Lawrence King, a 15-year-old eighth grader, was declared brain dead after being shot by a fellow student in what police are calling a hate crime. King was gay and often came to school in feminine clothing and makeup.
This churns my stomach. I don’t need to tell readers here of the pervasiveness of anti-LGBT bullying in schools. This is the most tragic outcome of such bullying, and the result of a society that does not yet do enough to teach tolerance and create a welcoming environment in schools. Organizations like the Safe Schools Coalition, GroundSpark (the media company responsible for diversity-training films such as It’s Elementary), and even HRC, through their Welcoming Schools project, are doing their best to make resources and training available. They face a difficult task, however, especially as many schools struggle even to find time and teachers for subjects other than math and English.
Bear with me for a tangent: My son went to a friend’s birthday party a few weeks ago at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. They’re half pizza parlor, half video arcade, with space for birthday parties and videos of the titular rodent doing covers of popular songs. They’re commercial and loud, but I was happy my son had a chance to socialize. All was well until the enormous video screen at the end of the party room began blaring “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” I like Pat Benetar well enough, but it seems totally inappropriate for preteen children to be captivated by a person in a mouse costume urging “Hit me with your best shot! Fire away!” The company motto? “Where a kid can be a kid.”
No, they didn’t kill Lawrence King, and neither he nor his killer may even have heard of Chuck E. Cheese. There is no connection between the restaurant and the Northern Illinois University campus. The problem of school shootings, whether as hate crimes or anything else, does not have a simple solution. It has to do with gun control, yes, but also education, teaching tolerance at home and in schools, and creating a culture that does not promote or glorify shooting, especially to children, the most impressionable. To that end, companies such as Chuck E. Cheese need to be more careful about the messages they present.
My heart goes out to King and the NIU victims, their families, and friends.
You can contact Chuck E. Cheese here to ask them to take “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” out of their rotation.