The Arkansas state Department of Education has issued a statement denouncing the anti-gay remarks made by local Independence County school board member Clint McCance, who used Facebook to celebrate the suicides of LGBT teenagers and the deaths of gay people from AIDS. The DOE’s statement does not appear in the above-linked Associate Press story other than their word “dismayed.”
The posting said to be from Midland School Board member Clint McCance came after last week’s nationwide move for people to wear purple ribbons in support of gay and lesbian youth. The posting, first reported on The Advocate’s website, said that the only way McCance would wear purple is “if they all commit suicide.” McCance couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday but told the Arkansas Times that the issue had been “blown out of proportion” and he plans to issue a statement later in the day. The Facebook page has since been disabled but a screen-grab remains on The Advocate’s website. The Human Rights Campaign has called for McCance’s resignation. The state Education Department’s statement Wednesday said it is “dismayed” over the posting.
A Little Rock-based television station is looking for McCance.
After receiving several emails alleging Midland school board member Clint McCance made disparaging remarks about gay students, Today’s THV is investigating the allegations. McCance is accused of posting on his Facebook page that several recent suicides of gay students across the U.S. were due to those students’ sin. He also allegedly made other comments bashing gays. Today’s THV has not confirmed McCance actully made the posts, but B.J. Steed is in Midland, which is just outside Batesville in Independence County, trying to contact McCance as well as other school board members. Today’s THV contacted Superintendent Dean Stanley’s office, but he is out until Friday. Midland Principal Donna Clark would only reply “no comment” to all our questions. In response to the comments on Facebook, someone set up another Facebook page calling for McCance to be removed from the board. THV’s BJ Steed will have more on this developing story on Today’s THV at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
MSNBC is reporting on the story as I type this. I’ll have video ASAP.
UPDATE: Here’s the statement from the Arkansas Department of Education.
The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and is dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook. Because Mr. McCance is an elected official, the department has no means of dealing with him directly. However, the department does have staff who investigate matters of bullying in schools and we will monitor and quickly respond to any bullying of students that may occur because of this, as we have with other civil rights issues in the past.
UPDATE II: The Advocate reports that McCance may keep his job.
“In Arkansas law, the only way to recall a school board member is over a felony [committed by him or her] or absentee issues,” said Julie Johnson Thompson, the director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education in Little Rock. Thompson says McCance, as an elected official, answers to voters, not Midland school district’s superintendent. “[The Arkansas Department of Education] doesn’t have any control over his job,” Thompson pointed out.
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