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High School Prayer Group Killer was Taunted as Gay

Slurs & School Newspaper Gossip Enraged 15-Year Old Kentucky Boy

Says He Was Wrongly Identified as Attracted to His Own Gender

Compiled by Badpuppy's GayToday
Based on Reports from The Letter

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Headline from The Letter, Kentucky's gay newspaper, telling the homophobic story behind the school shooting in West Paducah last December.

According to Kentucky's gay newspaper, The Letter, "anti-gay harassment led to shootings" when 15-year old Michael Carneal opened fire December 1 on a group of praying students at Heath High, a public school in West Paducah.

Carneal, according to psychological evaluations conducted by Diane Schetky and Dr. Dewey Cornell, revealed that he'd been the victim of daily harassment by students who called him "gay," "faggot," "nerd," and "geek." The epithets enraged Carneal who insists he does not self-identify as gay.

Adding insult to injury, school's now-defunct student newspaper—in an article that passed muster under the guidance of an English teacher—placed Carneal's first name and the initial for his last name in a gossip column called "Rumor Has It." The column claimed that "Michael C. (and another male student) have feelings for each other."

The psychological evaluator said, "I asked him what really got to him," and he replied, "Saying I was gay." The teasing he had endured had become so routine that it made him "feel pretty bad," he confessed.

Carneal had been dating Nicole Hadley, one of the students he killed (though he insists he hadn't intended to) until two months prior to the shootings. The 15-year old gunslinger said that initially he'd had no intention of killing anyone but that when he'd arrived at school , gun in hand, his feelings of depression stemming from the student taunts had overwhelmed him.

"The more I thought about it, (the) more I wanted to do it to them," he told the psychologists. He hoped, he said, that firing on the prayer group would teach them to "leave me alone." He was tired, he said, "of people making fun" of him and said he "couldn't stand it anymore."

Carneal's psychological evaluation report states that he suffers dysthymia, chronic depression that results in feelings of low-self-esteem and a general worthlessness. He also suffers from a schizotypal personality disorder, which caused problems in perception that result in socializing and communication difficulties.

David Williams, editor of The Letter, reflects that Carneal's shooting spree could lead to better-defined categories of abuse—an inclusion of anti-gay behaviors—which are now only implicit in the McCracken County school system's policy against student harassment of other students, a policy which does not specify anti-gay taunts. A committee, he writes, "looks at the policy every year and updates it as required."

attacked.jpg - 29.14 K "During early adolescence," says Williams, "most young men of whatever sexual orientation simply want to fit in. Inevitably some of them don't, but the last thing they want to do is complain if they're rejected by others. Complaining would make them look weak, unable to handle the situation themselves."

Another factor, according to Williams, "is the nature of the harassment itself. If he were black and being harassed by whites, he might more readily go to the principal about it because the culture frowns heavily on racism. On the other hand, homosexuality is still a difficult subject for most Americans to discuss freely, particularly in the classroom, where it's generally greeted with snickers by students and even some teachers—if it's mentioned at all….

"Of course, million of other gay and lesbian teenagers have gone through the same problems and never considered taking their frustrations out with a gun," says the editor of The Letter. "Carneal may have had other problems which make his case unique. But the potential for similar tragedies is always there."

The Letter, Kentucky's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Newspaper, has developed a new web site: Subscriptions and advertising information: (502) 895-7711

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