Hundreds of high school students walked out in protest Monday in Lee’s Summit, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City, over the bullying of a gay student and disciplinary actions against those who defended him.
The student is Danny Lillis, a senior at Lee’s Summit High School, according to local media reports. He has been bullied over his sexuality and the fact that he wears makeup at school, and his friends have been harassed as well.
“It wasn’t just through words,” Lillis told TV station WDAF. “It was more through laughter and actions such as things getting thrown at my lunch table. Mustard got thrown at my friend’s hair that was aimed at my table because of this.”
Last week the bullies and Lillis’s defenders got into a physical fight, and now several students have been suspended. TV station KMBC identified two of the suspended students as friends of Lillis’s — Malani Hohlbaugh and Carly Vento, and a Change.org petition said Lillis received suspension too.
In the fight with one of the harassers, Hohlbaugh told the station, “We both bumped shoulders, he shoved, I shoved back, and then he punched me. And with that punch, ended up with a broken nose and a busted lip.”
Students and parents, including Lillis’s mother, are calling on school administrators to do more to address bullying, as they say Lillis has complained multiple times and there has been insufficient response. “What is it going to take — a death — before they say, ‘Oh, shoot! Things are getting out of hand’?” his mother, Missy Lillis, told WDAF. “Our children should feel safe at school. This is his senior year. He has come so far on his journey. I’m so proud of him.”
The school district released this statement: “Everyone in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District community deserves to feel safe and welcome. Harassment or discrimination in LSR7 is strictly prohibited. Although laws protecting students’ privacy prevents us from discussing the specifics of this incident, we can share that school and district administrators are conducting an investigation and taking action to ensure the safety of all students and staff. District administrators will follow Board of Education policies and procedures as we determine next steps. In LSR7, it is a top priority to ensure an inclusive culture where our students, staff members and families are valued and treated with dignity.”
More than 3,000 people have signed the Change.org petition, which calls for the district to enforce its zero-tolerance policy on bullying, revoke the suspensions of Lillis and his allies, and “justly punish” bullies.