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Gay Teen Tormented by Fellow Students--and Teacher

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Mar 29, 2011
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An openly gay 15-year-old Florida student says that he has been targeted for harassment and physical violence--with some of the taunting he’s had to endure allegedly being at the hands of one his teachers.

A March 24 article at Politicus USA says reports that the local political climate in Flagler County, where the student Luke Herbert attended high school in the Flagler County School District, is intensely anti-gay. "The U.S. Congressman for this district, John L. Mica, has voted against every single gay rights measure ever presented to him for a vote," the article noted. "The KKK has distributed hate literature in the county, telling persons ’qualified’ to apply for KKK membership that they will help ’stop the moral destruction of our culture by homosexuals.’

"Luke reports he has never heard any adult in the Flagler County Schools say the least positive thing about gay people," the article added.

A Feb. 24 article posted by Central Florida News 13 reported that the anti-gay harassment directed at Herbert is not only the work of fellow students: At least one teacher, shop instructor Floyd Binkley, has also allegedly subjected the young man to anti-gay taunts.

"He stood in front of the class and said ’you can’t put Mountain Dew or Pepsi in the same fridge or they’ll turn gay,’ " Herbert told the media. On another occasion, "He came over to me and I was like, ’Hi.’ He said hi, like he was imitating me or mocking me," the teen related. In a discussion of grades that members of the class would be receiving, Binkley announced that everyone would be awarded an A except for Herbert, who was going to be given an F, Politicus said.

Such instances of anti-gay abuse by school staff are not unknown. In 2009, allegations of systematic harassment of a male student by Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson--high school teachers for Minnesota’s largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin--led to an investigation by the state’s Dept. of Human Rights. The investigation found that the rights of student Alex Merritt, had been violated.

The teachers reportedly mocked Merritt for being gay, although Merritt says he is heterosexual. Merritt finally transferred to, and graduated from, a different school; both Cleveland and Filson continued with their teaching duties. The school district denied any wrongdoing, but settled with Merritt’s family for $25,000. Cleveland was given a two-day suspension, but after one day called in sick, missing the rest of the week.

Among other allegations, Cleveland reportedly remarked that Merritt had a "thing for older men" when the student handed in a report about Benjamin Franklin, and joked during a screening of a movie in which a bathing suit scene took place that the sight of a scantily clad young woman on screen would not mean anything to the young man, adding that "maybe if it was a guy" on screen the scene would be a cause for concern.

Filson reportedly told students searching for participants for a fashion show to "Take [Merritt] because he enjoys wearing women’s clothes."

The executive director of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Eliza Byard, spoke out against the teachers’ alleged harassment of Merritt.

"That the school allegedly allowed harassment by students to continue even after it was made aware of the teachers’ behavior is unthinkable," Byard stated.

Added Byard, "Schools have a legal obligation to make sure their students have access to an education, and ignoring or encouraging anti-gay behavior deprives students of their right to an education."

Noted a GLSEN press release on the story, "Homophobic comments by teachers are, sadly, quite common."

"Nearly two-thirds (63%) of LGBT students said they had heard such remarks from teachers or other school staff, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey on the experiences of LGBT students in school," the release continued.

The release reported that, "A Minnesota research brief released in June using data from the National School Climate Survey found that 87% of Minnesota LGBT students experienced verbal harassment in school because of their sexual orientation, 41% experienced physical harassment and 14% experienced physical assault."

Luke Herbert himself reportedly suffered just such physical violence in while still in middle school, when a female classmate persistently harassed, and eventually assaulted, him, throwing a soft drink can at his head and attempting to wrest a book bag out of his grasp. A passing motorist interrupted her attack, the Politicus USA article said.

Escalating Attacks

But that was only a prelude of things to come. Since entering high school, Herbert said, the abuse to which he has been subjected has escalated to "a whole different level." Herbert started classes at Flagler Palm Coast High School last August; from the start, he told Politicus USA, he was shunned and denigrated with anti-gay slurs, sometimes in front of school personnel who did nothing to intervene, as happened in science class when Herbert was targeted for bias-based bullying and the teacher allegedly did nothing to stop it. The Politicus article characterized the bully as "stalking" Herbert, issuing threats verbally and online. The bullying continued until the day when the taunts turned physical and the bully reportedly assaulted Herbert.

"He came out of nowhere and shoved me down onto the cement," Herbert told Politicus. "Pretty much, I blacked out; my head had hit the ground." A member of the staff intervened, but the bully followed up by sending a message over Thanksgiving break.

"Ha ha ha! How are you feeling?" the message read.

The assailant received a ten-day suspension and Herbert was given assurances that his attacker would be placed in another classroom. When the assailant returned, however, he resumed his old place in Herbert’s science class.

The harassment by students and staff extended to the bus service. "They wouldn’t make room for me in any of the seats," Herbert told Politicus, "and the bus isn’t allowed to move until everybody is sitting down.

"So I’d be standing there, and everybody would be making fun of me. The driver knew that was going on. That was another reason I didn’t want to get up in the morning." Herbert’s academic work suffered; eventually, he dropped out of the school.

According to GLSEN, gay youths are more prone to truancy and dropping out of school. In many cases, gay teens avoid school or drop out due to fear for their physical safety.

Increasingly, schools that permit bullying to continue--and even ignore bullying by the staff--are met with civil action, resulting in school districts--often cash-starved to begin with--paying out for settlements. The settlement negotiated by the ACLU on Herbert’s behalf was, the Politicus article alleged, "inadequate:"

"The school, for instance, does not have specific LGBT-related wording in its anti-bullying policies," Politicus noted. "The School Board would have to approve such wording. The ACLU, as happened, settled for the district ’recommending’ to the School Board the adding of protections for ’sexual orientation’ and "gender identity or expression" to the Student Code of Conduct and the school district’s bullying and harassment policy. There is no guarantee that the Board will add those protections. And, should it decide not to add them, no penalty will be imposed on it."

