Del City High School, Accused of Discrimination, Actually LOVES Lesbians

Ever since we published the story about two lesbian students at Del City High School in Oklahoma allegedly facing discrimination based on their sexual orientation, a number of people have come forward in defense of the school and its administration, challenging the validity of the girls’ accusations. The Daily Kos is reporting the following statement from a local, gay reporter:

There’s a lot more to this story than what the gay sites are putting out . . . the one girl moved out of her district to move in with her girlfriend. That was the basis in the school telling her if she’d move back with her mother she could attend. The only thing it had to do with her living arrangement was that she was no longer in the district.”

Hicks recently spoke with The Advocate again, explaining the circumstances under which she changed districts:

After two weeks, Hicks decided to return to regular day school at Del City High, but when she approached John Benardello, the principal in charge of the senior class, she said he only put her down and said she should drop out due to her “unhealthy lifestyle.”

But the story didn’t seem to add up to anyone at Del City High. Commenters on every news outlet where this story has been reported vehemently deny the charges as well as the characterization of their hometown.

After observing the debates happening on comment boards around the internet regarding this story, including our own, we solicited commentary from various current and former students of DCHS, all of whom were eager to share their stories and offer their insights into the environment of the school and the characters of the individuals involved. Obviously it’s important to remember that these are opinions, but in a story based solely on personal testimony, we think it’s important to listen to everyone.

One student, who graduated in 2009 and wished to remain anonymous, stated that she had never witnessed discrimination at the school and referred to DCHS as “the most accepting school I’ve ever been to.” Regarding Assistant Principal John Bernardello, she described him as “an amazing man. He does everything he can to make sure students stay in school and graduate on time, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or GPA... If the principal involved said he doesn’t approve of their “lifestyles,” I’m more than sure he meant that they disobey rules, they party, and engage in underage drinking.”

Another former student, also an out lesbian who requested she remain anonymous, stated that “those principals under fire were my principals for three years. I came out my senior year in high school and both of those principals were very accepting of it . . . So many students have gone through DCHS who were Gay/Lesbian and almost all of them have graduated, many with honors. The principals have helped several students graduate who would have never thought about it otherwise.”

Both commenters stated that the girls were not kicked off the softball team for being gay – the school’s sports teams count many gay and lesbians students as members – but rather for failing grades, in accordance with a school policy. Both expressed serious skepticism of the validity of the girls’ statements based on firsthand knowledge of the girls themselves, including a history of making shit up.

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Recently there have been several cases of stories about gay discrimination turning out to have murky details: there was the case of Cheyenne Williams, who claimed her friends attacked her for being gay, which eventually proved to be bullshit, and the most recent story about Terrell Williams, a supposed gay-bullying-related suicide that ended up being a hoax. Generally, as bloggers, we tend to pick up a story when it’s been reported by at least two reputable sources — for example; The Advocate, America’s oldest continuing LGBT publication (founded in 1967) is respected as a trusted, reputable and impeccably operated first-source for LGBT news. They’ve built their reputation on telling the honest stories mainstream media tends to ignore. Well, not anymore. (We also trusted their story about Terrell Williams, which simply disappeared from the website as soon as Queerty figured out it was a hoax)

From Daily Kos:

The Advocate has published a story they did not fully investigate, based on a local TV news story that also didn’t get all the facts. When I read the Advocate piece, I flew off the handle too, because I am a peace and justice activist and it sounded awful. But the students at the school, including openly gay ones, have come to the defense of their administration and THEY should be the main ones we listen to.

Daily Kos also spoke to school principal Gina Hill:

I just got off the phone with Principal Gina Hill, I have also talked to a local independent investigative reporter — who is gay — and this story is not true the story the girls tell cannot be confirmed, and what can be confirmed indicates that the school has not done what they have been accused of.

The thing is, with stories like these it’s difficult to find a balance between a healthy amount of skepticism and the knowledge that gay people face institutionalized oppression all the time and of course the school is going to deny any wrongdoing or of course the girls who Cheyenne Williams claimed attacked her would say it was just a prank gone awry. It’s hard to know who to trust, you know? It’s important to be skeptical and question everything (because false reporting on issues like this only does a disservice to those who make legitimate claims) but it’s also important to believe someone when they say they’ve been done wrong, especially an oppressed person claiming to have suffered an injustice, because that belief might be their only source of support and validation in the face of a hostile, disbelieving society.

That being said, under-investigated stories that eventually prove false are really damaging to the rest of us. That’s why it’s so important that publications like The Advocate investigate these things thoroughly before reporting. A potentially false and even libelous story like this can spread so quickly that Change.org can put up a petition and gather over 500 signatures without having all the information. And in the race to be the first news outlet to get top billing on Google News, bloggers don’t double-check sources, mostly because we lack the resources that funded institutions like the NBC/Regent Media-owned Advocate or even Gawker possess and therefore can’t be reporters most of the time. You don’t come to Autostraddle.com expecting to see first-hand reporting, you expect reactions, analysis and information on stories found elsewhere on the internet — which isn’t to say we don’t do our own reporting at times, we do, and want to. But those magical hyperlinks let you know what’s going on here.

