Tag Archives: equality

How ‘Slut Shaming’ Has Been Written Into School Dress Codes Across The Country

By Annie-Rose Strasser and Tara Culp-Ressler on May 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm

 

Capistrano Valley High’s school dance dress code.

“Last month, a New Jersey middle school banned girls from wearing strapless dresses to prom. Administrators claimed that the dresses were “distracting” — though they refused to specify exactly how or why. Parents reacted strongly to the rule; some supported the dress code while others deemed it “slut-shaming.” On Friday, the school compromised by allowing girls to wear single-strap or see-through-strap dresses. 

This is no isolated incident in the United States. Across the country, young girls are being told what not to wear because it might be a “distraction” for boys, or because adults decide it makes them look “inappropriate.” At its core, every incident has a common thread: Putting the onus on young women to prevent from being ogled or objectified, instead of teaching those responsible to learn to respect a woman’s body. Here are five other recent examples:

1. A middle school in California banned tight pants. At the beginning of last month, a middle school in Northern California began telling girls to avoid wearing pants that are “too tight” because it “distracts the boys.” At a mandatory assembly for just the female students, the middle school girls were told that they’re no longer allowed to wear leggings or yoga pants. “We didn’t think it was fair how we have all these restrictions on our clothing while boys didn’t have to sit through [the assembly] at all,” one student told local press. Some parents also complained, leading the school’s assistant principal torecord a voicemail explaining the new policy. “The guiding principle in all dress codes is that the manner in which students dress does not become a distraction in the learning environment,” the message said.

2. A high school principal in Minnesota emailed parents to ask them to cover up their daughters. A principal in Minnetonka, MN recently wrote an email telling parents to stop letting their daughters wear leggings or yoga pants to school. He says the tight-fitting pants are fine with longer shirts but, when worn with a shorter top, a girl’s “backside” can be “too closely defined.” The big risk of having a defined backside, he thinks, is that it can “be highly distracting for other students.”

3. Two girls in Ohio were turned away from their prom for being “improperly dressed.” Laneisha Williams and Nyasia Mitchell were barred from prom this spring for wearing dresses that administrators considered “too revealing.” The girls say that they didn’t believe they were violating a dress code that said dresses couldn’t be too short or show too much cleavage. But one administrator told local news that the high school girls were only allowed to wear dresses that had “no curvature of their breasts showing.”

 

4. A kindergarten student in Georgia was forced to change her “short” skirt because it was a “distraction to other students.” It’s hard to imagine that a kindergartener’s outfit could be “a distraction to other students,” but a mother in Georgia told locals news there that her daughter had been outfitted in someone else’s pants — without parental permission — after the principal deemed the skirt the young girl was wearing too short.” The girl had apparently wore the skirt, and accompanying leggings, just one week before without incident.

5. Forty high school girls were sent home from a winter dance in California after “degrading” clothing inspections “bordering on sexual harassment.” A school board member’s daughter was among the 40 girls turned away from Capistrano Valley High’s February dance for wearing dresses that either exposed their midriffs or were cut too low. Before the dance, girls were apparently required to flap their arms up and down and turn around for male administrators’ inspection. The school issues image guidelines for appropriate dress on its website — though the images were nearly all of women, and the only male image depicted proper attire. One girl alleges that the principal told her, “Not all dresses look good on certain body shapes.” A grandmother of one of the girls who was turned away from the dance also said that a teacher remarked about her granddaughter, “What mother would allow her daughter to wear a dress like that?” Apparently the school did receive some praise, though, from the parents of two male students.

When most Americans think about “rape culture,” they may think about the Steubenville boys’ defense arguing that an unconscious girl consented to her sexual assault because she “didn’t say no,” the school administrators who choose to protect their star athletes over those boys’ rape victims, or the bullying that led multiple victims of sexual assault to take their own lives. While those incidences of victim-blaming are certainly symptoms of a deeply-rooted rape culture in this country, they’re not the only examples of this dynamic at play. Rape culture is also evident in the attitudes that lead school administrators to treat young girls’ bodies as inherently “distracting” to the boys who simply can’t control themselves. That approach to gender roles simply encourages our youth to assume that sexual crimes must have something to do with women’s “suggestive” clothes or behavior, rather than teaching them that every individual is responsible for respecting others’ bodily autonomy.

