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Student alleges gay bashing at FHS

Wesley Harper (left) and his mother Margaret Harper feel that FHS isn’t giving adequate protection to Wesley, who is homosexual.- Tracy K. Morgan/farragutpress
FHS tenth-grader Wesley Harper said he is taunted every day at school because he is gay, and he wants the school to protect him from that abuse.

Harper contends that the faculty at Farragut High School is well aware of the verbal abuse, but has turned a blind eye to the taunts.

Harper said other students constantly call him “faggot” and other demeaning names.

“I can’t help who I am,” he said. “I am what I am, and I can’t change myself, but I shouldn’t be treated any differently.”

Harper said he doesn’t want any special consideration, only the protection that Knox County Schools promises to any student who is victimized.

The KCS policy handbook states (in part): “Each student has the responsibility to respect the human dignity and worth of every other individual; to refrain from libel, slanderous remarks, and obscenity in verbal and written expression; and to refrain from behavior which would lead to physical or emotional harm.”

FHS principal Ed Hedgepeth said, “There is a ‘Harassment of Student Policy’ in the Knox County School System that we at Farragut take very seriously.”

Hedgepeth said every alleged incident has been investigated fully, and if warranted, consequences given to those who violated a rule.

“I will say in general, there are times students do things themselves that result in them being sent home,” Hedgepeth said. “Some students, unfortunately, are their own worse enemy due to their behavior and actions.”

Margaret Harper, Wesley’s mother, said the police were called to their home recently when a crowd of students was waiting in their yard for Wesley after school. “They came over, beat on my doors and tried to get to my son,” she said.

The policewoman who was called to the Harper’s house encouraged the family to press assault charges with bias against the lead perpetrator.

So far, the Harpers have filed two incident reports with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department: for assault charges with bias, and for miscellaneous verbal threats. However, Mrs. Harper said she was told that since the offenders were juveniles, there was really nothing they could do.

“Every person I’ve called for help, I’ve run up against a wall,” Mrs. Harper said, adding that she is concerned for her son’s safety.

“I think being verbally abused and taunted and treated with bias affects their grades and emotional states,” Mrs. Harper said. “They are there to get an education, but it gets to the point where you are taunted so much you lose that focus of education and it just gets to be, ‘what can I do to survive?’ It’s hard to learn in an environment of prejudice.”

Mrs. Harper said FHS assistant principal Dwayne Simmons has called her at home more than once to come and get Wesley because they didn’t feel like it was safe for him to be at school.

“Nobody wants to deal with the problem of homosexuality in our schools,” she said.

In response, Simmons recalled only one time when Wesley was sent home, and said he doesn’t think Wesley was in any physical danger at the time of the incident. “I just tried to take precautionary measures before it happened,” he said.

“I’m sure there are some things being said (to Wesley),” Simmons admitted, “but if he’ll come in and say, ‘this student said this or that to me,’ we’ll make sure we call that student and investigate fully.

“But he has not done that up to this point,” Simmons added.

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