Main | Friday, August 15, 2008

Lawrence King's Parents Sue School, Claim Dress Code Was Not Enforced

The parents of murdered gay teen Lawrence King have sued the school district and Ventura Country, claiming that the school's failure to force King to dress like a boy led to his killing.
The boy's parents, Dawn and Gregory King, along with his younger brother, Rocky King, are seeking unspecified damages related to the fatal shooting of the 15-year-old boy as he sat in English class at E.O. Green School in Oxnard on Feb. 12.

To protect their rights to sue, plaintiffs must file claims against public agencies for injury, death or property damage within six months. The claims were received last Friday, a few days before the six-month mark.

King's father declined comment Thursday, and family attorney Steve Pell did not return a call seeking comment. Hueneme Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg said he had informed the school board Wednesday that the complaint had been filed. Officials have turned the matter over to a self-funding insurance authority to consider.

"We were anticipating some type of claim to be filed," the superintendent said. The county's risk manager, Chuck Pode, said he expected to reject the claim. King was a ward of the court and living at the Casa Pacifica shelter for abused, neglected and emotionally troubled children at the time of the shooting.

"From what I've seen of the contentions and immunities given to government employees, I expect this one would be rejected, and I'm sure Mr. Pell does, too," he said. Pode said he has more questions than answers about the two-page complaint. "Much of what they had to say is against the school district, and they kind of mix and match what county obligations are and the school district's are," he said.

In the claims, the Kings say school and county staff members failed to enforce the middle school's dress code. That put the feminine-dressing King at particular risk at a time when staff members knew he had "unique vulnerabilities" and was "susceptible to abuse" because of his perceived sexual orientation, the claim says.

The family says educators knew the boy was at risk because he had been subjected to death threats at Hathaway School, an elementary campus he attended in Oxnard. King had told friends he was gay, and he wore makeup, jewelry and high-heeled boots with his school uniform — something Dannenberg said the teen had the freedom to do under his First Amendment rights.

Assistant Principal Joy Epstein, the only person named in the complaint, is accused of encouraging the boy to wear "women's clothing, shoes and makeup." She created an environment of "perceived safety" for King when "in fact she could not and did not protect Larry from the threats and ultimate death," the claim says.
The school district has said that it would have been a violation of King's rights to force him to dress as a boy. However, dress codes require that students not dress in manner that will "cause a distraction" to other students. Last week King's killer, Brandon McInerney pled not guilty. Extensive coverage of the King story on JMG can be found here.

Labels: , , , , ,

comments powered by Disqus