Flour Bluff teen commits suicide; family blames school district for not addressing bullying

Ted Molina

A year after the Flour Bluff Independent School District received national attention for refusing to allow students to form a Gay Straight Alliance, the district is accused of not handling bullying that led to a former student’s suicide on Sunday.

Ted Molina, 16, faced bullying since fifth grade from a group of boys who used racial epithets and threatened to fight him. Molina’s mother is Asian. The family blames the school district for not handling the bullying properly, his aunt told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Molina played football in middle school, but quit his freshman year hoping the taunting would stop. When it continued, he withdrew from Flour Bluff High School on March 5. While he seemed to improve, he posted several grim photos of himself on Facebook hours before he killed himself in his bedroom. He did not leave a note.

From the Caller-Times:

—  Dallasvoice

Flour Bluff High School GSA to hold inaugural meeting on Day of Silence

Bianca “Nikki” Peet accepts her GLAAD Special Recognition Award from actress Kirsten Dunst on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Great news on the eve of the Day of Silence.

Nearly two months after the Flour Bluff Independent School District made national news by refusing to allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance, the GSA will meet on Friday for the first time, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports tonight.

After the district denied 17-year-old student Bianca “Nikki” Peet’s application to start the GSA, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened legal action and hundreds of LGBT advocates rallied outside Flour Bluff High School.

The district revised its policies to allow the GSA, but then the group’s faculty sponsor reportedly backed out due to the controversy. Under the new policies, Flour Bluff Principal James Crenshaw will monitor the group’s meetings. The ACLU of Texas says it will also continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the GSA receives equal access.

Peet, 17, was honored by GLAAD for her efforts to start the GSA on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was also was named one of The Advocate magazine’s Forty Under 40. Below is video of Peet accepting her GLAAD Special Recognition Award from actress Kirsten Dunst.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Joel Burns, Nikki Peet accept GLAAD awards; firefighters fired for nude pics

Joel Burns and Lawrence O’Donnell, via Facebook

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and Bianca “Nikki” Peet, a student at Corpus Christi’s Flour Bluff High School, were among those honored Sunday night during the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles. Burns, husband J.D. Angle and MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell accepted the award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment, for their interview on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. Meanwhile, the 17-year-old Peet received a Special Recognition Award for her efforts to organize a Gay Straight Alliance at her school. We’ll post more photos from the event as soon as they are available.

2. Who would have thought Oklahoma would be home to the first transgender person elected to lead a statewide Young Democrats group? Trans attorney Brittany Novotny, who challenged bigoted State Rep. Sally Kern in November, on Saturday was elected president of Young Democrats of Oklahoma.

3. Two firefighters in Victoria, Texas have been fired for creating a montage of photos of nude men that was posted at their station. According to The Victoria Advocate, the montage included a scantily clad crotch shot, a shot of one nude man kissing another nude man’s body, a cartoon of two men kissing, a shot of one nude man looming over another with his hands on his shoulders, a bare-chested man,  a shot of a man’s scantly clad rear end, and face shots of two Hollywood actors. The city isn’t releasing details of the incident, other than to say that the employees violated the city’s conduct policy. One expert noted that the incident could be an example of anti-gay harrassment:

“Sometimes in a case where straight people harass homosexual people, it may be an attempt to create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ separation; a clumsy or immature attempt to demonstrate their own ‘straightness’ through not-so-subtle intimidation,” University of Houston-Victoria criminal justice professor Casey Akins told the newspaper. “Straight on gay harassment is under-reported and when it is reported, it is often not necessarily classified as ‘sexual harassment in the workplace.”

—  John Wright

Controversy over GSA at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi scares away faculty sponsor

Nikki Peet

Undoubtedly you’ll recall that earlier this month, Corpus Christi’s Flour Bluff Independent School District reluctantly agreed to allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

When the district initially refused student Nikki Peet’s application for the GSA, the ACLU threatened legal action and hundreds of people protested outside Flour Bluff High School.

Almost a month later, KZTV Channel 10 reports that although the district ultimately voted to allow it, the GSA chapter still has not met because the faculty sponsor has backed out:

Peet says the student Gay Straight Alliance did have a sponsor, but the sponsor backed out after the controversy started getting attention. Peet also says Flour Bluff’s Superintendent Julie Carbajal is organizing a committee on Friday to review the policy created in 2005 that does not allow limited open forums at the school.

We’ve got a message in to Peet to get more information. You can sue to force a school or district to allow a GSA, but what do you do when faculty members are scared to sponsor it because they’re afraid of backlash? The irony of this whole saga, of course, is that it demonstrates precisely why the GSA is so badly needed.

—  John Wright

Polis, Franken tell bullies to ‘pick on someone your own size’ as they introduce SNDA

Rep. Jared Polis, left, and Sen. Al Franken today introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act that would protect LGBT students from discrimination and harassment.

As President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a group of students, parents, teachers and other concerned citizens — including Fort Worth’s own Joel Burns — at the White House today, Openly gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced identical bills, called the Student Non-Discrimination Act, in the House and the Senate that would protect students from discrimination and harassment based on “actual or percieved sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In an e-mail announcing the proposed legislation, Polis cited recent efforts by school officials in Flour Bluff High School, near Corpus Christi, to prevent a gay-straight alliance from meeting on school grounds.

“It’s bad enough when a school turns a blind eye to bullying. But when a school district in Texas moved to ban all extracurricular clubs in order to avoid having to approve a Gay-Straight Alliance, it really crossed the line,” Polis said in the e-mail. “The school itself became the bully.”

He added, “Our message is clear: Pick on somebody your own size.”

Polis acknowledged that “the odds of this bill passing this session are uncertain” because some Republicans, “regardless of their personal beliefs, are reluctant to vote for LGBT-friendly legislation.

“But, even though the odds are against me, I can’t stay silent in the face of bullying — especially when the people who are supposed to protect students from bullying have become the bullies themselves,” Polis said, encouraging individuals to become “citizen sponsors” by adding their name as a supporter here.

The ACLU has quickly come out in support of the legislation, with ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson saying that the legislation could have “a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in our schools.”

Thompson pointed to the numerous LGBT teens who committed suicde after being bullied relentlessly in the late summer and fall of 2010 as evidence of the need for the legislation. Seth Walsh, 13, was one of those teens, and his mother, Wendy Walsh, is an ACLU client. She, too, weigh in today on the need for the SNDA.

“I can’t bring my son back. But schools can make a difference today by taking bullying seriously when students and parents tell them about it. It’s time for change. We have to create better schools for everyone,” said Wendy Walsh, who was also among those attending the White House Conference on Bullying.

In a written statement released after the SNDA was introduced, ACLU officials pointed out that while federal laws currently protect students on the basis of their race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, no federal statute explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The SNDA, like Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the various disability civil rights statutes, is not simply legislation that would remedy discrimination after it occurs, but instead would also have the important impact of preventing discrimination from occurring,” the ACLU statement said.

To read the ACLU’s statement in support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, go here. To see video of Wendy Walsh telling her son’s story, go here.

—  admin

Flour Bluff ISD will allow GSA and other groups on campus — at least for now

Trustees for Flour Bluff High Independent School District approved a resolution late Tuesday night to allow a proposed Gay-Straight Alliance — along with other non-curricular groups — to meet on the school campus, at least temporarily, according to KRISTV, the NBC station in Corpus Christi.

The vote allows the the groups, including a GSA, to meet while the district conducts a study before making a permanent decision. The vote came after nearly five hours, about four of which the trustees spent in a closed executive session discussing the situation.

The decision came after the ACLU threatened legal action against the Flour Bluff High School, where school officials had refused to allow student Nikki Peet to form the GSA, although other groups, like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, were allowed to meet on campus. School officials then banned all groups to avoid having to allow the GSA.

Nikki Peet was not able to attend the meeting because she is in the hospital being treated for an infection. But her mother, Maria Peet, and other family members were there to speak for her. Members of the GSA at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi — to whom Nikki Peet had appealed for help — also attended the school board meeting.

Jay Raymond with the TAMU-CC group said his group would be there to “see this through,” and pledged, “There is no chance of this dying down until what we want is what we get.”

—  admin

WATCH: Rally in support of Gay Straight Alliance outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi

As many as 150 people gathered outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi on Friday to protest the school district’s decision to deny a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Flour Bluff High School student Bianca “Nikki” Peet, 17, has been trying to launch the GSA since November.

