HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
DECEMBER 12, 2003
La. school punishes boy for saying 'gay'
ACLU vows lawsuit if
demands aren't met
'to correct harm'
By CHRISTOPHER SEELY
LAFAYETTE, La. — A 7-year-old boy
arrived home from school last month with
a disciplinary note because he told another student that his mom is gay while waiting in line for recess.
"I sed bad wurds," wrote Marcus
McLaurin, a second-grader at Ernest
Gallet Elementary School in the Lafayette
Parish School District in Louisiana, on a
"Student Behavior Contract" dated Nov. 11.
McLaurin wrote on the contract that he
should have "kept his mouf shut."
McLaurin's teacher clarified the "bad
word" in her writings on the contract,
which was obtained by Southern Voice.
"He explained to another child that you
are gay and what being gay means," said
The day of the incident, McLaurin's
mother received a phone call from the
school's assistant principal warning her
that her son said something inappropriate,
said Sharon Huff, McLaurin's mother.
"That [phone call] was nothing compared to the shock I felt when my little boy
came home and told me that his teacher
had told him his family is a dirty word,"
Two days after the note and phone call,
McLaurin was forced to attend a school
behavioral clinic and restricted from
explaining his gay family to other students, according to the American Civil
Liberties Union, which is representing
McLaurin's family and sent a letter Dec. 1
to Ernest Gallet Elementary School.
At press deadline, the Lafayette Parish
School Board was scheduled to meet Dec.
11 to hear the results of an investigation
being led by Lafayette Superintendent
James Easton into the ACLU's allegations,
said Justine W Sutley, public relations
director for the Lafayette school system.
Easton has said that McLaurin did not
receive punishment because he said the
word "gay" but because the boy disrupted
"The superintendent has said the discipline has been for talking in or disrupting
class," Sutley said. "He has also said that
other documents exist that we are not
But in addition to the note Huff's son
brought home on the day of the incident, a
separate behavior report from McLaurin's
teacher also criticized him for explaining
what being gay meant.
"Marcus decided to explain to another
child in his group that his mom is gay" the
When Marcus McLaurin, 7 returned home from
school last month with a disciplinary note, mother
Sharon Huff (left) and her partner, Heather Manley,
were shocked to find out he was punished for saying
'gay.' (Photo by Chris Hampton)
teacher wrote. "He told the other child that
gay is when a girl likes a girl. This kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room. I feel
that parents should explain things of this
nature to their children in their own way"
The school board will likely determine
whether to meet demands made by the
ACLU on behalf of the boy and his mother,
If litigation is to be avoided, the school
board must make a "satisfactory response"
in its Dec. 11 meeting, said Ken Choe. an
attorney with the ACLU Lesbian & Gay
Rights Project who is handling the case.
"We are looking for the school to ensure
that Marcus can speak about his family,
just like any other student can speak about
his or her families," Choe said.
The elementary school also must
expunge McLaurin's disciplinary records
and apologize to McLaurin and his mother.
"What Marcus and his family are asking
for is minimal." he said. "They did not want
us to file a lawsuit off the bat for money or
disciplinary action against school employees. We've only asked that the school
acknowledge that there was an error in
judgment that had serious consequences."
If the ACLU decides to file litigation,
it would do so by claiming that the
school violated constitutional rights to
free expression and equal treatment,
"In this case, the discrimination is clear.
There is discrimination between heterosexual parents and gay parents," Choe said.
HIV increases among gay, bisexual men
New diagnoses up 17 percent
over four-year period, CDC says
By RYAN LEE
Using the most comprehensive data to
date, the Centers for Disease Control &
Prevention recently announced HIV diagnoses rose by 5.1 percent between 1999 and
2002, including a 17 percent increase
among gay and bisexual men.
Some AIDS educators fear the increase
among men who have sex with men may be
the result of a cultural shift, with younger
people being less afraid of the disease.
"Unfortunately, the data is not surprising at all, as we continue to see an increase
in the number of men who report homosexual activity as a mode a transmission,"
said Kim Anderson, executive director of
AID Atlanta, a non-profit service provider.
"We're faced with a generation of young
people who did not see the walking dead."
The data — published in the Nov. 28
issue of the CDC's Morbidity & Mortality
Weekly Report — showed 102,590 people in
29 states were diagnosed with HIV between
1999 and 2002. Men represented 70.5 percent of new cases in the four-year period,
with gay and bisexual activity representing nearly 60 percent of those transmissions, according to the CDC.
In 1999, 9,988 new HIV diagnoses were
among gay and bisexual men, compared to
11,686 in 2002.
"People are a lot less anxious about HIV
than they used to be," said Philippe
Chiliade, medical director for the
Whitman Walker Clinic, an HIV organization in Washington D.C. "I think some of it
may be the result of peer pressure, in that
if you see other gay men around you taking risks sexually, it's easier to copy the
behavior of those around you."
Younger men may not fully comprehend the magnitude of HIV, but Chiliade
has seen an equal amount of risky sexual
behavior reported by older, educated and
wealthy men, he said.
"I think what we are seeing now really
tells us we need to do something more than
just making people aware of how STDs are
transmitted," he said.
Starting in 1994, the CDC used 25 states
— all of which required confidential
reporting of persons with HIV — to track
the progression of the disease throughout
the country. In 1999, four more states met
the confidential reporting requirements,
and they are included in the newly
released data, according to Carly Stanton,
a CDC spokesperson.
But not included in the 29-state surveillance are several states with large gay populations, including California, New York,
Texas and Georgia. Those states' conflden-
Exposure category for new HIV
infections in 29 states, 1999-2002
Total new infections: 102,590
Source: Centers (or Disease Control & Preventicai
tial reporting systems have not been in
place long enough to produce accurate
numbers, Stanton said.
Georgia — the last state to adopt an HIV
reporting system — begins collecting HTV
diagnosis data at the beginning of 2004.
Health advocates are eager to see the
complete data, even if it reveals an even
higher increase in HIV diagnoses among
gay and bisexual men.
"If we start seeing (remaining states] in
CDC data, I'm pretty sure we're going to see
those numbers rise," Chiliade said. T
think from a public health standpoint it's
important for the CDC to be aware of who's
getting infected because at least that will
help us target our prevention messages."
Despite the 17 percent increase.
Anderson and Chiliade said decades of
HIV prevention efforts are having a positive impact.
"If we had not been doing what we've
been doing, it would have been worse,'
Anderson said. "I think it's a call for us to be
even more involved, and at different levels."
Junior high school and high school students should be targeted by HIV prevention messages, including cutting-edge
ways to get their attention, Anderson said.
"We need to get access to greater dollars
so we can market to younger people effectively," she said. "Just like the GAP markets, we need to market prevention education on the same level.
"The best thing we can do right now is
do advertisements on a bus shelter or on a
postcard." she said.
Chiliade agreed that safer sex messages
should be delivered to school-aged children.
"Teaching abstinence is a great tool,
but for those who will be sexually active.
we need to prepare them as well." he said.