Jim Neal: Kids in NC get thrown under the bus

Former NC U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal shared a very personal story on Pam's House Blend that conveys why an anti-bullying bill should have passed in our state.

As has been reported the NC Senate's failure to pass anti-bullying legislation despite having the votes intact is disappointing shows a disturbing and unacceptable lack of courage and compassion. They threw kids in the state of North Carolina under the bus when they had an opportunity to protect them.

I have communicated privately with many members of the NC House and the NC Senate regarding passage of the anti-bullying legislation. In doing so, I made clear to them that mine was a a private correspondence written as a parent, not as a politician and not as someone who planned to publicize our discourse so at to subject them to outside pressures. I did so out in order to give them an opportunity to round the votes required for passage of bill without feeling as if I were trying to shame or embaress them publicly. And I did have continued private conversations with members of both houses, Democrat and Republican.

Now that the bill has failed to pass, I'm am not going to break my word to kiss and tell about those conversations. However, am going to comment on the failure to pass this legislation and go on record publicly with my thoughts. First, here is an excerpt of a personal story which I related to them.

I would like to share with you a personal experience which I hope you will take into account during your deliberations. I hope no other family has to experience the same sort of situation my family did.

My two sons, at the ages of nine and eleven, were teased and harassed— beaten in a few instances— when they were attending public school in California. As some of you may know, I raised my boys as a single parent. I taught Jamie and Winston a simple lesson: if you are threatened, always speak to your teacher, guidance counselor or principal and don’t take actions into your own hands (a departure from my Dad’s admonition to me over 40 years ago that I should bust a bully between the eyes.) Unbeknownst to me, one of my boys’ teachers was letting him out of school a few minutes early each day so that he could get a running start home from several kids who were bullying him. Neither he nor his younger brother told me about this situation, in part because of an incident months earlier in which my eldest son had been teased and reported same to his guidance counselor. Nothing happened. The teasing continued. He didn’t think that reporting the harassment would make a difference. Experience gave him no reason to believe otherwise.

A few months later, I received a call from a neighbor alerting me that my sons had been suspended from school, arrested and were being held at a juvenile detention facility. Their offense? My older son, all of 11 years old, had brought an unloaded pellet gun to school which he had borrowed from a schoolmate days earlier. He never brandished it, and it was no longer in his locker that day when another student had told their teacher about Jamie having brought the pellet gun to school. I was out-of-town on a business trip at the time. I rushed to the airport while trying to arrange bail for my kids with the assistance of my close friends on the ground.

By the time I had landed early that evening, it was clear that we were not going to be able to roust a judge to release them on bail. When I was able to visit them that evening, I will never forget the look on my sons’ faces as they stared at me in bewilderment from behind a wall of Plexiglas, clad in baggy orange jumpsuits. They were detained overnight and because of their ages and, thank God, were segregated from the rest of the population. Why had my eleven year-old brought a weapon to school? “To scare them away, Dad, so they’d leave me alone” he said. He recounted the whole story about what was happening to him on a daily basis at school.

I was livid: my kids weren’t being protected by a system responsible for their safety to the point of feeling the need to do just the opposite of what they had been taught. Jamie and Winston had been targeted because their dad was gay. That’s all. It was about their association with someone else- me-- not them. The judge who heard the case agreed some months later, lecturing the attorneys for the school district for their handling of the situation. Lawyers suggested that I file suit against the district but I had no interest in having my sons go through that ordeal just to make a point. The damage had been done. We moved on. My kids deserved better.

The school system wisely forbade the possession on school premises of any type of weapons, even seemingly harmless ones. Administrators, teachers, parents and kids were all aware and supportive of a law which made schools safer. At the same time, school administrators and faculty were insensitive to the abject bullying which endangered my sons. Their blind spot sent a loathsome signal to my kids, their classmates and the school community about the failure of those in a position of authority to respect and protect the safety of every young boy and girl. Every kid attending public school in our state deserves to be and feel safe in school. The bill before you, if anything else, will raise the bar of sensitivity of teachers and administrators in regard to exactly which sorts of situations might undermine the safety and well-being of every child.

Simply saying that we don’t need any “protected classes” misses the point. I know the language in regard to sexual orientation in this bill has become the bone of contention, but that too misses the point. So-called protected classes have evolved over all of our lifetimes in response to the times; I remember someone calling a black classmate of mine a “monkey” when I was in elementary school in Greensboro. Our teacher said “shhh” when some kids laughed. That would be unthinkable today.