(Photo Credit: Peter Schelden)”

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Donald Glover talking about the comments he received during his campaign to be the next Spider-Man

“I was talking about it with Dan Eckman, who directed my Bonfire video. Can you imagine that trailer? That would be dope. Like it makes sense… a poor black kid in Queens. Like it just fits.””

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Lean In, Dad

April 2, 2013

By CATHERINE RAMPELL

“I happen to be an educated young woman who loves her job, sometimes gushingly, occasionally annoyingly. And yet, even in this enlightened age, I’ve had two relationships end — at least in large part — thanks to that clammy-palmed discussion in which couples plot hypothetical milestones and life goals. The gentlemen in question said that, somewhere in our semicharted future, they expected me to quit my job. At least for a couple of years, anyway, in order to be the kind of hypothetical mother they wanted to raise their hypothetical kids, if that hypothetical day ever came.

I don’t pretend to know how common this situation is, and how many other young women have found themselves in it. But it clarified not only the choices that future mothers must make about their careers, but also how early in their careers they must begin to think about them. And while fairness and feminism may urge us to find better ways for women to balance work and life — Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter have certainly made impassioned cries — the most convincing argument seems to be an economic one.

In the United States, women represent not only a majority of college graduates but also a majority of advanced-degree holders. But the lack of policies facilitating the work-life balance — like paid maternity leave and flexible work hours — has millions of them underemployed. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much human capital is being wasted, but one clue lies in a study by economists at the University of Chicago and Stanford. It estimates that 15 to 20 percent of American productivity growth over the last five decades has come from more efficient allocation of underrepresented groups, like women, into occupations that were largely off-limits, like doctors or lawyers. Even more efficient allocation of women’s talents would, presumably, drive further growth, which will become even more critical in the years ahead. By 2050, there are projected to be just 2.6 working-age Americans for every American of retirement age. (In 2008, it was 4.7.)

Other rich countries have figured out ways to keep women in the labor force. While companies like Yahoo and Best Buy bar employees from working from home, the European Union has issued a directive that all member countries must allow parents — men and women — to request part-time, flexible or home-based work arrangements in addition to paid leave. Other developed countries also have affordable, high-quality public childcare. In Sweden, some public nurseries are even available 24 hours a day.

Such policies contribute to these countries’ swollen welfare states and higher tax burdens, but they do keep women at work. Back in 1990, in a ranking of 22 developed countries, the United States had the 6th-highest share of its prime-working-age women active in the work force. By 2010, it had tumbled to 17th place. A new study from Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, both economists at Cornell, estimates that if the United States had the average of other developed countries’ work-life policies, 82 percent of America’s prime-working-age women would be in the labor force, instead of the current 75 percent.

But what kind of employment would they have, exactly? New research suggests that, because it’s primarily women who take advantage of leave and part-time entitlements, work-life accommodations often paradoxically limit career trajectories. Women in Sweden, Finland and Denmark — and other countries held up as paragons of gender parity — are much more likely to end up in traditional pink-collar positions than are their counterparts in the United States. They are certainly much less likely to end up as managers, or in traditionally male professional arenas like law or finance. “In a regime where anyone can go part time, where it’s hard to get rid of people if they do, employers might sort on the front end and not hire people they think are likely to want to go part time, which usually means women,” said Lawrence F. Katz, an economist at Harvard. “There may be no way a woman can credibly commit to sticking around and not going part time.” The U.S., where these policies do not exist, has the smallest gap between women’s representation in the labor force and their representation in senior management positions.

