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Arkansas school board member to resign over anti-gay post

By the CNN Wire Staff
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School leader: 'I went too far'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Clint McCance says his wife and children have left state over safety concerns
  • Clint McCance apologies for remarks, calls them "ignorant"
  • "I would never support suicide for any kids," he says after advocating suicide for homosexuals

(CNN) -- A school board district member in Arkansas who came under fire for an anti-gay post on a social networking site regrets the comments and will resign his seat, he told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday.

"I'm sorry I've hurt people with my comments," Clint McCance, vice-president of the Midland School District in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas said. "I'm sorry I made those ignorant comments and hurt people on a broad spectrum."

McCance wrote on his personal Facebook page that he wanted gay people to commit suicide, according to The Advocate, a newspaper focusing on gay news.

McCance used the terms "queer" and "fag" repeatedly, promised to disown his own children if they are gay and stated that he enjoys "the fact that [gay people] give each other AIDS and die."

On Thursday, he disowned the comments.

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"I would never support suicide for any kids," he said. "I don't support bullying of any kids."

"I'd like to extend apologies to those families that have lost children, for all those children who feel that suicide is the only way out, especially for the five families who have already lost children," he said, referring to a rash of recent suicides by gay teens. "I brought more hurt on them... they didn't deserve that and I do feel genuinely bad for them."

Though he disapproves of homosexuality, McCance said that "I give everyone a chance and try to love everyone."

McCance said that he has received an outpouring of criticism over his comments, including "thousands of phone calls, hate mails, people threatening to kill my family and me."

He said he has sent his wife and two kids out of the state because of fears for their safety and that he is installing a security system at his home.

"I'm reaping what I've sown," he told CNN. "I've had a lot of hate speech thrown at me and my family on every level."

He said he would resign from the school board to spare the district the bad press and distractions of dealing with the fallout from his comments. "If they decide after five or ten years to vote me back in, then I'll run again," he said.

McCance's comments had drawn criticism from education officials in his district and at the state level.

"I strongly condemn the statements that appeared on Mr. Clint McCance's Facebook page," Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas commissioner of education, said in a statement Wednesday. "... The statements attributed to Mr. McCance constitute a significant departure from statements we expect from our school leaders. The divisiveness and disruption of these comments cause me to seriously question the ability of Mr. McCance to remain as an effective member of the Midland School Board."

McCance was re-elected for a four-year term in September. He was initially elected to the leadership of the school district in 2007 for a three-year term. The terms are now four years long.

The Midland School District had also denounced the posting. "The district strives to foster an environment that discourages all forms of bullying," it said in a statement this week, "and an environment that encourages a safe and productive educational climate [for] all of our students. The district is very diligent in pursuing and addressing bullying of any variety on our campuses."

The state Department of Education had said it was "dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook."

Because McCance's Facebook page is not accessible publicly, the Advocate said it learned about the posts after being provided with a screen shot.

The posts were made, according to The Advocate, in response to a bullying awareness campaign sponsored by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The "Spirit Day" campaign aimed to foster recognition of bullying directed at gays and the effects it can have on young people through a series of events held on October 20.

One aspect of the campaign encouraged people to wear purple to honor those who had committed suicide after experiencing anti-gay bullying, and to show solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth who face the same pressures.

According to the screen grab obtained by The Advocate, McCance wrote the following about the event: "Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed therselves because of their sin." (sic)

The post spurred a Facebook page encouraging the Midland School District to fire McCance. More than 60,000 people had "liked" the page as of Thursday evening.

However, not everyone disagreed with McCance's comments, which he had defended on his page by citing his religious beliefs.

Gays and lesbians are "thinking they're all right, and [God is] going to let them think that and go to hell for believing what they're doing is right," pastor Harry Craig, of Pleasant Plains Full Gospel Church, told CNN Little Rock affiliate KARK.

On Tuesday, the federal government warned that bullying and harassment in schools often includes violations of federally protected civil rights. Officials warned that school administrators who fail to properly deal with harassment risk being cited for civil rights violations. In extreme cases, such violations could lead to cuts in federal funding.

A group of protesters had traveled Thursday to Pleasant Plains, where they held a demonstration to call for McCance's resignation.

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