The goal of this bill is to broaden awareness and strengthen safety. This legislation shouldn’t be framed by some partisan debate over social, moral or religious beliefs. A kid who’s teased for any reason needs an adult to intervene. For hook or for crook, kids are teased in our schools all the time in regard to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and the like. Ask a teacher, or a student, and you’ll get confirmation.

In closing, I hope that this story will shed a little light on the legislation before you. I’m optimistic that you will vote from the heart for what is best for our kids. Like so many issues before our state and our nation, this is not Democratic or Republican legislation. It is about keeping our kids safe— all of them. We are a moral and just people here in North Carolina. The last thing you, your colleagues or any parent would want to happen after you adjourn this session is to have a child injured or killed as a consequence of inaction on the part of this august body.

The members of the North Carolina Senate who chose not to show up for work last Thursday to vote for protecting school children in our state are:

Sen. Janet Cowell (D/Wake County and candidate for North Carolina State Treasurer 2008).*

Sen. Charles Dannelly (D/Mecklenburg County and recently-appointed co-chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee)

Sen. Malcolm Graham (D/Mecklenburg County)

Sen. Kay Hagan (D/Guilford County and candidate for the United States Senate 2008)** 

Sen. Clark Jenkins (D/Edgemcombe, Martin and Pitt Counties)*

Sen. Larry Shaw
(D/Cumberland County)

Sen. Jerry W. Tillman (R/Montgomery and Randolph Counties)*

*  Sens. Cowell, Jenkins and Tillman were present in the morning but were not present to vote on certain legislation later in the day.

** Sen. Hagan defeated me and three other candidates in the May 2008 Democratic primary.

The kids they threw under the bus couldn't vote on Thursday, nor could their families. Every one of the aforementioned senators had voted last year for a (weaker) version of this legislation. And every one of the aforementioned members of the North Carolina Senate works for the citizens of our state. We pay their salaries and their benefits. We hired them to represent us and our children. They failed us. They failed those who don't have a voice and needed their voices to vote Aye.

I have one voice and I'm using it right now. I hope more of you-- wherever you may live-- will do likewise.

Last week, just after having had surgery to remove a brain tumor and against the advice of his doctors, US Senator Ted Kennedy hobbled into the well of the US Senate to cast a crucial Aye vote for Medicare health care legislation. He used his voice to represent America. God knows he had ample reason to be absent. But he showed up for work anyway.

That's leadership. That's support, not lip service, when the rubber hits the road. That's courage. And, that's one helluva public servant.

NOTE FROM PAM: I'll repeat here what I said in my main post on this debacle... Had the MIA Dem members of the legislature been present and voted, the anti-bullying bill would have passed. This was a bill that would cover children who may not be gay at all, but simply do not conform to gender presentation norms. Below is freely available data those elected officials didn't deem serious or significant enough show up and vote on in order to protect all children in our schools. GLSEN:


Only nine states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive anti-bullying laws that specifically address bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and only three of these laws mention gender identity. Nine other states have "generic" anti-bullying laws that do not specifically define "bullying" or enumerate categories of protected classes such as sexual orientation or gender identity. The remaining 32 states have no laws at all. The NSCS found that both states with "generic" anti-bullying laws and states with no law at all had equally high rates of verbal harassment. States with inclusive policies that specifically enumerate categories including sexual orientation and gender identity, however, have significantly lower rates of verbal harassment (31.6% vs. 40.8%).

* Bullying and Gay Youth: Students hear anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “faggot” and “sissy” about 26 times a day or once every 14 minutes. Anti-Gay Bullying: What’s the Big Deal?

Overall, 61% of students said they knew someone who had been called gay or lesbian. That’s the biggest increase of any form of harassment students knew about, up from 51% in 1993. Most other experiences of sexual harassment have remained steady or decreased.
* When asked about their own experiences, 36% say they have “ever” been called lesbian or gay. That’s the biggest jump among all the types of harassment students experienced, up from 17% in 1993.
* 19% of boys said they had been called gay “occasionally” or “often,” double the rate in 1993 (9%).
* 13% of girls said they had been called lesbian “occasionally” or “often,” almost triple the rate in 1993 (5%).

* PFLAG NC reacts to killing of anti-bullying bill
* NC: anti-bullying bill killed


I'd love to rachet this up.

How about we ask for a clear statement from these elected officials about what types of bullying are okay? Especially, the republicans that voted against it.

Faggot? Okay?
Queer? Okay?
Jew-boy? Okay?
Kike? Okay?
Dreaded N-word? Okay?
Spic? Okay?
Beaner? Okay?
Chink? Okay?
Holy Roller? Okay?
Bible Thumper? Okay?