Meantime, Herbert, who has been driven from a public program of education by anti-gay harassment, has had to resort to online education.

"I asked him the following question," the author of the Politicus article, Scott Rose, wrote. "If Flagler Palm Coast High School were a totally safe and accepting environment for you today, would you prefer going there over studying through ’Virtual School’?

"Luke’s ACLU attorney did not give him space to answer that question. She jumped in immediately and said ’Luke fell behind in school, and we are happy that the school worked with us to help him get caught up, so that hopefully, he can start tenth grade on time next year.’ "

Rose reported that the ACLU seemed to be hastily interceding in a number of cases when the reporter attempted to ask questions that were evidently of a sensitive nature, such as the name of the science class bully or whether Herbert was personally satisfied with the settlement the ACLU had brokered on his behalf.

The ACLU has been active in protecting the rights of LGBT youths, generating headlines last year for defending Constance McMillan, a high school lesbian who was denied permission to escort her girlfriend to the school prom.

A federal lawsuit brought on her behalf by the ACLU resulted in the cancellation of the prom--and the scheduling of an alternate "formal dance" to which McMillan was not invited. Instead, McMillan and a handful of other students were shunted to what some have dubbed a "fake prom," while almost all of the teen’s other classmates attended the formal event elsewhere.

But Politicus was harsh in its criticism of the ACLU, with a separate, March 27 article on the story declaring that the civil rights organization was comporting itself "disgracefully" in this instance.

"Had there been any actual legal case involved, a client might be talking with another attorney about bringing a legal malpractice case against the ACLU," Rose, who also authored the second article, wrote. "The ACLU.... is able to use Luke’s case to attract donations for itself, while Luke will remain entirely uncompensated." Rose went on to say, "That no legal action was initiated is very curious. Luke is a victim of extremely serious crimes. His future . . . (his emotional well-being, his education, his college-readiness, and his economic prospects) .. . has been placed in jeopardy by these crimes. Yet the ACLU is complicit in allowing Flagler County Schools to mischaracterize, minimize and in some cases even to deny the details and severity of what Luke has suffered."

Rose went on to note that a suit and momentary settlement for Herbert would have entailed a transfer of taxpayer dollars from the school system to the bullying victim the system did little to protect, and speculated that a wish not to "alienate its Florida donors" might account for the manner in which the ACLU handled the case. Rose opined that the result was "an appearance that the ACLU could have a financial disincentive about obtaining money for Luke."

"I sort of regret being gay, because it has brought me a lot of problems," Herbert told Politicus. "Not that I have a choice."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 06:26:56

    As a mother of tormented straight children, reading this story makes me sick. I’m so tired of teachers taking these types of liberties. It’s wrong. On the other hand, I know better than to trust the media. In my experience, sometimes at this age, these kids who are exploring their sexuality tend to be so overt about it that it feels like reverse harassment. My son 15 year old talks about some of the overtly gay teens who make comments about him and other boys in the locker room and other places. If a boy did that to a girl, it would be considered sexuality harassment. So, the whole truth needs to be brought forward and dealt with.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 07:04:11

    All I can say is get fxxck out of Florida. There are much better places in the US. There are , in fact, places where all citizens are treated as equal. Also get tough and fight back. You can not let the losers that think they have power to have that power. Gay does not equal week. Be powerful!


  • Hunter , 2011-03-29 08:16:33

    I’m a 17 year old gay student and I totally agree with you! Rights and sexuality should be respected both ways! I hope it gets better for your son, and thank you for your support!


  • Jonathan Willner, 2011-03-29 12:32:59

    Let’s contact HRC. Maybe they can start a campaign to legalize gay marriage in Florida. I’m sure the prospect of rich gay white men avoiding inheritance taxes will be of great comfort to the thousands of gay students who are being harassed and assaulted in Florida.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 13:32:24

    I think GLBT oraniazations like GLSEN should motivate middle schools to provide education about different sexaual orientation and how to deal with this differences and most importantly to learn respect each other whatever your sexuality is. Moreover, they should organize events where GLBT youth as well as straight youth could meet each other to discover they common interest that they have. To have common experiences help to understand the othres culture and learn about the others. Well, I know that it requires a lot of effort, but some celebrities or other influental people, who fight for the equality rights could help to achive some of this goals.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 19:58:19

    To the mother who says that her son is harassed by gay teens. We read time and time and time again about straight packs and packs or otherwise set and focus on gays, attacking them. When did you ever see gays run in packs stocking heterosexuals. Never once has anything like that ever been printed in a newspaper because it just doesn’t happen and neither does gays bothering straights. Your son’s situation is either an anomaly or your whole story is a fictitious lie. You say that you don’t trust the media, I don’t trust their story either if they are as conservative like fox news and other conservative news sources. I do trust this story as harassment does happen to gay teens who are outed by straight teens. What gay teen is going to subject themselves to such danger of harassment by being so overt that they would knowingly get assaulted and bullied at school? Straight teens have a bad habit of bullying other teens they see as a weaker target, especially those teens who are gay. I suspect that your 15 year old son is really one of these bullies and you are covering up for him. Making all kinds of excuses as to why he probably attacks gay teens.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 20:20:29