In order to prescribe policies that really allow female workers to “lean in” at work, social scientists are trying to find ones that recast social norms and encourage male workers to “lean in” at home. One area where there seems to be a lot of potential is paternity leave, which still has a stigma in both the United States and Europe. To remedy this bad rap, countries like Sweden and Norway have recently introduced a quota of paid parental leave available only to fathers. If dads don’t take it, they’re leaving money on the table. In Germany and Portugal, moms get bonus weeks of maternity leave if their husbands take a minimum amount of paternity leave. All these countries have seen gigantic increases in the share of fathers who go on leave.

This might not sound like such a big deal, but social scientists are coming around to the notion that a man spending a few weeks at home with his newborn can help recast expectations and gender roles, at work and home, for a long time. A striking new study by a Cornell graduate student, Ankita Patnaik, based on a new paid paternity-leave quota in Quebec, found that parents’ time use changed significantly. Several years after being exposed to the reform, fathers spent more time in child care and domestic work — particularly “time-inflexible” chores, like cooking, that cut into working hours — than fathers who weren’t exposed to the reform. More important, mothers spent considerably more time at work growing their careers and contributing more to the economy, all without any public mandates or shaming.

Paid paternity leave, like paid maternity leave, may sound like a pipe dream, but states (New Jersey, California) and big companies (Ernst & Young, Bank of America) are increasingly offering it and financing it out of their own pocket. They have a vested interest in lobbying Congress to federalize the costs of these accommodations. And that seems only fair. After all, unleashing the full potential of the second sex benefits not only this handful of players but the entire U.S. economy, too.

Catherine Rampell is an economics reporter for The Times. Adam Davidson is off this week.”

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by | April 9, 2013 · 5:26 pm

Everything You Need To Know About The Marriage Equality Cases At The Supreme Court

By Ian Millhiser on Mar 26, 2013 at 8:30 am

“Beginning this morning, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that could recognize the right of everyone, straight or gay, to marry the person they love. The first concerns California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, and could potentially extend the right to marry to same-sex couples in all fifty states. The second challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and could end the federal government’s practice of denying equal benefits to couples who are legally married under state law. Here is everything you need to know to understand these cases:

How The Court Could Rule

– A Broad Decision: The best, and most obvious, decision would be for the justices to follow the Constitution and the clear command of precedent and extend marriage equality to all fifty states. It is fairly likely, however, that at least one member of the majority will be too cautious to require Alabama to follow the Constitution, even if they are prepared to order California to do so. If the justices punt on the Alabama question, the important question is whether they hold that anti-gay laws are subject to “heightened scrutiny,” a skeptical kind of constitutional analysis that will make it very difficult for anti-gay discrimination to withstand court review in the future.

— A One-Off: The Ninth Circuit proposed a way to strike down Prop 8 whileleaving most other states free to engage in marriage discrimination (the court said that voters were not permitted to withdraw the right to marry once it had been established by the state Supreme Court). The logic of the ruling was thus confined to California. Similarly, two of the Court’s most important gay rights opinions relied on very narrow reasoning that advanced equality only incrementally. It is possible the justices will repeat this performance.

– Jurisdictional Dodges: In both cases, the Court could potentially rule that itlacks jurisdiction to hear the case, a decision that would cast a cloud of uncertainty over the rights of gay couples.

– A Stealth Attack: Several prominent conservatives are pushing a dangerous legal theory that would strike down DOMA on states’ rights grounds, and potentially endanger Social Security, veterans benefits and progressive taxation in the process.

– A Loss: Ultimately, however, it is important to remember that this is a severely conservative Court, and even so-called swing vote Justice Kennedy is a severely conservative justice. Equality could lose.

What To Expect From The Justices

– The Democratic Appointees: It would be very surprising if any of the Court’s four Democrats vote to uphold discrimination. While some commentators have noted Justice Ginsburg’s critical statements about Roe v. Wade — “It’s not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far, too fast” — this statement suggests Ginsburg might take an incremental approach, not that she will vote to uphold discrimination. Chance of pro-equality vote: more than 90 percent.

