Fair-minded Americans were thrilled last night when Clint McCance – the Midlands School Board Vice President from Pleasant Plains, Arkansas, who was under fire for an anti-gay Facebook tirade – announced he would resign from the board. Appearing on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, McCance apologized for his screed that said he would disown his children if they were gay and encouraged LGBT youth suicide. Read his full posts from when we broke the news on Tuesday evening.
HRC was originally alerted to the comments by Anthony Turner, a 1998 graduate of Midland High School. Turner’s hope was that national attention would help kids from his town – and ones like it – know that people care about them and hopefully prevent other officials from creating the kind of environment that McCance fostered. On the heels of a number of bullying-related suicides, we could not let McCance’s hate-filled posts go unanswered.
Because of Arkansas law, the only option at our disposal was for Mr. McCance to resign so we sprang into action to bring enormous pressure upon him, his colleagues on the local school board and his constituents.
The Advocate was the first media outlet to report the story on Tuesday evening, causing so much traffic that their site was periodically unavailable. Other LGBT blogs followed suit. HRC also posted screenshots of McCance’s rant on our blog, additionally pointing users to our “Welcoming Schools” resources that give elementary school administrators, teachers and parents across the country the tools to prevent bias-based teasing and harassment among elementary school students.
Recognizing the impact social media would have on the way this news spread, HRC immediately created a “Fire Clint McCance” Facebook page that began growing at over 1,000 new “likes” per hour. The group now has about 65,000 followers. Additionally, we created an online action for citizens to write to the school board and encourage them to call for McCance’s resignation. HRC President Joe Solmonese personally wrote to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, the Arkansas Department of Education, members of the Midland School Board and to McCance himself.
Word spread like wildfire and we were able to book Anthony Turner on Wednesday evening’s Anderson Cooper 360 show to tell his story and shine a bright light on McCance’s hate. Turner was also interviewed by MSNBC, Headline News and other national and local outlets.
Local groups mobilized as well, holding visibility events in Pleasant Plains to demonstrate that McCance’s bigotry had no place in their town. HRC along with NWA Center for Equality and the Center for Artistic Revolution have a full page ad in today’s Batesville Guard – the local newspaper in Independence County, AR. We’ll be following up with an ad on Monday offering resources to LGBT and questioning young people who feel alone.
Late last night upon news of McCance’s resignation, HRC President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement: “Clint McCance’s decision to resign from the school board is a step forward for the community he represents. We are hopeful the wounds that were inflicted will soon be healed. What remains troubling is that Mr. McCance focused his regret on particular word choices not the animus behind those words. We hope he will take this time to reflect not only on the language he used but on what he can do to make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people better.”
This is a victory for safe and welcoming schools but also a reminder that we have a long way to go in battling the prejudice and hate that too often isolates LGBT and questioning young people. Because voters go to the polls on Tuesday, and will in many places select school board members, it’s critical that we take the lessons learned this week and put them into action by selecting fair-minded leaders in our communities.