    The first commentor on this thread, saying that "the whole truth needs to be brought forward," is extremely suspicious. Firstly, Luke Herbert received death threats over the internet from his stalker and attacker. The stalker said "I am going to take you out of school in a body bag." Had the victim previously been sexually forward with the stalker, a death threat still would be out of all proportion, and in fact, illegal. Then, the stalker and attacker hurled Luke to the ground, causing his head to hit cement. A school employee witnessed the attack. Even to insinuate that an unwelcome sexual advance was the cause of that attack is preposterous. To claim that such an advance would justify the attack is even more preposterous. So, what "whole truth" needs to come out here? The teacher who harassed Luke Herbert is married to the school superintendent’s secretary. Rose’s story about this in www.politicususa.com is getting attention from coast to coast. The school’s administrators and others connected with the school are aware of the (negative) attention they are receiving. I suggest that the first comment in this thread was placed here by somebody fatuously seeking to make the school look better.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 20:30:23

    The person who first commented on this thread (and I am not convinced it was an actual mother) gives themselves a way a bit, by referring to "overtly gay" boys and also in mentioning young males "exploring" their sexuality "tending to be overt about it." Nobody ever talks about high-school males being "overtly heterosexual." Nobody ever says of heterosexual males exploring their sexuality that they "tend to be overt about it." That commentor clearly is homophobic. Additionally, she talks about gay teen males as "they," painting all gay teen males with a negative, degrading brush. Supposing she’s for real, if her son feels some individual is behaving inappropriately, he should go to a school employee and ask them to have the offending party stop the inappropriate behavior. The notion that gay male high school students are persecuting her heterosexual son is false and ridiculous.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 22:34:06

    i’d give luke a figurative hug and tell him it will be alright. the campaign "it gets better" is true. adolescent years are tough on the large majority of kids, gay and straight. once you’ve gotten through those years and up until 25 it ought to smooth out. at some near point, the bullies don’t get rewarded by the peers who push them to keep at it because the peers become and act like adults. i remember all too well how brutal things got but no one bothers me now because my height (same as in high school) and size scare them away. please bear with it during the meantime, because there’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 23:15:15

    I go to FPC and the staff are not all cruel and negligent as Luke says. A lot of teachers are very respectful and stop kids from using gay slurs. The school for the most part is very good at stopping bullying and fights. And Luke before all the incidents he hung out with a couple not so respectable kids and generally had an attitude with everyone one, and he was very confrontational. Even when kids weren’t talking about him he assumed they were and started yelling at them. I’m not against what he is trying to change in the school, but he is known for wanting attention and it just seems like that’s what he is doing here.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 23:49:49

    There is nothing wrong with FPC! Now granted I am not openly gay, but in my 3 years at the school I have not seen or heard one staff member mock gay kids or not defend them when a student mocked them. I have an aunt who teaches at the school and I know she defends gay kids and does not allow others to make fun of them. I don’t like how Luke is addressing the problem, it’s ruining the name of the school and the teachers there. Besides Luke is getting his education, he has free online classes; and the teacher publicly apologized to the whole school saying he did not mean to offend anyone and is sorry if he hurt anyone, he was very sincere too. I am glad this is being brought up and I’m glad to see people so fired up and supporting but don’t let one slip by a teacher ruin the name for all the teachers at school.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-29 23:58:29

    Theres no room on the bus anyway, when he did ride he was the last one on on the last stop and everyone was three to a seat. The kids weren’t laughing at him, they are a bunch of high school kids who were talking about jersey shore most of the time.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 00:06:20

    It is disgusting to see propagandists for Flagler Schools coming here to progandize by blaming the victim. It is never acceptable to blame a victim. Never! Luke was exceptionally brave, to come forward and denounce his tormentors in an atmosphere of pervasive anti-gay bigotry. The charge that he "wants attention" is a non-sequitur; it has nothing to do with the very serious crimes committed against him. He is the victim of a hate crime. A student issued death threats against him, and then attacked him. A teacher directed anti-gay slurs and other verbal abuses against him. Luke is not "ruining the name of the school." The school brought its problems on itself - by enabling Luke’s various tormentors to torment him. Floyd Binkley’s "apology" is anything but sincere. The school was doing nothing to address Luke’s grievances until Luke’s mother involved a lawyer. Binkley would never have "apologized" at all . . . if Luke’s mother hadn’t involved a lawyer. What’s more, Binkley has told the media "I never offended any student. I’m sorry if the student was offended." In other words, Binkley is BLAMING the target of his anti-gay slurs for being emotionally traumatized by those anti-gay slurs. Where is the general assembly of the school community, welcoming Luke, with each Flagler Palm Coast High School administrator shaking Luke’s hand, saying something good about him to the entire community and then announcing that there is no place for anti-gay bigotry in the school? That is the kind of the thing a community truly concerned about Luke’s well-being would do. Instead, they come crawling out of the woodwork, like maggots, accusing Luke of all manner of thing he never did, "acting out" ""overtly gay" "wants attention" et cetera et cetera. Please, you ignorant rednecks; don’t bother with any more of you ridiculous propaganda. You’ve made your bed and now you’ll lie in it - clean up your act instead of blaming the victims of your hatred and small-mindedness.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 00:29:22

