Antigay School Official May Keep Job

By Neal Broverman

Originally published on Advocate.com October 27 2010 1:50 PM ET

After Arkansas school board member Clint McCance advocated on Facebook for the suicide of gay people, the Arkansas Department of Education condemned his comments, but said it may be impossible for him to be removed from office.

“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.

But Thompson made it clear her office condemns McCance’s Facebook comments, in which he called gay people “fags” and “queers,” and encouraged them to kill themselves if they didn’t get AIDS and die first.

On Wednesday, Thompson’s office released the following statement: “The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and are 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. The department also has worked with the State’s Office of the Attorney General during the month of October to provide training to counselors across the state regarding cyberbullying, ‘sexting’ and texting, which included a portion on how to watch for and deal with bullying of this kind.”

Midland school district officials have so far remained silent on the issue. No one with the school district has released a statement or spoken to the press since The Advocatebroke the story on the postings Tuesday.

“I believe the school district is working on a statement,” Thompson said. “I know their superintendent is not in town right now.”

Thompson says her office has been inundated with e-mails, though mostly from out of state: “People are pretty much horrified,” she said.Johnson said Department of Education commissioner Tom Kimbrell has been
in contact with Midland School District superintendent Dean Stanley.
Johnson says Stanley should be back shortly in Pleasant Plains, the north
Arkansas city where the Midland School District is based. Kimbrell was
on a conference call when contacted on Wednesday, and could not be
reached as of press time.

As far as counseling for students at
the Midland School District, Johnson doesn’t know what’s being down at
its schools, which she described as 200 miles from Little Rock.

“Frankly,
we are concerned,” she said. “We don’t want there to be any bad
consequences that can be traced back to this. We have a unit that deals
with civil rights complaints—we’ll be ready and watchful.”

Johnson added that school board members like McCance are required to attend six hours of education-related training.

“Things
like [McCance’s postings] would come under our code of ethics for
professional educators,” she said, adding the caveat that, “I think a
lot of policy and law has yet to catch up with [social media].”

The
Arkansas Times reached McCance on his cell phone on Wednesday, but he
refused to comment further than saying the matter “had been blown out of
proportion.”