Some 35 demonstrators were on hand at Midland High School this morning for a protest of Midland School Board member Clint McCance’s tirade about gay people on a Facebook page. Though many have urged McCance’s resignation, including Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, McCance has stood largely mute, other than telling me the matter had been “blown out of proportion” and that it gave rise to concern for him about his own family, two young daughters. Concern for kids of others who happen to be gay? He didn’t seem to have so much in his Facebook remarks, except that they commit suicide.
Later in the day, the Times’ David Koon interviewed Midland School Superintendent Dean Stanley, who’s been superintendent for three years. He’s been talking with McCance. Though he declined to characterize much about McCance’s feelings Stanley did say that his resignation seemed the “easiest” way out of the controversy. He also said that McCance indicated “remorse” over his remarks, but wouldn’t elaborate.
McCance was just re-elected to a four-year term in September and is vice president of the seven-member board. The school district was in fiscal distress and under state control from 2006 through 2008, so though McCance was elected in 2006 to the board, he’s only been an active member since 2008 when the district was allowed to resume control of its own affairs.
Stanley said the controversy has been stressful for everyone. The phone has been ringing non-stop. He said he’d received more than 15,000 e-mails. He said McCance had received a number of “concerning” and “hateful” messages. Should he resign? “McCance is his own man,” Stanley said. “I don’t see an easy way out. I think resignation would be the easiest way out. I don’t think it’s going to go away without resignation.”
In Arkansas, there’s no recall procedure for school board members. They can be removed only for a felony conviction, excessive absence or moving from a district. The rest of the school board could vote to censure McCance for his remark, which would also be a useful thing and a message to kids. The board next meets Nov. 16.
David reports that about 10 counter-protesters, including a preacher from Oil Trough, arrived in Ford pickup bearing a Christian flag and an American flag. They said they were not present to stand up for gays or straights but to “stand up for God.”
There was a large contingent of police on hand, including six state troopers and some local police, and so far all has been peaceful.
Demonstrators were ordered away from the front of school because law officers said they were impeding traffic. They were moved to the edge of a ditch behind the school.
Matt Martin of Pleasant Plains, a 2007 Midland High graduate, (at the forefront in picture below) was among the group with the Christian flag and wearing a “Pro-Bible” T-shirt. “All these people here, the way I see it, they need to take their signs and go back to the city. Around here we believe in what the Bible says and the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman.” He continued, “We don’t need the gay rights people to come in and support our homosexuals because there is none. If there is, they’re in the closet.” He said, however, there was one openly homosexual person in school during his days there. Edie Love, a lesbian graduate and former cheerleader of the high school. is among the demonstrators David Koon has been talking to today, however, and a gay former student who blew the whistle on McCance’s comments was interviewed on CNN last night.
“Get away from our kids,” said the sign held by one counter-protester.
Martin complained that some school events, including a fall festival, had been cancelled because of the controversy.
Three of the group calling for McCance’s resignation, including a former Midland High student, were invited into school offices to speak with Superintendent Dean Stanley and School Board president Bryson Wood.
Randi Romo, a leader of the demonstration, said after the meeting that the school leaders were perplexed and unhappy about McCance’s remarks, which they said they abhorred. According to Romo, Wood said, “His daughter asked him not to wear his school board pin this morning because it might make him a target.” Romo continued, “I said, ‘now you know how LGBTQ people feel.'” Romo said her group offered to provide sensitivity training for students.
Romo said the school officials said they couldn’t make comments about McCance’s plans and whether he would resign. They are “lawyered up,” she said. A former Midland gay student was among those in the meeting and he talked about the difficulties he’d endured.
PS: A little crowd-sourcing. If anybody could help us get in touch with Midland grad Anthony Turner, who was on CNN last night, I’d appreciate it. And if Clint McCance’s attorney is out there, I’d like to talk to you.