Only a few hours had passed after 17-year-old Brandon McInerney had pled guilty to the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Lawrence "Larry" King at E.O. Green Junior High School when the media started pointing fingers.
The Los Angeles Times ran a story the same day, November 21, which said that the assistant principal at the school, who is openly gay, had been criticized for being "more intent on protecting King's civil rights" than "acknowledging that his dress and behavior were causing problems."
In a separate piece, also published Monday, the LA Times reported that the murdered teen's mother, Dawn King, had sought the help of school officials in "toning down her son's behavior" just a few days before the shooting. But she was allegedly told by the administration that King had "a civil right to explore his sexual identity."
During his live radio show on November 22, Rush Limbaugh claimed the school's progressive attitude was at fault for King's murder. "He was showing up in school dressed as a woman," Limbaugh said. "So now a confused 17-year-old is dead because the school [said] 'Ah, there's nothing we can do.'"
But Limbaugh had his facts wrong, according to Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg, who told The Huffington Post over the phone on Tuesday that King had not broken the rules of the middle school's dress code, which forbid a male student to wear dresses to school. It's true that Larry King wore heels, makeup, and jewelry to class. But none of these things were against the school's dress policy, said Dannenberg.
Dannenberg also told The Huffington Post that he did not know "for a fact" that King's mother had been rebuffed by school officials when she came to them for help before the shooting occurred.
Brandon McInerney, King's killer, was a Hitler enthusiast who was born to a meth-addicted mother and was beaten by his drug-addicted father.
McInerney was friends with neo-Nazis in the Oxnard area, according to testimony from an investigator. When law-enforcement officials searched his room, they found seven of Hitler's speeches along with a notebook full of "elaborate drawings of Nazi symbols and regalia."
On February 12, 2008, after days of conflict between the two students, McInerney, who was 14 at the time, sat down behind King in computer class around 8:00 a.m. McInerney pulled a .22 caliber handgun from his bag and shot King twice in the head, before dropping the weapon and leaving school grounds.
Neither Limbaugh nor the LA Times stories went into great detail about McInerney's background or his actions. But Limbaugh quoted freely from a Newsweek cover story on Larry King's murder, which was written in the summer of 2008, a few months after the shooting occurred. The Newsweek article described the teen as someone who liked to "slick up his curly hair" into a "Prince-like bouffant," and as someone who "acted out from an early age" and "pushed his rights as far as he could."
But was the school's tolerance of King's flamboyant behavior to blame for the fatal shooting on that tragic morning in February of 2008?
There are many who think E.O. Green Junior High, which is located northwest of Los Angeles, in Oxnard, California, isn't progressive enough--that the school should be teaching students to be understanding of a variety of sexual orientations.
"A more inclusive and holistic sex education is needed in our current school system," Luis Guerra told The Huffington Post in an email. Guerra is a Program Manager at the Health Initiative For Youth, a San Francisco-based organization founded in 1992 to educate young people about HIV prevention.
"This is something that sex education could have prevented," he said.
Guerra explained that implementing comprehensive sex education in middle schools can be extremely difficult, because the term "sex education" makes people think of sexual activity among children. But that's not what sex ed is, he said. Good sex ed teaches students about sexual orientation, gender identity and tolerance.
"Middle school is a good time to start addressing gender issues," said Sandi Goldstein, the project director for the California Adolescent Health Collaborative, a statewide coalition of organizations devoted to promoting adolescent health. "Schools can be a safe place to reinforce the fact that not all boys need to conform to the images of men we see in the media."
Dannenberg, the district superintendent, said that E.O. Green does offer sex ed classes, which teach students about "all the FDA-approved kinds of contraception." But the classes are optional, he said, and "don't include anything about gay rights or homosexuality in the curriculum."
In July, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires California's public schools to include lessons on the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender figures in its social studies classes. The bill does not say at which grade level the lessons should start.
Still, the state of California does not require schools to teach sex ed. It only mandates that HIV/AIDS education be taught to students at least once in middle school and once in high school.
Correction: An earlier version of this story noted that Oxnard, Calif. is located to the west of Los Angeles. It is actually northwest of L.A.
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