    LET’S EXAMINE ONE OF THESE FLAGLER SCHOOLS APOLOGIST’S RIDICULOUS COMMENTS HERE, LINE BY LINE. "There is nothing wrong with FPC!" IT’S LETTING THE VIOLENT JUVENILE DELINQUENT WHO STALKED LUKE HERBERT WITH DEATH THREATS AND THEN ATTACKED HIM CONTINUE IN THE SCHOOL. I’D SAY THAT’S WRONG. Now granted I am not openly gay, RIGHT, SO YOU WOULDN’T LIKELY HAVE BEEN A TARGET OF ANTI-GAY BIGOTRY, WOULDYOU? but in my 3 years at the school I have not seen or heard one staff member mock gay kids or not defend them when a student mocked them. WOW. IF THAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE, THEN A GAY STUDENT COMPLAINING OF ANTI-GAY BIGOTRY IN THE SCHOOL COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE TELLING THE TRUTH, RIGHT? I have an aunt who teaches at the school and I know she defends gay kids and does not allow others to make fun of them. NOW WE SEE THAT THERE’S THIS FAMILY CONNECTION BETWEEN YOU, THE AUNT AND FLAGLER SCHOOLS; YOU HAVE SORT OF A PERSONAL ECONOMIC INTEREST IN DEFENDING THE SCHOOL, AND WHO HERE KNOWS IF YOU WOULDN’T LIE TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY’S ECONOMIC INTERESTS IN THE SCHOOL? i.e. IF A CIVIL SUIT IS BROUGHT AND THE SCHOOL IS MADE TO PAY . . YOU GET IT. I don’t like how Luke is addressing the problem, TOUGH SHIT FOR YOU! it’s ruining the name of the school and the teachers there. THE SCHOOL HAS RUINED ITS OWN NAME. IT WANTED NOT TO ADDRESS LUKE’S GRIEVANCES AT ALL, FORCING HIS MOTHER TO GET A LAWYER TO DEFEND HIS RIGHTS. Besides Luke is getting his education, he has free online classes; LUKE’S EDUCATION HAS SUFFERED A SEVERE DISRUPTION. "FREE" ONLINE CLASSES - GO TO HELL WITH THAT ONE, FRANKLY. OH BOY! FREE ONLINE CLASSES AS COMPENSATION FOR BEING THE VICTIM OF A HATE CRIME. and the teacher publicly apologized to the whole school saying he did not mean to offend anyone and is sorry if he hurt anyone, he was very sincere too. PHONEY AS A $3 BILL. THE TEACHER ISN’T TAKING FULL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR EVERYTHING HE DID, AND ONLY APOLOGIZED BECAUSE A LAWYER GOT INVOLVED. I am glad this is being brought up and I’m glad to see people so fired up and supporting but don’t let one slip by a teacher ruin the name for all the teachers at school. YOU’RE SO "GLAD" THAT YOU CAME HERE, TO DEFAME LUKE, AND TO FALSELY PROPAGANDIZE THAT THERE IS "NOTHING WRONG WITH FPC!" IF THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT, THEN WHY ARE YOU "GLAD" ITS PROBLEMS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE CORRECTED, NOW THAT PUBLIC AND NATIONAL ATTENTION HAS BEEN CALLED TO THEM?


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 00:55:05

    NOW WE’LL EXAMINE ANOTHER ONE OF THESE COMMENTS FROM A FLAGLER SCHOOLS APOLOGIST, LINE BY LINE. I go to FPC and the staff are not all cruel and negligent as Luke says. WHERE DID LUKE EVER SAY THAT "ALL" FPC STAFF ARE "CRUEL AND NEGLIGENT"? WHERE DID HE EVER SAY THAT? A lot of teachers are very respectful and stop kids from using gay slurs. WHAT DOES "A LOT" MEAN? YOU’VE SEEN IT HAPPEN ONCE? IF IT HAPPENS WITH "A LOT" OF TEACHERS, THAT MEANS THERE ARE A LOT OF JERKY STUDENTS, SLINGING ANTI-GAY SLURS, RIGHT? The school for the most part is very good at stopping bullying and fights. SO GOOD, THAT LUKE GOT HURLED TO THE GROUND BY HIS CYBER-STALKER, AND HI HEAD HIT HARD ON CEMENT. WOW, THE SCHOOL SHOULD WIN AN ANTI-BULLYING AWARD! And Luke before all the incidents he hung out with a couple not so respectable kids ARE YOU SAYING THAT YOUR JUDGMENT AGAINST THE "NOT SO RESPECTABLE" KIDS LUKE ALLEGEDLY HUNG OUT WITH MAKES THE CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST HIM HIS OWN FAULT? ARE YOU? and generally had an attitude with everyone one, ARE YOU SMEARING THE VICTIM WITH THIS VAGUE ACCUSATION THAT HE HAD "AN ATTITUDE"? ARE YOU SMEARING THE VICTIM, AND SAYING THAT HIS "ATTITUDE" MEANS HE DESERVED TO BE STAKED AND BEATEN? ARE YOU? and he was very confrontational. OH, "VERY CONFRONTATIONAL" ANOTHER SMEAR! IT WASN’T THAT LUKE, A VISIBLY GAY STUDENT, WAS HARASSED BECAUSE HE WAS GAY, IT’S BECAUSE HE WAS "CONFRONTATIONAL." DO YOU REALIZE HOW STUPID YOU APPEAR TO MORE INTELLIGENT PEOPLE THAN YOU? Even when kids weren’t talking about him OH SO YOU DO ADMIT THAT KIDS WERE "TALKING" ABOUT HIM - WHAT WERE THEY SAYING? WERE THEY MOCKING HIM FOR BEING GAY, FOR EXAMPLE? he assumed they were and started yelling at them. SO THE BULLIES HARASSED HIM FOR BEING GAY SO OFTEN THAT, TRAUMATIZED, HE FELT CONSTANTLY UNDER ATTACK. AND YOU’RE GOING TO BLAME HIM? I’m not against what he is trying to change in the school, OH YES YOU ARE! but he is known for wanting attention ANOTHER BASELESS SMEAR and it just seems like that’s what he is doing here LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT. HE WAS STALKED WITH DEATH THREATS AND ATTACKED. THE SCHOOL PUT HIS ATTACKER BACK INTO HIS SAME CLASSROOM. ONE OF HIS TEACHERS HARASSED HIM FOR BEING GAY, IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS, AND IMITATED HIS GAY-SPECIFIC MANNERISMS. AND LUKE CAME FORWARD TO DENOUNCE HIS TORMENTORS, BECAUSE HE WANTED ATTENTION? TELL IT TO THE HORSE MARINES.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 01:17:58