Let's have them step up and tell us where to draw the line, is it only homosexuals that they feel are below our protection?

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

They've got a dodge here

Which is the all purpose "no bullying is ok."

This is uttered with great righteous indignation.

What they won't admit is that they probably believe in their tiny little hearts that many a child has been put on the right path by the "social pressure" of his/her peers.

Surely there's a fundie talk show somewhere featuring a guest who will testify that he used to think he wanted to be gay, but was saved by a bully, and thus set back on the path of righteousness.

And one can easily imagine the show's host then turning to the camera and speaking with sorrow about how bullied Christians are.

It's sick.

The debate over this legislation and the triumph of the so-called Christian groups that defeated it is just more evidence that people do not reason their way to positions. They adopt positions that reinforce their personal bigotries.

I warned people not to get there hopes up on this one

But I was ignored.

First of all from what my years of political knowledge, including the fact I have known several Democratic legislators personally from what you would call Jessecrat district. The problem with any gayrights issue is not only are these said legislators not willing to risk their political lives for gay rights, many of them do not agree the issue of gay rights to begin with.

The issue of gay rights will be compounded unless and until the leaders of the House and Senate allow the public to vote a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, do not expect much, if any, pro gay rights legislation. Because enough Democrats either lack the will to support it, or actually oppose it or both.

Also one needs to understand how these religious groups fight gay rights legislation also. These targeted Senators were not emailed to death be folks they hardly knew, if they knew them at all. But were are often pressured by friends, fellow church members, people who live on thier street, and belong to thier local organazations. If you wish to fight the political fight you the readers need to get to kow the legislors who are the swing vote personally and speak to them one on one. Which was what the writer tried to do, but my guess is he was outnumbered, send these emails to members, especially when you are not in thier distcrict, is better than nothing, but not by much.

Finally do not be mislead by thinking that if just a few Senators would have showed up this vote would have passed, it is my understanding quite a few Democratic Senators were looking for an excuse to kill this bill and they got onr, but had that one not worked they would have found another one.

To end as a parent who has had a child bullied, I gave the advice to my child to hit the bully between the eyes, he did it worked, yes my son was suspended for a day, but no one messes with him. And when the school called me about the incident I told them that since they did not handle the matter my son did. The writer who is a gay parent and sends his kids school tells them not to fight back, and but to tell the teacher, like that is going to anygood, sure did seem to not know mcuh about what was going on in the school. My message to parents of children in school, make a huge effort to know what is going on, and you are less likley to be caught off guard.

Why take a chance, why wait?

Why not just go mow down everyone you feel has ever wronged you. In the end, you might get punished but they'll get the worst of it.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

It's a perfectly human sentiment

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.

-- Henry Louis Mencken

recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Yeah, we're sure sorry now.

Dang, you mean you warned us and we just wouldn't listen to you? We're all slapping our foreheads now.

As a parent who has advised his child to strike another child, you have established, it must be admitted, a certain level of credibility that I trust has impressed "moderate" readers.

I bet the instructors and the administrative staff at your child's school were impressed also.

Suspended for a day?

Not a credible story if it happened anytime in the past 10 years. Depending on age it is more like a 3-10 day suspension with possible assault charges thrown in for good measure.

Yes, promoting and condoning violence is always impressive. My children have stood up for themselves and friends countless times without resorting to violence. Apparently, I suck at this parenting thing. Maybe I should call child protective serivces before I do any further damage.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

At the time he was 7.

And yes it was just a day. It should be said that he was the one being picked on, it had gone on for some time and he hit the student with my blessing. It may not have been so bad but I had him in Karate lessons and he was a better fighter than most realized. Before I hear that Karate is no supposed to non violent I know, but somtimes you got to do what you got to do. No assault charges were filed either I live in a small town and the DA goes to my church, I doubt he would have ever prosicuted the case had they been filed. But it was never considered.

Not a good idea

It's not a good idea to tell your child to strike another child, regardless of what action the school took or failed to take.

If you are able to take so much time with his schoolwork, surely you could take the time to work through this -- whether through the school or with the other childs' parents without advocating that he hit.

The reaction from the school was mixed

But my wife and I do saty active in our childrens schoolwork, and many parents do not. I have found the more involved you are the better for your child. As for what he did, the asst principal did not blame him for what he did but rules are rules and he had to sit out a day. We accepted that and moved on, but the picking on him stopped.

bottom line - Rand didn't want it to pass

If Sen. Rand or Sen. Basnight really wanted this to pass, it would have.

Listing a few senators for being (some partially) absent on the second day this was calendared in the Senate misses the point.

