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Teen Sentenced to 21 Years for Killing Gay Classmate

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday December 20, 2011

A 17-year-old student was sentenced to 21 years in prison on Monday for shooting a classmate in the head at an Oxnard, Calif., middle school, the Los Angeles Times reported in a Dec. 19 article.

Brandon McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the death of his classmate Larry King.

McInerney was just 14 years old at the time when he shot and killed King. McInerney brought a gun to school and shot King two times at point-blank range.

The teen pleaded guilty to the charges after a Los Angeles County judge declared a mistrial in his first trial. Prosecutors said they would not bring on a second trial, where McInerney could have faced a life sentence.

McInerney was first tried in September, which resulted in a hung jury. The jurors could not decide if they should charge the teen on murder or manslaughter, as some jurors believed that the district attorney's office was being too rough by trying McInerney as an adult.

McInerney shot King in an E.O Green Junior High computer lab in Feb. 2008. The boys had an intense conflict rising between them days before the incident. Both students and teachers testified at the trail and said that King was wearing women's accessories and makeup, and was flirting with male classmates, including McInerney, who was not receptive.

School officials sent a memo to teachers advising them to give King his space but to "report safety problems."

Students and staff members of E.O Green Junior High are still feeling the impact of the incident and trail. The computer lab where King was shot recently reopened but parents are still concerned about their children's safety on the school's campus, the L.A. Times reported.

Several parents, including McInerey's, have been critical of the school's actions in the days that led up to the shooting. They claim that the junior high could have done more to resolve the conflict between the two boys.

Some teachers testified that they "felt powerless" to try and fix the relationship between King and McInerey. McInerey felt King was sexually harassing him and teachers say because of the memo, they were instructed to leave King alone.

"I knew, gut instinct, that something serious was going to happen," Larry's mother, Dawn King, said. "They should have contained him, contained his behavior."

Officials from the Hueneme Elementary School District, which is in charge of E.O. Green, says that they will not make any changes to their policies and that E.O. Green administrators acted appropriately.

"We're caught between a rock and a hard place," Supt. Jerry Dannenberg said. "We're instruments of the state, and we must implement laws equally and fairly -- even if some people don't like those laws."

California legislatures recently passed a bill that will make schools specifically create policies against bullying related to sexual orientation and gender identity, Care 2 reported in a Sept. 5 article.

The bill is known as Seth's Law and is named after 13-year-old Seth Walsh who died last year because of anti-gay bullying.

The teen was being constantly harassed for his appearance and was touched inappropriately by other students. Classmates threw food and water at him and spread rumors about his sexuality. Walsh could only endure the bullying for so long before attempting to take his own life. The teen died of injuries resulting from his attempted suicide.

The new legislation ensures that every school in the state has an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, which will "include actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression," the website writes.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012.