    You can see the lack of empathy and support Luke’s peers at Flagler Palm Coast High School gave him, looking at the remark above from one of them: "Even when kids weren’t talking about him he assumed they were and started yelling at them." That’s exactly how bullies work on their victims. It’s asymmetrical. Not constant attacks, but attacks frequent enough, and at irregular intervals that the victim is given constantly to fear that he is about to be attacked. To top it off, when the victim reacts on one of the times that the bullies are not directly attacking him, they mock him for the fearful reaction, reinforcing his fears of them. And what do you know, but that one of them is here commenting, mocking him for "yelling" even when "kids" weren’t talking about him. Notice, it’s "kids" plural, who this commentor from the school acknowledges were mocking and verbally bullying Luke. It was not just the one cyber-stalker and assailant. It was "kids" plural. Bullying him. And if not bullying him, having no empathy for him in what he was suffering from the bullies. Even came here to manifest that lack of empathy. What a wonderful community that is.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 01:18:37

    A lot of teachers may intervene in cases of anti gay slurs, but obviously not all of them do. Who Luke hung out with gives no one the right to bully him and physically attack him. Saying that he was confrontational is suspiciously incredible, doing it on his own with no back up. Usually people who are so bold even in high school seem to have quite a few friends hanging around them when they act out. I can’t see where a gay student would be so bold in the first place. It would definitely be very risky.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 01:38:08

    While I do not condone this behavior by the teacher whatsoever, I do have to make some things clear about FPCHS. First, the high school does have a GSA (Gay-Staright Alliance) club, and had it before this incident. This shows that some tolerance is there on the school’s part, especially being that so many religious establishments are fighting to not have GSA’s in high schools. Second, and again I do not condone the school’s "punishment" given to the Mr. Binkley, is that there is one person that I personally know and am 100% confident that would not tolerate any hate, bullying or violence in the school if it came to his attention, and he is in the higher-up offices at the high school, without disclosing his actual position. How do I know this? Well, he and I both attended FPCHS and graduated together from there in the 80?s. He has always been a true friend and stuck up for me. I am openly gay, and a native of Flagler County, unfortunately. I endured the same type of ridicule, harassment, physical altercations, and mockery by other students, and a teacher as well. This incident infuriated me, and brought back so many feelings of anguish, hurt, and self loathe. That is exactly what those "jokes" do to the victim. Luckily, Luke is stronger than I was, since I attempted to take my life in my senior year. Although this angers me so much, I do have to defend my friend, and member of the FPCHS staff, since all stories have two sides, and I believe he would have handled this situation fairly and equal. What others that know/knew Luke are saying, shouldn’t be taken as propaganda, the same way that readers should not take the media’s report as the whole truth. I do not agree whatsoever that the bullying student, that physically assaulted Luke, should have been able to come back to school, but I do not know the school’s discipline process, since most school fights end up in only a suspension, if the first time. Now, that said, again, I do not agree with how the teacher was "reprimanded", and extremely disagree with the slur being said in a joking manner. IT’S NO JOKE...IT’S LIFE! An apology does not erase the fact that an adult (and a teacher) sets examples for young people, and this type of example only fuels hate, discrimination, violence, and even death. An apology also will not erase the stigma and hurt and harm, caused to the victim. Teach by example. This teacher didn’t, but that’s no excuse for anyone else too. Lastly, Luke Herbert, you have my empathy, and respect, for being strong and fighting back in a way I was unable to!


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 11:28:57

    To the commenter immediately above, long-time personal friends with one of the school administrators, trying to make excuses for the school’s outrageously bad behavior in this, even while voicing some support for the victim -- you have said that you know the school’s discipline process for "fights." Luke was not in a fight. He was stalked with death threats and then attacked by another student who previously and frequently had used anti-gay pejoratives against Luke. So the subject here is not the school’s discipline process for fights. The school’s discipline process for fights is as immaterial in this as would be its process for serving lunch in the cafeteria. The subject here is the school’s discipline process for hate crimes -- how it refers them to the criminal justice system, for one. Then, your friend in the administration allowed the person who appears to have committed a hate crime against Luke to be placed back in Luke’s same classroom. If your friend is powerful enough within the school to have had a part in that decision, then your whole defense of him is invalid. If he isn’t powerful enough to have had a part in that decision, then your defense of him is irrelevant. When you say "All stories have two sides," you are implying that Luke was not victimized for being gay. It’s true that the school has been attempting to get its "side" of the story out there . . . and that side minimizes what Luke was subjected to. Any time there is a victim, and a friend of one or more of those accountable for victimizing the victim comes along and says "There are two sides to every story," people’s bullshit meters should be ringing ten bell alarms.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 12:32:56

