The fatal shooting of a 15-year-old gay student in Oxnard, California has spurred the introduction of a new diversity education bill by state Assemblyman Mike Eng.

Lawrence King was killed on February 12th by classmate Brandon McInerney, 14, at E.O. Green Junior High School.

Mr Eng said he hopes the new bill will establish school diversity and sensitivity training to help prevent such tragedies in the future.

Lawrence King, who self-identified as gay, was shot in the head by McInerney during a class last Tuesday.

King was declared brain dead on February 13th as a result of the shooting.

He was taken off life support at St. John’s Regional Medical Centre on February 14th and died shortly afterward.

McInerney has been charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in the shooting.

McInerney could face up to 24 years to life for the murder charge and an added three years for the hate crime addition.

According to the Los Angeles Times, McInerney and a gang of boys had recently been taunting King about his sexual orientation.

“This incident is another heartbreaking reminder of how often young people must endure intimidation or violence in school because of their sexual orientation or the way they express their gender identity,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

“While California’s residents are fortunate to have state laws that provide some protection against hate crimes and school bullying, this pattern of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students is repeated too often in schools and communities across America each day.

“This tragedy illustrates the need to pass a federal hate crimes law to ensure everyone is protected against violent, bias-motivated crimes, wherever they reside.”

Nearly 1,000 Oxnard youth and supporters participated in a peace march paying tribute to King this past Saturday, according to the LA Times.

Singing John Lennon’s Imagine and Give Peace a Chance, the crowd marched past the school where King was killed carrying signs with slogans such as “Gay Pride” and “Support Love and Tolerance.”

Tolerance is exactly what Assemblyman Mike Eng wants to promote with new legislation he plans to introduce this week.

The new bill would require mandatory classes on diversity and tolerance in California school districts.

“We need to teach young people that there’s a curriculum called tolerance education that should be in every school,he said.

“We should teach young people that diversity is not something to be assaulted, but diversity is something that needs to be embraced because diversity makes California the great state that it is.”

Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said:

“This incident of senseless violence is truly horrifying, and our hearts go out to the student’s friends, family and the E.O. Green School community.

“As a nation, we’ve had our heads in the sand for far too long. We need to do everything we can to prevent something like this from happening again.”

“With young people coming out at younger ages, our schools, especially our junior highs and middle schools, need to be proactive about teaching respect for diversity based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

“The tragic death of Lawrence King is a wake-up call for our schools to better protect students from harassment at school. As a society, we can prevent this kind of violence from happening.”

Ann Turner © 2008 GayWired; All Rights Reserved.