– Justice Kennedy: Kennedy is the author of two narrowly reasoned, but very important cases upholding gay rights. His record on gay rights is not perfect, however. Kennedy cast the key vote holding that the Boy Scouts have aconstitutional right to engage in anti-gay discrimination, and he’s behaved less and less like a moderate swing vote and more and more like a hardline conservative in recent years. His vote for equality is likely, but not certain, and is more likely than not to rest on very narrow reasoning. Chance of pro-equality vote: 60-70 percent.

– Justice Thomas: Thomas is the Court’s most conservative member, but he once called Texas’ “sodomy” ban an “uncommonly silly” law, and he cares a great deal shrinking federal power until it is small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. Indeed, Thomas believes federal child labor laws and the nationwide ban on whites-only lunch counters are unconstitutional on states’ rights grounds. For this reason, it is possible he will be attracted to the claim thatDOMA violates states’ rights. There’s no chance he’ll vote to strike Prop 8, however. Chance of pro-equality vote: 20 percent on DOMA, 0 percent on Prop 8.

– Chief Justice Roberts: Roberts has a lesbian cousin who will attend the marriage arguments as his personal guest, and he once did pro bono work on behalf of gay rights activists when he was an attorney in private practice. Nevertheless, Roberts remains very conservative and has a long record of criticizing decisions that read the Constitution’s promise of equality broadly. If Roberts does vote with a pro-equality majority, it is just as likely that he will do so in order to wrest control of the opinion and narrow it as he would to extend the blessings of liberty to gay Americans. Chance of pro-equality vote: 10 percent.

– Justice Alito: Alito is probably the toughest conservative questioner on the Court, and he has emerged as a strong advocate for whatever outcome conservatives prefer. Chance of pro-equality vote: less than one percent.

– Justice Scalia: In past opinions, Scalia compared homosexuality to murder, drug addiction, bestiality, incest and child pornography. Chance of pro-equality vote: 0 percent. Chance his opinion will accuse pro-equality justices of kowtowing to the “homosexual agenda”: 99.99 percent.

Surging Support For Marriage Equality

– Marriage Equality Has Strong Bipartisan Support: Retired Judge Vaughn Walker, the first judge to strike down Prop 8, is a Republican appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush. Three of the court of appeals judges that voted to declare DOMA unconstitutional are Republicans. 131 top Republicans, including six former Republican governors, filed a brief supporting marriage equality.

– The American People Support Marriage Equality: Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Among adults under 30, support is at 81 percent.

The Constitution guarantees “the equal protection of the laws” — and that includes same-sex couples. As the Supreme Court has explained, this guarantee is most robust when applied to groups that experienced a “‘history of purposeful unequal treatment‘ or been subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities.” LGBT Americans undoubtedly fit this description, and thus neither DOMA nor Prop 8 can stand.”

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by | March 26, 2013 · 4:03 pm

He Hasn’t Had It All Either

 

By 
Published: March 17, 2013

“I have not had it all.

I have had a lot. I feel lucky to have had a successful career as a journalist and author while being the primary caregiver of our four children for a decade.

But I definitely did not have it all.

And unlike most people written about in the media who don’t have it all, I’m a male who didn’t have it all.

I, the dad, had to make career “sacrifices” to run the family’s domestic life.

And my wife, also a journalist, made those same “sacrifices.” She anchored the first decade; I did the second.

When asked to climb the editors’ ranks, I declined.

I use the word “sacrifice” in quotes because I don’t think of myself as having made a sacrifice. I wanted to coach my kids’ teams and help with their homework. I wanted to be in the principal’s office by their sides, as they faced a five-day suspension (not a hypothetical, unfortunately).

And I wanted a career where I’d feel that I was helping make the world a little better.

It’s turned out pretty well. Stories I’ve written have made a difference. Being there for my children has too, I think.

And both my wife and I have held challenging full-time jobs through most of it.

The key: I was able to work out of our home for 30 years. We never could have done it otherwise.

It’s been striking how strong and sustained the reaction has been to the recent decision by the chief executive of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, to end telecommuting at her company.

