Madison County seems to have a problem with homophobia.
Over the weekend, a gay couple who live in Madison recorded a car load of James Clemens High baseball players riding by and shouting slurs at the couple’s home. The video, which was recorded on an outside security camera, was uploaded to social media and a flood of additional complaints about gay slurs and the bullying of gay students at Madison County and Huntsville City schools were posted in comments on several posts.
That all follows the suicide of 15-year-old Nigel Shelby last year. Shelby’s story and allegations from his mother that school officials ignored repeated complaints that Shelby, who was openly gay, was being bullied became national news. In the aftermath of his suicide, several other Huntsville-area students spoke of their experiences being bullied because of their sexual orientation.
And so, here we are. In arguably Alabama’s most progressive area, where we’re still struggling with a 1980s problem.
Seriously, how is homophobia an issue for high school kids in 2020? Anywhere?
And it is a problem.
How else do you explain a car load of baseball players — presumably popular kids around school — driving around on a Friday night shouting slurs and curse words at a house?
The owners of the home, Colin Tomblin and his partner Jason, stated in their original post of the video that they didn’t know the kids, had never had an interaction with them and were completely dumbfounded by the incident.
Because, again, it’s 2020.
But more than the two major incidents, the reports of daily bullying and slurs directed at other students indicate a serious, systemic issue among area students. One that doesn’t appear to be getting better.
And that is a serious, serious issue.
“We figure if these students are out in the community acting like this, they’re definitely acting like that to their fellow classmates in school,” Tomblin told al.com. “You see it all the time with LGBT kids committing suicide and turning to drugs.”
In response, Madison City Schools superintendent Robby Parker offered an apology to Tomblin and his partner, and James Clemens principal Brian Clayton took up the issue with the students involved and with other students at the school.
Tomblin said he was pleased with the school’s response and felt like the conversation could be beneficial.
Which is fortunate, since apparently these kids aren’t getting such guidance at home.
Yes, school officials have a responsibility to monitor and react whenever bullying is spotted or reported. But it is not the responsibility of the school systems to teach kids decency, respect and morals.
That should happen at home.
It’s a shame that every time one of these awful incidents occur, the first place we look to place blame is on teachers and school administrators. The people we ask for statements are tied to schools. The way we identify the kids is by the name of their school.
That’s not right.
This incident happened on a weekend and well away from school property. But even if it had happened at school, it shouldn’t be a principal or superintendent answering questions about these kids saying these repulsive things.
It should be their parents or guardians. Who are clearly failing at raising them.
And yes, “failing” is exactly the right word. I don’t care if the kids in that car were honor roll all-Americans who take soup to shut-ins every afternoon. If they’re belittling and demeaning others in such a vile and ugly manner, whomever is raising them is failing.
Of course, that’s assuming that someone at home isn’t condoning such atrocious behavior and uttering similarly vile comments around their kids. After the decency transgression the country has endured over the last several years, that’s a big assumption.
Schools aren’t equipped to handle failures in character building at home. They can drill into the students that they’ll be punished if their abhorrent behavior is spotted or reported and they can offer lessons in acceptance and respect.
But they can’t outweigh the expectations of home.
And it’s time we all started holding the right people accountable for these deplorable incidents.