Recently I have been listening to a lot of podcasts. Now, I am not a natural blogger. I don’t believe that most people want to hear what I have to say, or my wild opinions and passionate rantings about things that are going on. At least, those that are not in my direct friend circle. However, in listening to these podcasts, and watching some of these recommended documentaries (while I realize that they could be and sometimes are one sided), I have found myself needing to voice some of these things out loud, to as many people as possible, even if the opinions are wrong. I just want to get the world thinking.
So if you are the sort of person that feels that they are going to have to correct every wrong thought I might have in here, then this is likely not the space for you. Haters need not apply.
So here I go!
One of the recommended documentaries from this amazing podcast called Real Crime Profiles (you can listen to it on spotify, they have like, 150 some odd episodes ranging from an hour or more) was called Valentine Road. The case is about a boy named Larry King, that was murdered in his classroom. Now, the details of the case entirely are not super super clear, that is, I don’t know all the facts. And, I will admit I have not gone searching more than what I saw here. So my opinions at this point might not be founded in any real thing besides just what I see, and common sense.
Larry was a transgendered student. He came from a rough life, it seems that he was tossed around in the foster care system. But he was trying to come into his own, and figure himself out in the grand scheme of things. He went to a junior high that required the students to wear uniforms in the Los Angeles region of the world. I think it might be Ventura County? That part was super vague, and again, I didn’t go doing some extra research (which I typically do but in this case it was hard enough watching what I saw, going further into that hole might have brought on a whole other slew of depression). Larry, from some accounts was very out there. He wore makeup, and eventually resorted to wearing some high heeled boots. This made students uncomfortable (not all but some). He wore accessories, and things of that nature, and sometimes wanted to refer to himself as female names. He was on an IEP that was meant to minimize behaviors. Now, the documentary did not share what those were, but they appeared to be alluding to his behaviors in regards to dressing like a woman, and acting out (taking female names, etc). There was a Valentine’s Day dance coming up, and Larry went to Brandon and asked him in front of his mates if he would go to the dance with him, which in turn lead to his death. He was shot and killed the following day in the computer lab with his class and teacher present. Larry did not die right away, he was shot on the 12th, and died on the 14th of February (from what I am understanding).
Here is where some thoughts come in. First off, for those that are not aware, an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan. It is something that is put into place for a multitude of reasons, be it because the student has extra challenges that they need help and support from staff to work through it, or that they need to be challenged in extra ways in the classroom. It can be for any reason, disability or not. It’s meant to help the student, and the staff to give the best to all involved. Without going into super detail, I myself work in special ed. I have never in my life been involved in an IEP where we said we were going to minimize the students sexual identity and referred to those incidents as behaviors. If that is in fact what was going on, then shame on everybody that was involved in that situation. The IEP is meant to benefit all for things that are educationally significant. Big word to swallow, right? It must impact the students education significantly in order for us to touch it.
Now I can already hear some of you saying, wouldn’t him dressing up as the opposite gender impact his ability to learn? Well, that’s not for me to say. I am not sure if him doing so resulted in massive disruption, or if him in doing so that he was unable to focus because he was dressed that way. I am not sure the surrounding outliers, but I’m going to make broad and sweeping assumptions, based on the community that the case was filed in for the criminal suit, and the fact that the school still hasn’t really touched or addressed it happening in an appropriate way (from beginning to end), that it had less to do with the student having disruptive behaviors, and more to do with the discomfort of staff and lack of understanding of true gender dysphoria.
Which is a documented, and very real medical condition, no matter what people want to think. If you are going to believe in bipolar, and split personality disorders, then gender dysphoria is also a true condition. You don’t get to include or disclude for that matter, based on your comfort or your ‘moral fortitude’. Sorry folks, those are the facts.
So the fact that this child was kind of shoved into a box in a certain way from all accounts, seems like this was a recipe for disaster from the beginning which is the most saddening part. In the documentary, they go on to discuss both ends of it. That Larry was kind of shoving his sexuality in the face of others, or that’s how others were meant to see it. I can see that point of view. Having worked with transgender students that dress in both ways, sometimes provocatively so, I can see how and why people might feel the way that they do. However, it goes both ways, and people are sadly I think want to forget what it’s like to wear another’s shoes. If you feel that your binary sexuality and way of dressing is the only way, that too means that your own vision of life and sexuality is also being shoved in their face, and even more so because there is a great deal more of us with the binary codes, than there is of them. So if we are going to use that argument, again of course you can, it needs to be understood that it is felt from both ways, and a little bit of understanding and empathy goes a long way.
This is not an uncommon behavior set for children that are trying to find out who they are. Goth lifestyle sometimes to the extreme end happens, extreme sportism, things like that are all just like this young man wearing dangling earrings and high heels. It’s just more sweepingly accepted, and even then not always depending on the community in which it dwells in. That said, I’m not sure him wearing things, or even making comments to people is considered, or can be considered “throwing it in another’s face”. This is more of the glass is half full, half empty argument. It’s all about perception.
There were reports that Larry went around kind of mocking those with his sexuality. He would make jokes about them having “gay babies” or that they were “lovers”. Maybe even saying that they were jokes is making this too light, so he was making comments to those effects. But that is again, no different than those around him making comments about him being a “faggot” and a “spic”. Both things that were used in his direction. You cannot split hairs that way, and point fingers at one, but not turn around and point it at the other.