    Please do not take my comments out of context. This is that above poster of the comment you misquote. I said I do NOT know the school’s policy on fights, not that I know it. I never said my friend’s position as administration. Are you personally involved where you know the DETAILS of the complete situation, or are you just going on the media reports?? I stated over and over that I do not agree nor condone FPCHS’ actions. They should have taken care of this back around Thanksgiving when the violence began. They admit this. They should not have placed the offender back in the same classroom after telling Luke they would not. They admit this. BUT, they also referred him to the school’s GSA and outside resources when he came to them. So they did not turn a blind eye, but also did not take care of the situation as swiftly or accurately as they should have. They admit this. Please do not break down my comments to morph it into me defending the school. I said I would defend my friend! I WAS Luke Herbert, in the same school, dealing with the same harassment. But I am now an adult and understand that schools are not allowed to comment on students, to protect their rights, yet students can say all they want about a school. I am not saying that Luke was wrong, or asked for this. I am only saying that the whole story is not out there. No where did I make excuses for the school’s horrific behaviour and lack of following through, because I believe the school was very much WRONG in handling this. I did not say anything about my friend’s power in the school either. Not one person makes a decision for the entire school. There is a process, you know, which involves more than one person. Instead of letting my anger over this situation cloud all reason, I am only remaining objective about the facts that are not put out in the media. That does not excuse "dropping the ball" and allowing a victim to be in the same room as his attacker. That does not excuse lack of actions taken to ensure the teacher does not do this again, and leads by a good example, as opposed to letting his class know it’s okay to use derogatory terms, as long as it is in a joking manner. I do not agree with any of that. I only defended my friend, knowing that there is more to the story than we are told. Believe me, he knows my stance on these things, and that I think this "joke" was a lot more than a "joke" because it fuels hate, anger, violence, and in some cases death. I thought I was clear in my post that I am more in support of Luke, no matter what the whole story is, and do not support the school, but do defend my friend, who stuck up for me when we were in the same school and I was dealing with the same things as Luke. I understand that Luke, like most people, would not want to go back to a class where his tormentor still is, although Luke was told differently. Not attending led to truancy problems, which the parent can be jailed for, in Florida. So cut and dry; The school failed the student by allowing hate and bullying to continue. The school failed the student by allowing him to be ridiculed by a teacher and adult, indirectly. I say indirectly since Binkley’s "joke" was made to the entire classroom, not specifically at one person. It does not excuse the teacher for fueling the hate involved with the phrase "that’s gay". Also, the student was given resources for help (GSA, public organizations) to not feel alone, since it went further than a lot of people know, yet did not use them. That is not attacking Luke, it is only addressing things involved which escalated this. "All stories have two sides" was only said to inform that we are only hearing one side. It does not discount what Luke has said, but only states that we do not know the complete story. It is not blaming Luke for any part of it. I would be stupid and ignorant to put any blame on the victim because I went through it all too, at the same place, in the same halls. Once again, I do not condone the school’s lack of response when it should have been. I, personally, think the teacher should be fired. The school is specifying sexual orientation in it’s already in place anti-bullying policies, since it was not specified already. It is sad that this has occurred, yet the international exposure of this helps to show what is wrong in the school system, and how a "joke", and non tolerance of anything different, can be a foundation for so much hate, violence, and even death.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 13:15:29

    Name your friend in the adminstration of Flagler Palm Coast High School so that his role in this can be investigated.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 14:14:29

    I am not giving out someone’s name so that he can get even more hate mail. He is an Assistant Principal. He did not give me any details or specifics, since they are to protect the students’ rights. The way things are taken out of context, there is no way I am giving names. This case was settled between the ACLU and FPCHS. Sadly, in my opinion, but it was. I guess people don’t understand that friends, or two people, can disagree on something, yet not let the disagreement outline their friendship. Yes, the school (my friend included) is rushing to try to rectify and compensate by having Binkley apologize, as well as appear on a GSA Public Service Announcement about anti-bullying, but as I feel, the teacher’s "joke" told his true colours, and no amount of PSAs or apologies can take away the harm done. Yes, I disagree with how it is being "rectified". I think the teacher should be fired. I think the offending student should be/have been expelled. Yes, I think my friend could have made a point to follow up on the matter, or even the Guidance Counselor, from November. But I also understand that I do not know the entire details. No matter what, the bullying before the teacher’s comment should have been handled better and more swiftly. No matter what, the out of line, derogatory comment made by teacher should have been a second flag that there was an issue that should have been addressed a lot more than it was. But it wasn’t. How do you move on from here?! Put actions and policies in place to ensure that it does not happen again. With FPCHS under international attention for this now, I am sure they will not let it happen again, and get this far at all. I will not name any names, let alone the name of my friend. He knows how I and many others feel about this, and if his name was to be put out there, then the media would have done so. I said his position here, since I have seen it in politicususa’s article.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 15:14:25

    Why are you protecting one of the school officials complicit in letting the abuses happen? (This presumes that you actually are a "friend" of this person, and not the administrator him/herself, or even the school’s attorney, commenting in an attempt to control the story the public reads.)


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 15:24:54

    Is your friend Assistant Principal Kevin McCarthy?


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 16:03:33

    Yes I am a friend, and why would I say that I am a native from Flagler County unfortunately. Unfortunately, being the key word, if you presumed correct, which is not?! Google Luke’s name and read ALL articles. Here’s a few to ponder on: Flagler Live: http://flaglerlive.com/19371/floyd-binkley-herbert (which mentions the above stated Asst Principal as the sponsor for the school’s GSA) and The Daytona News-Journal: http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/local/flagler/2011/03/19/student-teachers-gay-joke-directed-at-him.html These are only 2 articles about the whole thing, but you can investigate and search through them to come to your own conclusions. Neither myself or anyone can change what conclusion you want to come to. How am I controlling the story the public reads? Do some online research and you will see many things about this situation, both supporting the school and Luke. I do not support the school’s decision on this matter, but do applaud them for taking actions to show a pro-active stance after the fact. Yes, a little too late, but nonetheless still taken. "Other gay students at FPC seem to be treated with respect, Herbert said. "I just don’t get why people do that to me," he said. This statement in the News-Journal speaks volumes, made by Luke. It shows the tolerance in the school for GLBT students, on a general basis. It is not posted to discredit Luke, because what he endured was real, and no one should have to endure that, yet at the same times sheds some light that the school is not totally anti-gay as many are making it seem. As I have been told, the school is very different from when I went there, and a lot more accepting. I have not returned there whatsoever since graduating, because of the torment I endured at FPCHS during the 80s when I went to school there. What would having the name of my friend even accomplish since this case is already settled by the ACLU, and steps/actions are being taken to rectify this slur and situation?!