For example, this bill was calendared for Tuesday, July 15 in the Senate as well. It could have been held on the calendar for Wednesday and Friday as well - as the House did - but the Senate leadership (read: Rand) didn't do that.

It is clear to me, from the handling of the Senate's calendar, that Rand is the real culprit here. He has the tools to do what he desires and did not employ them on behalf of this bill.

Not that I think Rand cares what bloggers, activists, etc. think or write, it is just incomplete, and somewhat but not wholly unfair, to lay this at the feet of someone like Sen. Dannelly or any other absentee senator from the day(s) the leadership chose to calendar the bill.

(Sen. Kerr still has something to answer for, but his vote/pair was merely one of the tools available to Rand that was not used).


The fancy and the facts

We only know what we have heard or may have been told about what this senator or that senator might have done. I've received different information than those who want to give a pass to members of the senate who didn't go to work-- and received same from members of the General Assembly (as I previously said, I am honoring my commitment not to kiss and tell.)

But that's all hearsay.

Talking about pairing makes for nice spin in an election year. Votes which pass laws make kids safe.

As a politician, I damned well know that nothing happens by accident. The senate and its leadership don't just act arbitrarily without some broader motive at hand. They're a helluva lot smarter than that. The orchestration of the bill's demise was, in all probability, simply another case of political expediency trumping the public good. It was about politicians protecting politicians, not public servants protecting families. It was about them, not you. They work for you, for me and for the other seven milion or so children and adults in our state. You'd never know that sometimes.

But what is known is that the Democratic leadership in the NC senate had the support to pass the anti-bullying bill....and its co-sponsors acknowledged that too few senators showed up to work when the rubber hit the road-- because of fears it might hurt their election bids.

At the end of the day....

Kids and families in NC didn't have a VOTE.
Their elected representatives did.
Some senators didn't show up at work to VOTE.
So kids in NC are still at risk.
Politicians' talk is cheap.
Their spin's cheaper.
But red herrings do work.

You don't wait until a kid gets hit by a car at a busy intersection before putting up a STOP sign.

Apparently, not so in the Democrat-controlled NC Senate.

As a supposed politician, you know little about NC's legislature

The idea that Janet Cowell is somehow opposed to LGBT rights is absurd. The right knows this as well as the left.

Your lumping of her in this "list" of those responsible for the bill's demise only undercuts your argument.

Cowell was on the conference committee for this bill, as you well know.

Talking about pairing is basic to the understanding of the working of the NC Senate at any time - not election year spin.

The machinations of any political body are many and complex. No one dipsutes that.

Most of all, your attempt to undermine Hagan's long history of support of the LGBT community should be recognized for the bitterness that it is. She was coming to the Carolina's HRC dinner, AIDS events in the Triad and NC, etc. long before you were.

The attempts to link other senators under an "abscences umbrella attack" fools no one.

The session has adjourned.

Unless you've got a winnable write-in candidate to challenge any of these folks, fall in line until November. Then, *maybe* someone in the NC Senate will care what you think.



I do not suscribe to the idea that Neal's comments are motivated by bitterness, but usernamehere is absolutely correct in his analysis otherwise.

The idea that Cowell and Hagan have not been there where it mattered most is not only wrong, but betrays such an ignorance of your allies that can only hurt the cause.

With all due respect,

and I seriously mean that ...

I respect your thoughts on this, but I wish you'd reconsider. That position will put Liddy Dole (R-KANSAS) back in her Senate chair in November. I'll be damned if I'm not gonna vote for Kay Hagan.

And Cowell. I cannot imagine handing the treasurers seat to a Republican in these times. Yikes.

I'm begging you, all of you, do not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Think of how much more damage will be done if Liddy gets OUR Senate seat back and there are only 59 dependable Democrats in the Senate come Jan., 2009. And who do all you state employees want managing your pension fund after Jan., 2009?

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Me either

Hagan, of course, does not.

Likewise. The more I see from her, the more disappointed I am. Will I hold my nose and vote for her in November? Uh, I guess...

bottom line regardless of political maneuvers...

The children of NC were tossed under the bus because of fear and bigotry.

And, of course, tax-paying LGBTs in NC still have zero rights at the state level. It's shameful. I'd like to have civil equality in my home state before I'm six feet under, but this kind of legislative failure makes it clear we have a long way to go before we can sweep out the soft spines and homophobic fossils and effect real change for LGBT citizens in this state.

It was quite nice to be able to visit my relatives in NYC a couple of weeks ago, where Kate and I have full marriage rights in that state (of course no fed rights as long as DOMA's in place). If only the cost of living was reasonable up there...

Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend

Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend