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Sara Whitman Headshot

The Killer, Not the Killed

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Once again, Lawrence King is in the news. His parents have filed a lawsuit against the school for "not enforcing the dress code."

I think I'm going to scream.

Lawrence King wore feminine attire to school. He wore what all the girls were wearing. He was a kid with serious issues, often out of control, and in need of help. No one is questioning that.

But when is anyone going to ask questions about the killer? When the kids were killed in the Columbine High School shooting, no one asked what they did to get themselves killed. Every moment of the press coverage was dedicated to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

What they wore, who they hung out with, how their parents were raising them -- even the spots they parked their car in when they arrived at the school that horrible day.

Do we know what Brandon McInerney wore that day? Do we know how he got the gun into school? Do we know what created such rage in this boy of 14 to have him take a gun at point blank range and shoot? Do we know who his friends were, what pushed his buttons, what kind of movies he watched or internet sites he visited?

No. We know what that Larry King favored a pair of brown stilettos.

Schools, especially middle school and Junior high schools, are notoriously difficult for anyone who does not fit in or conform. I watched my oldest son go through the doors of middle school for the first time last fall. I watched a boy who loved music and dance, fashion and treasured his copy of High School Musical, toss it all aside.

I wanted to tell him to stand up and be himself. To be proud of not only the way he could play soccer but also the way he could pick out an outfit, or how he knew the top twenty hits every week. We live in a progressive school district with strict anti-bullying rules.

He'd be safe, right?

As long as the focus continues to be on King, my answer is no. He won't be safe. This lawsuit will send chills down every school administration in the country with the focus on those who are different rather than the violence inflicted on them.

What do we know about McInerney? How are we to learn from this event if we do not know what motivated this boy to grab a gun and shoot another? Some of the obsession in the media over killings is macabre, no question, but some of it teaches us something about our kids, their lives and what needs to change.

We need to learn about the killer, not the killed. That Larry King was a kid with behavioral issues is true but what do we learn by focusing on his behavior? To say he is the rare occurrence of an out of control kid is to be blind to what goes on in schools today.

If Lawrence had not been allowed to wear girls clothes, he would still be alive the King's lawsuit suggests. Call me a cynic, but maybe if McInerney didn't have a gun and didn't pull the trigger, King would still be alive today.

Clearly, the McInerney's family has no money and a civil suit against them would be financially pointless. Financially draining the school system will only leave more kids at risk and leave the most important questions unanswered.

A 14-year-old boy shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in a junior high school. We know the killed was wearing "tennis shoes, baggy pants and a loose sweater over a collared shirt." we know where he sat in the room, how he looked nervously over his shoulder.

What do we know about the killer? When will the focus turn from the killed?

As a parent, I cannot understand the King's lawsuit. They are blaming lipstick and glitter instead of the gun and the hand that held it. The message, loud and clear, is the dominant culture can wield a gun and shoot at will at anyone who doesn't conform. And our Schools should enforce that conformity.

In doing so, they put my son, and anyone like him, at risk. And that really makes me want to scream: How can you miss the point?

It's the killer, not the killed.

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