Watch: Gay Student Bullied, Ally Suspended, 100+ Students Walk Out

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 11, 2021
Originally published on October 6, 2021

Danny Lillis, a senior at Lee's Summit High School
Danny Lillis, a senior at Lee's Summit High School  (Source:Screencap/KSBH 41)

When openly gay Missouri high school student Danny Lillis was suspended together with an ally following months of bullying, more than one hundred of his schoolmates walked out in protest, news station KSHB 41 reports.

The news channel related that Lillis, a senior at Lee's Summit High School in Lee's Summit, Missouri, had been targeted along with his friends by a group of bullies at the start of the school year. Regional newspaper the Kansas City Star detailed that "the group of students had routinely spouted hateful remarks and thrown food at them," and that Lillis "claimed that he went to administrators at least four times to report the incidents, 'crying, saying 'I don't feel safe" repeatedly. And nothing changed.' "

The bullying escalated into a physical assault, reports say, when Lillis' friend Malani Hohlbaugh stood up to the alleged bullies on Lillis' behalf. Hohlbaugh's mother told the press that when one of the group shoved her, Hohlbaugh shoved back — and that's when the student punched her in the face, breaking her nose.

The alleged bullies were suspended for the assault, reports say, but so were Lillis and Hohlbaugh.

"Every single time that this happened, our kids have gone to student administration and reported it," Davies said, referencing the "weeks" of bullying reports say Lillis and his friends endured.

"There is supposed to be a zero tolerance policy for bullying, but nobody is doing anything about," Davies noted. "They haven't gotten the help that they needed."

"I don't condone my daughter using violence at school or anywhere else," Davies went on to say. "But I also do know these kids were pushed to a point that they felt like if nobody else was going to stick up for them, they had to stick up for themselves."

After Lillis and Holbaugh received the same five-day suspension as the alleged bullies, the school's students took action on their own, with more than one hundred of them staging a walkout on Oct. 4, KHSB 41 reported.

"We decided to do the walk out today to basically show movement towards our school an administration for the lack of action toward these repeated and multiple events that have been happening to me and my friends," Lillis told the news channel.

Lillis said that once the suspension ends, he's hesitant to return to the school. "I'm terrified to step another foot in that school," he told KHSB 41. "To walk into a building where someone had just punched my friend and broke her nose due to this whole situation."

Students started a Change,org petition, Newsweek reported, taking the position that "the students who were bullied should not receive the same discipline as the group that targeted them. Among the demands the petition outlines are that the school should "Pledge to enforce the school's Zero Tolerance Policy for bullying and harassment."

Click this link to watch the KHSB 41 news clip.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.