Bill Gates noted in an interview this month how effective it had been having his salespeople based out of the office. In the current New Yorker, James Surowiecki argues the opposite, that having people working together and sharing ideas in the same office fosters innovation.

My own feeling is that every situation is different, varying even within a company from job to job.

Ms. Mayer’s decision at Yahoo struck a nerve. She is a rarity, a mother with a newborn baby running a major corporation. And here, one of her earliest decisions as chief executive was to take away one of the most useful tools many women have for advancing their careers.

Anne-Marie Slaughter also created a stir with her essay in The Atlantic last summer, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Ms. Slaughter, a onetime high-ranking State Department officer and currently a Princeton professor, wrote that because the American work place isn’t parent-friendly, women’s careers are stunted. Forced to choose between job and children, she wrote, women feel a domestic pull that is not as strong in men, driving them to sacrifice high-powered careers for home and preventing them from reaching the top tiers.

“Here I step onto treacherous ground, mined with stereotypes,” she wrote, adding, “I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job.”

An important part of the solution, she wrote, is for companies to create a more parent-friendly culture, and No. 1 on her list is working at home.

I think her essay is mostly right, but misses on two points. First, the message is that women are disadvantaged because of the social pressures weighing on them to be at home. Not said is that those very same social pressures weigh on men to be the primary bread winners, a burden of similar scope.

Having been both — the primary bread winner and the secondary earner anchoring the household — I’m here to tell you the latter (more home and less work) is often more fun.

The other questionable premise for me is the implication that a more parent-friendly work place will catapult women upward.

I’ve seen very few people — myself included — reach the top or even near the top while working full time at home.

I do not blame job discrimination for blocking my path. I knew what would happen when I made these decisions. I knew there were jobs that, by their nature, were too inflexible for me if I was going to achieve the balance.

You can’t cover a war and be there for your children. Do not believe it when people say they can travel and still keep up with their kids at home by talking on the phone or Skyping.

“What happened in school today?”

“Nothing.”

“Who did you play with?”

“No one.”

Because I was able to work at home, I could put in 60-hour weeks and still coach and all that other stuff.

It was also crucial for me to have control over which long hours I worked. To do that, I had to be selective about the reporting positions I took, and I earned that freedom by working so hard there was no question I was working so hard.

Fortunately, my balancing act didn’t feel hard because I love what I do.

I’d put in an hour or two before waking the four of them each morning, made their lunches and got them on the bus. Then I’d work until they came home, oversee the activities, cook dinner and make sure they were on top of their homework and in bed on time. When they became teenagers — a decade-long hormonal storm a parent absolutely must tend to in person — I’d enforce the curfews, police the drinking, keep an eye on the friends.

Then I’d return to work around 9 p.m. and go past midnight, until I nodded off in front of the computer.

Ms. Slaughter of Princeton offers several suggestions to make companies more parent-friendly besides working at home: lots of teleconferencing; no Saturday meetings; less travel; leaving the office by 6:30; a school day that matches the work day.

But these same benefits that lift you also hold you back. Foreign correspondents can’t cover a war and travel less. A reporter’s interview is going to be better if it’s done in person instead of teleconferencing. News is as likely to break out on Saturday morning as Wednesday at noon when the kids are in school.

The workplace, I believe, can be made more parent-friendly, but it’s not going to be all that friendly, which is why they call it work.

The core problem isn’t the workplace, it’s work.

Those jobs that refuse to be friendly are often the hardest, most time-consuming, most unpredictable, require the most personal sacrifice and, to me, deserve the best compensation and most corporate status.

Which does not mean that these are the people whom I admire most or want to spend my time with. When I see a man who has reached the top of a company only by making work his entire life, I think, what about the kids, what about the wife? And it’s no different when it’s a woman.

In the mid-1990s I was given the opportunity to advance as an editor. I liked it. I was pretty good at it. Then one Friday night I got off the train at maybe 9 p.m., and when I walked into the house, there was my wife in bed with our three little sons watching “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

In that instant I knew what I wanted, and not long after, I went back to reporting.

