Gay Times July 10 - Issue 382
Kids Who Kill
Homophobic hate crime is on the rise – and, shockingly, the worst perpetrators are often teens. This month, after 16-year-old Jack Frew was found with his throat cut, we ask: is there a link between homophobia in schools and adolescents who attack? Peter Lloyd investigates.
British culture once proclaimed that the kids are alright, but modern youth is far from trouble-free. Over the past year a clear pattern has emerged in gay news reporting – homophobic hate crime is on the rise. And many of the offenders are teens.
More from Gay Times July 10 - Issue 382
Last month, as the nation took to the ballot box for the general election, openly-gay Jack Frew, 16, was killed on a cycle path in East Kilbride, Scotland. The youth attended Duncanrig Secondary School where he was described by teachers as having a “bright future”. Now, his peers are coming to terms with his loss. Chillingly, 17-year-old Craig Roy has been charged with his murder.
But this is not an isolated incident. In fact, it’s increasingly common.
Several weeks ago, a 14-year-old boy from Liverpool admitted his part in a homophobic attack on a gay student. The incident, which involved six others as young as 12, happened last November and was the latest in a series of sexuality-related assaults to tarnish the city’s reputation for tolerance. Fifteen months earlier, in summer 2008, Michael Causer was infamously killed in a violent attack, while gay police trainee James Parkes was subsequently assaulted outside a city-centre gay bar.
Alarmingly, all the perpetrators of these crimes were minors or young adults. All with one common link: school. Which begs a crucial question: does our education system create monsters by allowing homophobia to thrive? Are schools producing killers like factories?
While the answer may not be clear-cut, there is no disputing that there’s little done to quell anti-gay attitudes in academia. Last month, the National Union of Teachers revealed the extent of the problem during International Day Against Homophobia. Their study, entitled the Prevalence of Homophobia, monitored schools in the North West over two years and asked teachers about their experience of victimisation in the classroom.
One strand of the survey’s results – focused in Oldham, Greater Manchester – revealed that 98.8 per cent of teachers had seen a homophobic incident, 57 per cent had been on the receiving end of homophobia and 70 per cent wanted teacher training on how to deal with the issue.
Oldham NUT’s Equalities Officer, Jeff Evans, who began the surveys, said: “Why do we allow this child abuse to take place under our noses? Homophobia in our classrooms has become the elephant in the room.” A very pertinent question. One which also has international significance.
Last year, 16-year-old John Katehis was arrested in connection with the stabbing of New York journalist George Weber, whose body was found with fifty stab wounds. Lawrence King, 15, was shot dead at his California high school on 12 February 2008, having flirted with fellow classmate Brandon McInerne, 14. McInerne has since been charged with premeditated murder and is being held in lieu of US$770,000 (£530,000) bail and faces a sentence of 50 years to life imprisonment if convicted.
Perhaps most famously, Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked and killed by two young men in Wyoming, USA, in 1998.
Yet, tragic as these crimes are, they have at least created greater awareness – both socially and politically – of gay hate crime and their roots. But is this ever acted upon?
Back in the UK Jess Attree, Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Schools, claims that Cameron’s new government will have no messing when it comes to protecting pupils from the path of peer danger.
“We will shortly be setting out our policies to improve behaviour and discipline in schools,” she told GT. “Homophobic bullying has no place in society and a priority for this government will be to make sure schools have the powers they need to stamp out bullying of any kind.”
Find out more in the latest issue of GT