Updated: 02/14/2009 09:35:33 PM PST
VENTURA - The family of a gay teenager who was shot to death in class filed a wrongful-death lawsuit that accuses the school district, a shelter and a homosexual rights organization of failing to protect him.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed Wednesday in Ventura County Superior Court.
Larry King, 15, of Oxnard, was killed in February 2008. His classmate at E.O. Green Junior High, Brandon McInerney, was charged as an adult and has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and a hate crime.
If convicted, McInerney could face 51 years to life in prison.
McInerney, now 15, allegedly shot King twice in the head in English class. Prosecutors said there had been rising tension between the two after the eighth-grader told McInerney he loved him.
The 18-page lawsuit filed by King's parents and brother names nearly two dozen defendants. It claims that everyone from King's teacher to his social worker failed to urge the effeminate teen to tone down flamboyant behavior. The suit also claims they failed to heed McInerney's alleged threat to kill King a day before the shooting.
In addition to his teacher and principal, the suit names McInerney and his parents; the nonprofit Casa Pacifica, a shelter for troubled children where King had been living; counselors; a county social worker, and the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance.
The school and shelter knew that King's behavior was "sexually assertive" and threatening but failed to take action, the suit contends.
The shelter gave him "cross-dressing clothes and makeup and women's boots," and the Rainbow Alliance encouraged King to make sexual advances on McInerney, the suit claims.
Alliance Executive Director Jay Smith denied the allegation.
"No facilitator or mental health therapist would say anything even remotely like that," Smith said. "This whole thing is just frivolous."
Casa Pacifica did nothing to contribute to the boy's death, administrator Steve Elson said.
The Hueneme School District earlier denied responsibility for King's death.
McInerney's mother, Kendra McInerney, said that she had not seen the suit.
Now, no question - the school did not protect Larry. Another kid brought a gun into the school and shot him during class.
But after his own family couldn't be there for him and Lawrence King had to move to a shelter, the family is blaming the school and the shelter and the gay organization that helped Larry - not for allowing the other kid to bring a gun to school - not for allowing an atmosphere of homophobia - but for LETTING LARRY BE SO EFFEMINATE.
His own family is blaming the murder of their son - NOT on the kid who shot him - NOT on the culture of homophobia and intolerance - but ON their son. They're saying that if Larry hadn't been so swishy, so in your face about being gay, so up front about being attracted to another boy, this wouldn't have happened.
This is how to compound a tragedy.
Blame the victim.
And I think it compounds it even more to treat his murderer, a 14 year old boy, as an adult.
There are so many ways we can collectively and individually learn from this horrible event.
Larry's murder is a failure of our culture to accept that others can be different.
Larry's murder is a failure of understanding that if a guy hits on you and you're not interested, just say no thanks - and recognize it as a compliment.
Larry's murder is a failure of recognizing that being embarrassed because someone might think you're gay, too, is not the worst thing in the world, but murdering a fellow student and possibly going to jail for maybe the rest of your life might be!
Larry's murder should get us talking about gun control.
Larry's murder should get us figuring out how to make schools a safe place.
Larry's murder should have us teaching and learning about tolerance and acceptance.
But let's not blame Larry for having the courage to be himself. That was one thing that went right in his all-too short life.