Booming: Living Through the Middle Ages offers news and commentary about baby boomers, anchored by Michael Winerip. You can follow Booming via RSS here or visitnytimes.com/booming. You can reach us by e-mail at booming@nytimes.com.”

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by | March 18, 2013 · 7:45 pm

Dispute on Transgender Rights Unfolds at a Colorado School

Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Coy Mathis, 6, in her backyard in Fountain, Colo. Coy, who is biologically male, is at the heart of a dispute that could test the state’s anti-discrimination law.

 

By 
Published: March 17, 2013

“FOUNTAIN, Colo. — Coy Mathis was born a boy. But after just a few years, biology succumbed to a more powerful force.

A buzz cut grew into long hair. Jeans gave way to pink dresses. And the child’s big cheeks trembled with tears when anyone referred to Coy as male.

Halfway through kindergarten, after consulting with doctors, Coy’s parents informed their child’s school that Coy identified as a girl and should be treated as one — whether that meant using feminine pronouns to describe her or letting Coy wear her favorite dresses.

“It became really clear that it wasn’t just about liking pink or feminine things,” said Kathryn Mathis, Coy’s mother, recounting how Coy had anxiety attacks when people treated her as a boy. “It was that she was trying so hard to show us that she was a girl.”

In December, however, when Coy, 6, was a few months into the first grade, the Mathises angrily pulled her out of school after being told that she could no longer use the girls’ bathroom but could instead use a gender-neutral restroom.

A letter from a lawyer for the Fountain-Fort Carson school district explained that “as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.”

Now, Coy’s case is at the heart of legal dispute that is likely to test Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, which expanded protections for transgender people in 2008.

The case is unfolding in this small town just south of Colorado Springs, as other states across the country seek to clarify their policies relating to transgender students.

It is an issue that has become more commonplace in recent years as advocacy groups push to ensure that school districts are more attuned to the needs of transgender children.

According to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has filed a complaint with Colorado’s civil rights division on the Mathises’ behalf, 16 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of legal protections for transgender people.

In many instances, those protections extend to schools, where the most mundane rituals like going to the bathroom and using a locker room can be especially traumatic for transgender students.

These days, even in states where no protections exist, school districts have become more amenable to meting out a solution when a dispute arises, said Michael D. Silverman, the group’s executive director.

Mr. Silverman cited a recent Kansas case handled by his group, in which a 10-year-old biologically male student wanted to be known by a female name and dress like a girl. The school, he said, ultimately agreed.

“In most cases, when you’re dealing with children this age, nobody is usually fussing about this sort of thing,” Mr. Silverman said. “The schools are much more willing to work with families to ensure that their child is successfully integrated.”

Nonetheless, conflicts over gender identity are, understandably, sensitive territory for administrators, transgender students and their families.

Last month in Batesville, Miss., a group of high school students protested after a transgender classmate was permitted to wear women’s clothing. The students felt that their classmate was being given preferential treatment given the school district’s gender-specific dress code, according to local news reports.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently issued guidelines on the treatment of transgender students, two years after the legislature passed a law banning discrimination based on gender identity.

The guidelines explain the new law and lay out scenarios that schools might encounter.

“Our primary concern is to make sure that every child has a safe and supportive learning environment,” said Jonathan Considine, a spokesman for the department.

The guidelines point out that deciding how best to handle bathroom access for transgender students can be especially challenging. The department recommended that students be permitted to use bathrooms that conform to the gender they identify with and also suggested that schools create gender-neutral restrooms.

“I have been stunned over the last three years by the explosion of concerns and interest and outreach coming from educational professionals around transgender issues,” said Eliza Byard, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Still, gay and transgender advocates say transgender students, while typically a small minority, are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harassment.

In a 2012 study by Dr. Byard’s organization, many elementary school students reported hearing comments from fellow students about how both boys and girls should act and look.

About a third of teachers surveyed said that elementary school students who did not conform to gender norms would feel uncomfortable at their schools.