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 16:21:01

    Readers should be aware that your claim to be long-time close friends with a Flagler Schools adminstrator suggests there could be a conflict of interest in every single comment you make about the story. No editor would hire you to write an article about the story at this point, because of your close personal connection to one of the school’s administrators. This never yet was a legal case, so to say it is "settled" is not accurate terminology. What’s more, just because the parties to the agreement say they have "settled" the matter doesn’t mean that journalists may not further investigate the story. One journalist for example turned up that teacher Floyd Binkley is married to the school superintendent’s secretary. Why isn’t that fact in any of the press releases put out by the ACLU, or in any of the quotes the school gives to the media?


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 16:25:23

    Another thing. If you really did leave Flagler due to anti-gay bigotry, why do you have such a strong personal interest in making excuses for Flagler Schools, and in attempting to see the matter closed and done with, rather than further investigated? Some objective observers might think that you are actually one of the school’s administrators, duplicitously posing here as a friend of long duration but remote geographically. And, if the reason you are so engaged in defending and covering up for the school is that you are such close personal friends with one of the school’s administrator’s, then why should anybody trust anything you say about the story? You are defending and perhaps seeking to cover up for one of the school administrators who was complicit in allowing the abuse to continue, and you are close personal friends with that administrator. You have a conflict of interest in commenting on this story.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:11:15

    You really seem to take what is being said by me out of context. My name is John Capo, born in St Augustine, FL, raised in Flagler County, Florida, and lived in Daytona Beach, and in Orlando, Florida for the past 15 years. I did not say I left Flagler DUE to anti-gay bigotry. I said I have not returned there since I graduated and it is because of the tormenting I received while in school there that I have not returned. Please stop turning and twisting my statements. Now that you have my name, Google away. You will find I am not affiliated with that school except that I attended there from 7th grade to 12th grade. In every one of my posts, I have said I do not condone or agree with FPCHS’ reaction to this, and that I was in the same boat as Luke. This story was shared on Facebook, and it struck a nerve with me, since the same things I experienced were being told by someone having the same problems now. After hearing from my friend about it as well, I researched and read many articles, from both sides. I did not just read one article and make a judgement. I have not covered up anything done by the school, nor defended the school. I am not trying to close the matter. I assumed that the legalities and lawsuit were closed since an agreement was made. You will find that out if you read and research. It’s ironic to discuss inaccurate terminology when my words have been turned around. This is an Internet posting, commenting on an article. I am not seeking to be a journalist or writer. So I could care less if an editor would not hire me to write an article. I am an ex-FPCHS’er who endured the same things reported by Luke, at the same school, so it angered me. Although angered, I also try to keep an open mind, so am glad to hear the school is more tolerant than when I was there, and glad that they are specifying sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policy. What’s so wrong or bad about being glad that something positive is coming out of this? I can’t answer your questions about why certain articles state some things but leaves some stuff out that others have (like Binkley’s marriage). I don’t even know the teacher. Like most, of course things are going to be omitted to further themselves and look good, just like ACLU not letting Luke answer questions, and the school not talking about the teacher’s wife being the superintendent’s secretary. I could care less if anyone trusts what I am saying. Again, these are comments made on the Internet. I can not and am not trying to persuade one way or another, except that this intolerance and bullying in schools because of ANY difference should be stopped. Wow! Trying to be objective and see both sides, but still keeping the underlying fact that this type of stuff should not be happening in any school sure has turned into a - Who are you? How do you know? You are not... and TONS of sentences and statements taken out of context. An objective reader may just think you are only a bit too skeptical as well. Things go both ways. I am only putting it out there, from personal experience at that school, and at the same time realizing that there can be some good in it. Even Luke said that, after the GSA’s Public Service Announcements were made. I may have a conflict of interest in more than one way. By knowing the Asst Principal, and many others in the county, but also as a student at the same school that endured the same things. At least I am objectively looking at both sides, yet still angered and not condoning the school’s lack of action earlier on. So now I guess you will apart this post, and construe it in whichever way suits your skepticism...Carry on...


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:15:23

    You can’t be objectively "looking at both sides" because you are close personal friends with one of the school’s administrators.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:21:54

    So says the skeptic... Yes, one is able to objectively see faults and misdoings and can separate personal friendships from business decisions. It is possible. Maybe not for you, but just like what started this whole thing, that shows difference in people. I am also someone who had a teacher kick me out of class daily at FPCHS after making fun of my voice and mocking me. I had all the terms thrown at me for being gay, even had "JOHN CAPO HAS AIDS" carved into a desk there by someone. If anything, being tormented would make me less objective towards the school because I value myself more than I do a friendship. It just so happens that I am adult enough to listen to opposing views and statements as well. Chew on that a bit, then tear it up...


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:25:39

    I am repeating, for emphasis, that whenever there clearly is a victim, and a friend of those who did the victimizing comes along, talking about "seeing both sides," people should smell a rat.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:34:37

    Emphasize all you want buddy. My posts have been clear, concise, factual, and proven. I even say who I am. Yours are just all about skepticism and questioning and trying to discredit someone. Do you agree that something should have been done to stop this bullying before it escalated? Aren’t you glad that the school is doing something to specify sexual orientation and gender identity in it’s anti-bullying policy? Aren’t you glad that Luke was a strong individual who is still getting his education and does not have to attend FPCHS anymore? Don’t you agree that this never should be happening? Just leave it at that. We are on the same wave regarding the injustice done to Luke. NO H8!!


