Students Walk Out in Protest After High School Suspends Allegedly Bullied Gay Teen

Hundred of students in Missouri walked out of their high school in protest on Monday after a gay teen who allegedly faced weeks of harassment was suspended following a physical fight with the suspected bullies.

Danny Lillis, an openly gay senior at Lee's Summit High School, told The Kansas City Star that he and his friends have been the subjects of bullying from another group of students since the beginning of the school year.

Had a walkout at school,Gay kid was bullied for months and assaulted last week. All parties got suspended even though the victim had a broken nose. Half the school was out there. Lee's Summit High School administration: do better. Lee's Summit High School students: good job pic.twitter.com/EZbMGfN7AZ

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The group allegedly targeted Lillis because of his sexuality and because he wasn't afraid to express himself or wear makeup to school, according to Melanie Davies, the mother of Lillis' friend Malani Hohlbaugh. The students are also accused of shouting hateful remarks and throwing food at Lillis and his friends.

The senior reported going to administrators at least four times crying and telling them that he didn't feel safe but nothing changed. And the tension between the groups escalated last Wednesday.

Davies said that when the alleged group of bullies began harassing her child and her friends, Hohlbaugh had finally had enough. She ran up the stairs after one of the boys telling him not to talk to them like that.

Lillis and another friend followed Hohlbaugh to confront the boy, according to Davies, and encountered another student who they also accused of bullying them.

When Hohlbaugh attempted to get around the student, who was walking in front of them, their shoulders hit. Davies said the student then shoved her daughter so she shoved him back, and he allegedly punched her in the face.

"No teachers were around. Students broke it up," she said. She claims the school never told her there had been a fight or that her daughter had been injured.

Hohlbaugh reportedly threw up twice at school following the altercation and was taken to the emergency room by Davies where she was diagnosed with a broken nose. Lillis also had bruises and cuts on his face.

In an email to The Star, district spokeswoman Katy Bergen said that all forms of bullying are prohibited and the district investigates all complaints of bullying that they receive. She did not provide specifics regarding Lillis and his friends.

US-HOMOSEXUALITY-RIGHTS-JUSTICE-DISCRIMINATION-EMPLOYMENT
Hundreds of high school students in Missouri walked out of class in support of a gay student who was allegedly harrassed and suspended following a fight with bullies. Pictured are demonstrators in favor of LGBT rights rallying outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, October 8, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

"Everyone in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District community deserves to feel safe and welcome. Harassment or discrimination in LSR7 is strictly prohibited," she said. "Although laws protecting students' privacy prevents us from discussing the specifics of this incident, we can share that school and district administrators are conducting an investigation and taking action to ensure the safety of all students and staff."

She added that administrators plan to follow the board of education's policies to determine the next steps and that inclusivity is a top priority at the school.

All students involved in the incident allegedly received the same punishment of five days out of school suspension, according to Davies. She also said that her daughter and her friends were not allowed to attend senior homecoming.

A student at the high school started a Change.org petition in response to the outcome and argued that the students who were bullied should not receive the same discipline as the group that targeted them.

The petition demands that the LGBTQ+ student and their allies be excused from their suspension and that it be removed from their records, that the school investigate reports and punish the other party for harassing someone because of their sexual orientation and pledge to enforce the school's zero-tolerance policy toward bullying. The group also wants administrators to issue a school-wide apology for how they handled the incident and for "inflicting fear" in all the school's LGBTQ+ students.

As of Tuesday evening, the petition has close to 3,000 signatures.

"This is on the school. They should have taken care of this a long time ago when it was first brought to their attention," Davies told The Star. "I don't condone my daughter using violence at school or anywhere else. But I also do know these kids were pushed to a point that they felt like if nobody else was going to stick up for them, they had to stick up for themselves."

Newsweek reached out to Lee's Summit High School for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.