The Mathis case has drawn particular attention, advocates said, because Coy is so young and the Colorado school district had clashed with her parents over what was best.

In that case, the state’s civil rights division is looking into whether the district violated Colorado law by prohibiting Coy from using the girls’ bathroom.

A lawyer for the district, Kelly Dude, declined to comment. In recent public statements, the school district criticized the Mathises for widely publicizing Coy’s situation while it was under review and said it had acted “reasonably and fairly” in the matter.

In a letter to Mr. Silverman, Mr. Dude wrote that Coy was allowed to wear girls’ clothing to school and was referred to as female, as the Mathises had requested. Though Coy could no longer use the girls’ restroom at her elementary school, Mr. Dude said she still had access to staff bathrooms and a gender-neutral restroom in the school’s “health room.”

Mr. Silverman countered that the school district was, he said, “punishing a little girl for what may or may not happen down the road.”

At the Mathises’ home along a stretch of rolling hills, Coy’s parents said they were still mystified over what prompted the school district to change its mind, especially because school administrators seemed so supportive at first.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” said Jeremy Mathis, a stocky Marine veteran and Coy’s father, noting that Coy had made plenty of friends and grown noticeably happier since identifying as a girl.

“This is elementary school, and you’re singling out this one kid and saying she has to use a special bathroom?”

In the meantime, Coy and her sister and brother — they are triplets — are being home-schooled. While torn about it, the Mathises said they would not return them to school until Coy is allowed to use the girls’ bathroom again.

In the backyard, Coy played happily with her bike, dirt dusting her face and her pink, sparkly boots. She said she would rather be back in school with her friends but knows why she is not.

“They’re being mean to me,” she said. “And they’re telling me that I’m a boy when I’m really a girl.””

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by | March 18, 2013 · 7:12 pm

2 Ohio Teenagers Found Guilty in Rape of Girl

Pool photo by Keith Srakocic

Ma’lik Richmond, right, and Trent Mays, foreground center, were found guilty of rape.

 

 

By 
Published: March 17, 2013

“STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Two high school football stars were found guilty on Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl last August, in a case that drew wide attention for the way social media spurred the initial prosecution and later helped galvanize national outrage over the episode. The town’s obsession over its football team, many said, had shielded other teenagers who did little or nothing to protect the girl.

One football player, Trent Mays, 17, who had been a quarterback on the powerhouse Steubenville High School football team, was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system, while the other, Ma’lik Richmond, 16, who played wide receiver, was sentenced to serve at least one year. Both could end up in juvenile jail until they are 21, at the discretion of the state Department of Youth Services. Mr. Mays’ minimum sentence is twice as long as Mr. Richmond’s because he was found guilty of two different charges.

After Judge Thomas Lipps read his decision, both boys broke down and sobbed. Mr. Richmond turned to his lawyer, Walter Madison, and said, “My life is over.”

Both Mr. Mays and Mr. Richmond apologized to the victim and her family. Mr. Richmond walked over to where they were sitting and said, “I had not intended to do anything like this. I’m sorry to put you through this,” before he broke down, unable to speak any more, and embraced a court officer.

The judge found that both boys had used their fingers to penetrate the girl while she was so drunk in the early morning hours of Aug. 12 that she lacked the cognitive ability to give her consent for sex. A picture that was circulated around classmates the day after the assault showed the victim naked and passed out. Ohio law defines rape as including digital penetration.

In sentencing the boys, Judge Lipps said that rape was among the gravest of crimes and that the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers talk to their friends, conduct themselves when alcohol is present, and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”

On the witness stand on Saturday, the girl testified that during a roughly six-hour period when prosecutors said the rapes occurred that she had no memory of anything aside from a brief vomiting episode. She said she woke up the next morning naked in a basement living room – with no idea where she was or how she got there – surrounded by Mr. Mays, Mr. Richmond and another boy, and unable to find her underwear, shoes, earrings or phone. When the prosecutor handed her one picture of herself from that night that she had not previously seen, she broke down in tears.