Last week, Flour Bluff Superintendent Julia Carbajal announced that the district would bar all non-curricular clubs from meeting on campus in order to avoid allowing the GSA.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded by threatening legal action against the district, saying officials are required to allow the GSA under the First Amendment and the federal Equal Access Act.

On Friday, supporters of the GSA rallied outside the school for eight hours and presented a petition with more than 28,000 signatures to a district spokesman. A handful of anti-gay counterprotesters, led by right-wing radio host Bob Jones, gathered across the street.

At one point, according to the video report below, a pro-GSA protester tried to give a couterprotester some water. The counterprotester responded by saying he wouldn’t touch anything a gay man had, telling him to “stay away from my grandson.”

—  John Wright

HAPPENING NOW: Protest outside Corpus Christi school that won’t allow Gay Straight Alliance

From KZTV.

More than 50 people are gathered outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi this morning to protest the district’s refusal to allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance:

Protesters with signs walked along the sidewalk in front of the high school while a handful of counter protesters with signs gathered on the other side of Waldron Road.

Paul Rodriguez, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, called for the protest after Superintendent Julie Carbajal said the district had no plans to approve a Gay-Straight Alliance proposed by senior Bianca “Nikki” Peet, 17.

The American Civil Liberties Union is backing Peet and has called on the district to approve her club by Wednesday or possibly face a lawsuit.

—  John Wright

ACLU threatens to sue Corpus Christi school district for refusing to allow Gay Straight Alliance

The ACLU is demanding that Flour Bluff ISD officials allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi or face legal action.

The principal of Flour Bluff High School has refused to allow the GSA proposed by student Nikki Peet, and the district superintendent has threatened to eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing the GSA.

The ACLU, which is representing Peet, says the district is in violation of the federal Equal Access Act because it has allowed other non-curricular clubs — including the chess club; the Key Club; the Family, Careers, Community Leaders of America; and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to meet on campus.

“Because Flour Bluff High has opened the door to non-curricular clubs on campus, it is required by law to permit the GSA club,” the ACLU writes in its letter dated today.

The ACLU also maintains that it’s illegal for the district to eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing the GSA.

“Recently, a federal court in Mississippi held that when the school district canceled the prom in response to a student’s request to bring a same-sex date, the district violated the student’s First Amendment rights,” the ACLU said. “The proposed action by the District here is no different than the cancellation of the prom that the court held in McMillen to be unconstitutional.”

The ACLU gives the district until March 9 to respond.

“If you refuse to comply with your obligations under the EAA and the First Amendment, we will take whatever steps necessary to protect the rights of our client, Ms. Peet,” the letter states.

Read the ACLU’s letter here.

As we reported earlier, a protest is planned outside Flour Bluff High School on Friday.

—  John Wright

GSA supporters to protest outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi on Friday

Nikki Peet

A pro-equality demonstration is planned Friday outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi, where officials say they’ll eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Paul Rodriguez, president of the GSA at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said he’s expecting more than 300 people to attend the protest.

Rodriguez has been working with 17-year-old Flour Bluff student Nikki Peet since November to launch the GSA. After the Flour Bluff principal refused to allow the GSA, district officials announced they’ll bar all non-curricular clubs from meeting on campus — including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to avoid running afowl of the federal Equal Access Act.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” Rodriguez told Instant Tea. “I couldn’t believe that an administration of a public school would actually go to that length to show hatred, to show intolerance. It’s just appalling.”

Rodriguez said supporters of the GSA have contacted both Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, which are investigating. But the goal of the protest is to convince district officials to change their minds.

“As far as Nikki and her supporters go, they were very nervous about going to school today, because they don’t know what kind of hostility or bullying they’re going to face,” Rodriguez said. “They’re afraid they’re going to get blamed for all the non-curricular clubs not being allow to meet. We’re hoping to redirect that anger to where it really belongs. If we can get all those people on board and join us in this fight for equality, that would just be awesome.

“We want equality to rein at Flour Bluff,” he added. “We want them to open their eyes and realize that everyone is human, everyone can co-exist. You don’t have to like us, you don’t have to agree with us, but you do have to co-exist with us.”

For more information on the protest, go here.

—  John Wright