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:40:25

    I am repeating, for emphasis, that whenever there clearly is a victim, and a friend of those who did the victimizing comes along, talking about "seeing both sides," people should smell a rat.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:45:54

    Above all I think this is not the correct place for the facts to be determined and then considered, in order for all parties eventually determined guilty in this to be held fully accountable to the victim.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 17:52:41

    ....and stop calling me a rat! Name calling is what started all of this, and referring to me, indirectly, as a rat only lessens yourself and mirrors the harassment the story is about. Done with you.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 20:49:43

    Above all I think this is not the correct place for the facts to be determined and then considered, in order for all parties eventually determined guilty in this to be held fully accountable to the victim.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 21:40:18

    Hmmm, I guess I’m not alone and I’m not the only one being called a rat...which by the way is calling names and considered harassment. Hard to swallow? True nonetheless. Now, before I remove my name from this website, I’m going to share with you more of who I am. I realize you may want to further discredit me in order to continue to support your own opinion. That’s your choice. But, I will tell you that denying truth only hurts you. I am a 48 year old mother of three beautiful children. My oldest is 16. He’s been so brutally teased that if he had his way, he’d stay home all the time. He’s acted out due to this which could very well lawfully pursued. We don’t know yet. To know him, you would say he is a very nice boy. Clean-cut. Decent student. But what you don’t see is the cauldron of anger inside him. It’s coming out. Yes, we have a great therapist. We are doing all we can for him. I have a great deal of experience with the media. Pure journalism is dead. Most if not all have been reduced to blogging where the blogger leads the reader to their own determined end. If you like what they say, you believe them. If you don’t, they are heathen and crooks. The fact is that it’s all opinion with few facts and even then those purposed facts are not accurate. Reader beware. How do we find the truth? We study it out for ourselves. We verify. We talk directly to people. But wait, that takes so much time. That’s right, it does. For me, that means that I am very careful what crusades I take on. And when I do, I’m very effective. I’d rather be effective at a few things than be an armchair opinionist in everything. So, how does this apply to this story? Let’s do this again, but slightly different, Okay? This is a tragic story. My heart goes out to this young man. I don’t know that everything I am reading is true. In some ways, I hope it’s not. I’ve watched many special interest groups latch onto an ’almost’ story and exploit the hell out of it. Is that what’s going on here? I don’t know. What I do know is that gets are brutal. What I do know is that grown ups who are supposed to protect kids often are a part of the problem. I’ve witnessed this all first hand. Am I sure that is what is happening here? No. Are there two sides to a story? Yes. Does that mean that he deserves what he’s getting, not sure, don’t know, maybe, maybe not. Fact is, I don’t know. And unless you are right there, unless you know this person, unless you’ve worked this story, neither do you. What I do know is that if you are so willing to fight for his rights when you read this story, chances are it has more to do with you than him. Chances are you identify with or feel guilty for the same behavior. And maybe you’re gay and are so terribly angry at those around you who lash out or won’t accept you. If that’s the case, my heart goes out to you. It really really does. So, you see, I’m not some rat or whatever it is you’ve labeled me. You got it wrong. So, you should ask yourself, what else have you got wrong.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 22:20:48

    Well the lack of answering questions directed to him, misconstruing comments to turn words into phrases, and then using the phrase only to try to make a point, as well as name calling and continuous reposts of the same exact things, but making remarks, and statements of his view, with no leeway for anyone else’s views, shows someone with a lot of time on his hands for arguing against people who are feeling the same way, that this was a bad situation. Throughout these posts, the ones that even show some fairness in consideration of the school, in any way, even minute, are being harassed and called names. The very thing that they are arguing against being done to Luke. Kettle, meet pot....


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-30 22:40:27

    To the commenter who said this: "He’s acted out due to this which could very well lawfully pursued." The fact that you are commenting the way you are online, shows that you have no adequate knowledge of matters legal. I have no certain idea, who you are, what you’re talking about, et cetera. But, if there is some chance of legal action being brought against one of your children, in that child’s best interest you must stop blabbing all over the place online. Records can be subpoened from online venues, et cetera. You need to stop blabbing. And that’s what you’ve been doing. You are blabbing. Stop it - it can only work against you in a legal setting.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-31 00:44:34

    Let’s say a personal injury suit is filed against a company, for negligence, by one of its employees seriously injured on the job. The relevant questions do not involve whether some of the management is "nice" to other of the employees. The relevant questions do not involve whether the company’s products are good. Or anything else, of no bearing on whether the company is liable for the plaintiff’s serious injury. In the case of what Luke Herbert has suffered at Flagler County Schools, it does not matter if somebody’s aunt teachers there and once said something nice about gay people. It does not matter if somebody who went to school there years ago is friends with one of the current assistant principals. That demonstrates exactly nothing, about 1) the school’s accountability for the torture of its student, Luke Herbert and/or 2) whether the school is accepting full accountability for the torture of Luke Herbert.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-31 01:32:41

    For 1) and 2) look at the flaglerlive link above. "School officials, according to the ACLU, acknowledged that Luke’s harassment had not been handled as swiftly as it should have been and several missteps had occurred: a conference between him and a guidance counselor was also misinterpreted as a confidential conversation, rather than a call to action, which caused a delay in the school’s response." The school admits it’s missteps. If that scenario you mention comes about, then the courts would get to hear both sides of the story to make a justified decision.


  • Anonymous, 2011-03-31 12:07:57

    Those assertions are fatuous.


  • Anonymous, 2011-04-02 12:37:45

    It really is sad that today this is still an issue in schools especially with recent news of harassment, and kids taking thier own life. Especially as a 40yr male that had the same issue with a teacher. In 6th grade, I had a male teacher that felt it was okay to call me "Mary", this teacher to this day doesn’t know what this word did to my life. Not only did I come from a broken home which didn’t help matters, it pushed me more into my shell that I never noticed until now. Teachers are there to help us grow, not make us more insecure about our self. Because this teachers action kids in my class called me this names. And, it stayed with me for many years to come. Today, we need to make teachers accountable for actions, not only in teaching our children but how they treat children. Unions and School Administration need to take a stand today! Luke my heart goes out to you but you are a brave kid for bringing this to the public’s attention. I hope with all my heart you win in this fight, so that NO other student has to have this happen to them. Name calling is never ok whether a child does or an adult. This must stop today.


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