The verdict came after four days of testimony that was notable for how Ohio prosecutors and criminal forensics investigators analyzed hundreds of text messages from more than a dozen cellphones and created something like a real-time accounting of the events surrounding the incident and aftermath.

Through the prosecution’s reconstruction and reading aloud of these messages, Judge Lipps heard Mr. Mays in texts from his cellphone state that he had used his fingers to penetrate the girl, who he also referred to in a separate message as “like a dead body.” In another text message, Mr. Mays admitted to the girl that he took the picture that had already circulated among other students of her lying naked in the basement with what he told her was his own semen on her body, from what he stated was a consensual sex act.

Other text messages read before the judge suggested that Mr. Mays grew increasingly worried within the first day or two, urging a friend to curb dissemination of a video related to the incident. He also seemed to try to orchestrate a cover-up, telling a friend in a text, “Just say she came to your house and passed out.”

Finally, the messages showed Mr. Mays pleading with the girl not to press charges because it would damage his football career – even as the girl grew angry that he seemed to care more about football than her welfare.

One classmate also testified that he saw Mr. Mays penetrate the girl while they rode in the backseat of a car.

Overall, there was far more evidence and testimony about Mr. Mays. Mr. Richmond mainly faced the testimony of one witness, Evan Westlake, another Steubenville High School student, that he had used his fingers to penetrate the girl while she lay in the basement. Like two other witnesses, Mr. Westlake had been granted immunity for his testimony, and he had been attacked for his role in the events of that night and for filming a now-infamous YouTube video in which he is heard laughing as another boy describes the girl as “deader than O.J.’s wife” and says, “she is so raped right now.”

The defense team offered three witnesses. Two were girls who had been lifelong friends of the victim, but have fallen out with her, who testified that she had a reputation for lying or that she drank more on that night than the victim said she had. The girl “lies about things,” said one witness, Kelsey Weaver.

An expert witness for the defense, Kim Fromme, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Texas, testified that by her calculations the girl did not drink enough to pass out. But Ms. Fromme testified that the girl did drink enough to suffer a memory lapse, implying that she could have given consent for sex and not remembered it. A prosecution expert witness disputed that testimony, saying there was no way of knowing how much alcohol the girl had ingested to make such precise calculations, or how alcohol physiologically affected her compared to other people of different tolerances.

Testimony also touched the high school’s football coach, Reno Saccoccia, who had earlier been criticized by some in the community for not doing more to discipline other players present that night. In the text messages disclosed by the prosecution, Mr. Mays stated that he felt he had gotten the coach to “take care of it” and that Mr. Saccoccia “was joking about it so I’m not that worried.” Another text message Mr. Mays sent to the girl suggested that he was quite alarmed when “Reno just called my house and said I raped you.” Mr. Saccoccia has not commented on the text messages.

In the end, the most powerful evidence may have been the two hours of testimony on Saturday from the 16-year-old girl herself. One state prosecutors, Marianne Hemmeter, led the girl through what seemed a carefully crafted narrative that combined the girl’s own testimony with the text messages.

Together, they told a story of the girl waking up confused, naked, shamed and worried, and then finding out that day that many of her friends had an idea what had happened to her or had even seen a picture of her naked the previous night. Throughout the next day, the girl began to reconstruct an idea of what may have occurred, using her friends and accounts of the night that were posted on social media, including the infamous YouTube video, which she said she could only bear to watch for a minute.

Then, the girl testified, she came to realize that Mr. Mays – who maintained all along that he took care of her while she was drunk and that they had only had non-penetrative consensual sex – had in reality done far more despite his insistences to the contrary.

“This is the most pointless thing,” Mr. Mays said in one text message to the girl. “I’m going to get in trouble for something I should be getting thanked for taking care of you.”

But after a while, the girl made clear that she wasn’t having any more of it, telling Mr. Mays in another text message exchange: “It’s on YouTube. I’m not stupid. Stop texting me.””

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by | March 17, 2013 · 4:11 pm