Mail Call: Tragic Tale of Two Troubled Teens

'Murder in the 8th Grade': Readers in turn were angered and deeply perturbed by the systemic failure to prevent such a tragedy. One asked, "Did Larry King get a pass on his repeated sexual harassment of Brandon McInerney because he was gay, and why were the boys who were bullying and intimidating King still in school?" Another reprimanded "every significant adult in this story," adding, "Two kids were left to deal with fear, using the only techniques they knew. This should be a wake-up call to all parents, teachers and anyone with a role in a child's life."

A Killing in Junior High
As a resident of Oxnard and former eighth-grade teacher, I was apprehensive about your cover story on Larry King ("Young, Gay and Murdered," July 28). I did not want to see my community slandered, educators blamed and victims used as poster children for various agendas. I am acutely aware of the challenge to classroom teachers and administrators to balance student liberties with student safety. I thank you for your objective journalism. It takes courage to write an article that raises more questions than it answers. I hope readers can see the complex developmental, social and educational issues at stake during the middle-school years and be able to work together toward creating safer schools for our children.
Jessica Bowen
Oxnard, Calif.

As the parent of a young man who happens to be gay, I know the stresses my son went through in middle and high school. Luckily, he had a stable home life and stable parents. Apparently, Larry King and Brandon McInerney had neither. As you report, both boys were under terrible daily stress where they lived and were schooled. Although California provides legal protections for gay students and mandates fairness in school administration, human beings implement these protections. Unfortunately, local schools resisted offers from the local Ventura chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to provide speakers to help educate staff and students before the shooting. Nor did local schools emulate the model gay and lesbian support program, called Project 10, offered by the neighboring Los Angeles Unified School District, only 50 miles away. Sometimes, 50 miles is a world away when tragedy strikes.
Steve Krantz, Director
PFLAG Southern Pacific Region
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Your outstanding article is important for what it says about the extremes of political correctness and blind tolerance that were practiced at Larry King's school. Its administration and some of its teachers were a bunch of fools who, in the name of individual rights and self-expression, enabled a very troubled kid to get murdered.
Walter J. Kelly
Glendale, Calif.

I can't help but think that here is another case of "blaming the victim." You state that Larry King "flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon." Knives and guns are weapons; lipstick and women's shoes are not. Larry was taunted daily, so he taunted back. Our society needs to open its eyes to the massive level of intolerance toward anyone who dares to be different. Don't blame the victim.
Ben Blevins
San Diego, Calif.

Larry King's self-identified sexual orientation and gender identity threatened the traditional definitions that our youth are expected to adhere to (e.g., heterosexual and gender conforming). While your reporter seems unable to decide who the victim is in this tragedy—Larry, whom he blames for harassing and stalking Brandon, or Brandon for allegedly shooting Larry—we maintain that the school failed both students. To be clear, there is no justification for this, or any other, murder committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals because of their identity. However, we also need to look at a school system that failed to create a curriculum and set of expectations of the student body and staff that would educate students about respect and diversity and send a message that violence is not the answer.
Sharon Stapel, Executive Director
NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
New York, N.Y.