the technology thats out there,I would be their worst nightmare.
    One less way the schools have to avoid the issue.

  • The Panic Man

    Uh-oh, looks like the damage control crew is here!

  • Sparky

    This is sadly the norm for most schools: The victim is often perceived as the problem.

    I went to a school in Pennsylvania (Franklin Regional) where I was bullied by teachers and, eventually in my senior year, the principals. It took me being out of school for three months after a suicide attempt to get it to stop.

    Years later the same school was on 20/20 because some of the “rough” girls were bullying other girls….and they (wait for it) suspended the *girls being bullied*.

    All schools are just conformity factories, but some take that requirement to a very, very scary degree.

  • Francis

    @Michael: What do you mean not a part of the story? The boy was mocked for being feminine acting. He was told stop acting like a girl and start acting like a boy. That’s a harassing statement, it’s offensive, and it’s an attack on this child. There is no excuse for this sort of language or selective criticism towards one kid, solely because of that child’s sexuality.

    Also, Steve is right about most schools. Most teachers will do anything to fit in with the kids, including mocking less popular students. Pack herd mentality.

  • Steven

    @Steve: Sorry – you’re an idiot. You obviously didn’t read the story, because there actually is one there. There are witnesses claiming that this teacher has had several, what you call, “bad days” , aka, he has made several harassing comments.

    And yes, teachers are humans and have bad days, but they are also in charge of helping the young minds around them. They are to be professional, not let their personal troubles rule their actions. So even if this was a “bad day”, that is no excuse for terrible professionalism.

    The bottom line is, this is the environment being created by anti-gay bigots and policies, even though Sarah Palin and her gang want to “protect the chidlren” so long as they aren’t gay kids, because then they’d be hypocrites, which by not helping gay kids, they still are hypocrites.

  • Michael

    @Francis: You wrote the teacher told the student to; “…stop acting, looking and dressing like a girl…” Nowhere does it say this, however, had such been the case, there might be a something here to merit concern. You’re fanciful in your interpretation of the facts.

  • Rob

    This was my issue growing up in suburban NYC! From the seventh grade until around the 10th, several teachers, the school nurse, guidance counselor and even the principle harassed me about my sexual preference. I’m sure this gave a conscious wink and nod to the students who harassed me as well.

    If I had it to do over again, or if my parents had been the slightest bit sensitive or sophisticated regarding my plight, I would have sought a legal remedy. It has left scars to this day. The orchestrated damage is long-term. This issue needs to be addressed nationally.

  • Shannon1981

    @ChicagoJimmy: Good idea. I bet if this wound up on Facebook, it would take less than 24 hours for it go viral. They’d do something then, just to save their own asses.

  • Adam

    @Rob: If *you* would be the slightest bit sensitive or sophisticated regarding your plight, you wouldn’t be referring to your sexual orientation/identity as a “preference.” Just sayin.

Comments are closed.