So who do we trust, those of us you’ve entrusted to look out for your best interests?

We’d like to end with this quote from one of our sources: “Our girls basketball team has produced some amazing Lesbian players.”

Also: could everyone please stop hating on Oklahoma for being backwards and crazy? Not only did our bisexual editor spend some of the best days of her wanton adolescence with her gay best friend in locations including but not limited to Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Poteau (home of world’s highest hill), and the Applebee’s in nearby Fort Smith, Arkansas, but PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. Sweeping generalizations about an entire state are just as harmful and useless as sweeping generalizations about anything else. Focus your outrage where it belongs, people!

Rusty Surette, the News9 reporter who first broke this story, is working on a follow-up piece in which students and community members address the situation. We’re interested to see what he turns up.

ETA: Here it is!

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3227 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. Her “wonton” existence eh?
    Anyhow, chinese treats aside, this is getting to be like the old student stand-by of accusing teachers of sexual harrassment to start an uproar; it’s just so annoying for people who aren’t faking/blowing things out of proportion.

    • ha. i read that too and was like, what?!? someone must be hungry. mmm…wontons.

      anyway, the perils of a 24-hour news cycle. everyone reports stuff before they have the whole story.

  2. Oklahoma is a weird place. I live there. It’s crazy. Like, in some places there’s so much gay pride! And then ten miles away you even -think- about maybe dating someone of the same sex and people are banning you from their clubs. I don’t know about Del City, but it- just. This whole state is weird. That’s all I can even come up with.

  3. Thank you for this story. I am from DCHS, and have been very upset about the original story. I knew this whole time it was a lie, but the lgbt groups went crazy and believed it. I have to say excellent journalism.

  4. Got to say at first I was saddened by the story then disappointed in myself for assuming that just because she is gay she would be any more mature or responsible than any other teen who thinks that they are ready to play “grown-up”. To these two girls, all I can say is: Time to put on your big girl panties and take responsibility for the mess YOU made…

  5. When it comes to the Advocate, the quality depends on the author. It’s just been that way lately, I think because they’ve had some money problems. And they’re not the only ones. Remember when The Washington Blade folded then came back? That freaked me out a bit.

  6. Wow. I don’t know what to feel right now. So many feelings!

    I think it’s awesome that the school is so supportive of LGBT kids and I really hope that it’s a growing trend or at least soon becomes one. I wish that the Advocate could be more trusted. That’s disappointing it’s been letting people down lately. And finally why would anyone lie like that?? Guh! It’s not helping our cause when people create stories of adversity where they don’t exist. WHAT WOULD ANYONE DO THAT??

    Also, great reporting Autostraddle, thanks for being responsible and clearing everything up by readdressing the past article. You guys get two thumbs up. Or five stars. Or something equivalent to that that would be appropriate for internet news reporting. High fives all around?

  7. Also, a story thatwas covered on Autostraddle
    http://www.autostraddle.com/australias-constance-mcmillen-66538/
    – An Australian girl and her girlfriend not able to take her girlfriend to the formal – it turned out that it was because her girlfriend was in a younger grade and the school doesn’t allow students (male or female) from younger grades because then they experience the formal twice unlike their peers who date people their own age. She just used her powerful lawyer father to make a stink, that’s all. It’s disappointing, I know.

    • There was a bit more to that story, though – other kids from the school were saying that they allowed younger boys in, no problem.

  8. Thanks for the update, and thanks for the defense of Oklahoma. I lived in that admittedly crazy state for several years during high school, and met both some of the most amazing and some of the most absurd people ever while there. It’s a state of big contrasts, ridiculous politicians, and big-hearted people. Makes me sad when folks hate on it en masse, as though any place is ever just any one thing.

  9. I graduated from DCHS in 1981, and would have found this story much harder to believe if it weren’t for the fact that all three high schools in the Mid-Del School District started having their graduation ceremonies at the First Baptist Church, even though every one of them has several facilities capable of holding their own ceremonies. Since this practice was recently held to be illegal in another state by a federal court, I’m hoping the Mid-Del School District stops as well.

    The Mid-Del School District really pushed the Bible down our throats at every opportunity, especially when I was in third grade at Sooner Rose Elementary and our class had to spend two weeks memorizing Bible passages for Christmas.

    If you don’t want Oklahoma to be laughed at all the time and stories like this to pick up steam without proper investigation: stop holding your graduation ceremonies in churches while field houses sit empty, get the religion out of your schools and bring back the science, stop electing officials that pass laws that are written so poorly that they have to immediately be amended, and start treating your LGBT citizens better.

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