McAlester GSA stands proud despite conflict

Great support was found at Monday's GSA meeting in McAlester. Gayly graphic.

By Robin Dorner
Editor In Chief

Last Friday, a Facebook ‘rumor’ was circulated about Oklahoma’s McAlester High School LGBT students being “threatened with violence.”

The post went on to say, “The wrestling team started a petition to shut down the GSA [Gay Straight Alliance] and openly spoke of slitting throats or shooting them up.”

Reports of this “petition” have been verified as being seen, but The Gayly has been unable to obtain a copy of this document.

“This town is a cesspool of hate,” said one source who revealed themselves only to The Gayly.

Since our updated story, a source, we’ll call them Henry Lee, has come forward to say, “I've personally had to speak to the principal about a teacher preaching against homosexuality in her classroom. It incited hate speech among students and my daughter, who has two moms, just had to sit there.

“Nothing was done to the teacher. Not one thing,” exclaimed Lee. “She could use some sensitivity training. This problem is intrinsic, rooted in the administration and faculty, and not a huge surprise that the kids being protected are ‘good kids that just hate faggots.’”

Last Saturday, The Gayly spoke with McAlester campus police officer Chuck Campbell who said they had also received reports of these Facebook notes and messages being sent in to them and were being questioned If the reports were real.

“There are no active threats to any students, but we are investigating this information we have received about these allegations,” said Campbell. “The school was never on lock-down.”

Campbell said the wrestling team was not even at school last Friday. They were away at a wrestling meet.

“We take all threats to students very seriously,” added the school officer.

However, the mother of the student receiving these threats said, “That is in my opinion not accurate. I think they are downplaying a very serious situation,” said Debbie McDaniel.  

“The mother of the student making the threat initially dissolved into a puddle of tears when her son admitted this.”

According to McDaniel, hours later, the mother and son had an attorney and their story had changed.

“Campbell is misinforming people. At 7:30 [last] Thursday morning we met with school officials. The GSA official (art teacher) was asked to leave the room because this was a criminal situation.

“In that meeting, Chuck Campbell said he was going to interrogate a suspect in another room," McDaniel continued. "He returned and said, ‘Ladies, this is worse than we thought. The suspect will be removed from school property within the hour.’”

McDaniel does not know who the student was. She also said she was told by Campbell that cell phones would be seized and lockers would be searched. She does not know if that has been done by school officials.

McDaniel is on the board of Oklahomans for Equality.

This all started over equality stickers being on McDaniel’s daughter’s Jeep. Her daughter, Marley, founded the GSA.

Lee later went on to say, “This isn't an issue that just happened, it's been happening. Some faculty refused to call a trans student by her preferred name but don't mind calling straight students by their preferred name. This is not an isolated incident. I'm sure they'll say whatever it takes to make this issue go away. They want to keep being homophobic, xenophobic, and able to treat their homosexual students like 2nd class citizens.”

In a GSA meeting on Monday, McDaniel said there were about 30 students, parents, Oklahomans for Equality executive director, Toby Jenkins, and some of his staff. “Toby spoke about safety and things we can do to protect our kids.”

McDaniel said Jenkins has been extremely helpful to her and the students during this process.

“Our campus police, Chuck Campbell, was there and one other uniformed officer. I did not interact with them,” McDaniel went on to say. “I have terminated any relationship with him. I have done enough investigating him and know that his beliefs are in conflicts with us hosting a GSA at McAlester High School.

“Campbell insists there is no threat to my daughter – they are sticking with the ‘he said she said’ theory regarding the threats and nothing can be pursued.”

McDaniel added that the principal, Paula Meadows, is willing to allow the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice to present their anti-bullying training.

The Gayly placed a call to the principal; however, our call was not returned.

“They had a very good group there,” said Toby Jenkins. “I was inspired – they [GSA] just started meeting last October and they are already engaged in their community doing random acts of kindness such as visiting seniors in the nursing home, collecting food for the local food pantry and they were prepared to march with the 50 foot rainbow flag in the homecoming parade.”

The parade, however, was canceled due to a tornado.

“It looks like they have a great deal of parental support for the kids and I was concerned this incident would take us a step back. But they all stepped up and I admire their courage. They seemed to care about what their purpose is,” he added about the interaction in the meeting.

Then the support group went on without the adults.

“Later, Marley thanked us for being there,” adds Jenkins. “I didn’t want them to feel isolated and there are GSA’s in a lot of these small Oklahoma towns. To me, they are our bravest across Oklahoma. If a kid can self-identify and be courageous enough to say ‘this is who I am’ in these smaller towns, they are not as likely to leave Oklahoma.

“This is the pipeline leadership,” Jenkins said in conclusion. “That’s what I call it. A child’s safety is most important to me, but the way I see it, those students are less driven to escape.”