In the end, Brandon felt humiliated. He felt that he had enough, and he was triggered (I really hate this word by the way I just don’t know any others that would be best suited for this) by Larry period. His existence was a sore spot for the young man. And if I’m going to speak about Larry I do feel as if I have to also point out that Brandon, too, had a rough life, which included parents that were drug addicts, an unstable home environment which included bouts of homelessness, abuse, and his mother being shot by his father at one point when he was little (she survived). So he didn’t have the most savory of upbringings either.
But let me point out, there are millions of Americans and people all over the world that have less than savory upbringings that do not, for any reason, think that the way that they resolve conflict is to bring a gun to school and shoot the person in question.
Yet in this case, this is what happened. Larry was shot, because he was openly “gay”, transgendered, and embarrassed Brandon in front of his friends.
He lost his life, because he existed and wanted to go to a dance with the boy he had a crush on.
Let that sink in for a moment. Minus all other facts of the case, the purest fact was this: Brandon brought a gun to school, and shot not once, but twice, a classmate that had a crush on him. Those are the facts. It doesn’t matter that he felt “triggered”. It doesn’t matter that Larry was openly gay, or not gay. It doesn’t matter that he was bullied, or not bullied, or either of them were. The fact remains that a student felt that the only way to end his embarrassment was to shoot another student and kill him because he was uncomfortable.
I think for me that’s what sealed this case. It went to trial, as it should have. The kid, well his classmates and his teacher at the time saw it happen, so not to mention he left the gun behind and there was his fingerprints all over it. But, beyond that, there was a trial. His defense attorney’s sought him out. They looked into this kid and said, no, this kid that did this very, very adult crime should not be tried as an adult, because he’s 14 years old, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Which, again, shame on them. He might not have cognitively thought things through, but there is nothing in this case that does not scream premeditation.
That’s a hard thing for a lot of people to understand. Most people, when they hear the word premeditation, think that it’s something that is thought out for months, maybe even years, when in reality, premeditation can be, five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour, to months and years. Premeditation is, “I am going to kill this person, and this is how I’m going to do it” and then doing it. Which is exactly what this young man did. It was not an ‘accident’. This young man, maybe did not have the intent to go in there and kill Larry, and that might be true. However, the fact remains that he did have the intent to lay a serious and grievous bodily harm to him, which ultimately did result in his death. The day prior he was reported to have said to classmates that they “better say goodbye to their friend because he wasn’t going to be around much longer” and then the next day shoots him. Couple that with the young guy was already obsessed with Nazi’s and white supremecy, and had an upbringing that was… unfortunately geared towards violence and lack of cognitive understanding that violence is not the way.
Again, this entire case was just built for this sort of thing. What sickens me, and saddens me the most I think is that the jury system is flawed. I believe that this kid had a very fair trial. And while I cannot tell the jurors what to think, and/or believe, I can definitely say that as a parent, I would have died both ways hearing the way that they handled things. Not only did the jurors bond through this and hang out with each other regularly, they in turn supported his legal fees and supported him after the fact. Sure, I did not sit in on this case, but they did and even by their own accounts they said “sure, he was guilty, but he was pushed into that, that kid bullied him and so he did it” and, “it’s natural for a kid to be interested in Hitler and other things like that after learning about him”. It’s… natural? What in that is natural? Out of all the children I work with, none of them after learning about Hitler think he’s a swell guy and want to know more, even when I teach them that he was a painter and a very logical thinker, and even when I do critical thinking exercises with them about reasons of why this might have happened. Even then… those kids are like “Nope, not for me.” And why? Because it’s not natural!
I will blog again about my feelings on the jury system later down the line. Ultimately, the kid spent time in jail. Not enough in my opinion, and no matter how we slate it, when you behave like an adult, when you do this very adult thing that ultimately ends a life, you have to then be believed to be an adult. He knew that shooting somebody would cause horrific bodily harm if not death to this person, his own mother was shot by his father. He knew what weapons did. How they hurt. And yet he did it anyways as a means to an end for what? Two minutes of teasing from his friends on the basketball court?
My feelings about this case are wide and many. I feel the depth for both of these kids because I work with kids just like them every single day. I try to be that positive voice in their lives, that speaks up and says ‘hey, this is happening but this is what you can do instead’, rather than just minimize damage. The school played a massive hand here, from firing a teacher that was supporting a transgender student, to just ignoring the incident all together, to not providing services to the grieving students and just resuming classes the following day without incident. Though a young man is in jail, and technically he lost his life too, there doesn’t feel as if justice was properly done here. Larry is still squashed under the weight of this. Even when we forget about his gender, his sexuality, and even his race (he was mixed ethnicity), he was still squashed under the weight of ‘poor Brandon’ that the world took on for him. I am happy that he was smart enough to take a plea deal and serve most of his life. Unfortunately from prison he is still falling into white supremacy and nobody seems to see the issue with this here. He is still starting fights in prison, for no reason and unprovoked.
Larry was never the issue in this scenario.
It was always just Brandon.
I hope the jurors in his next murder case will see that.