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Missouri teacher under fire for suggesting more gay youth should commit suicide


Update, 10/27: The Joplin Board of Education has cleared Jim Whitney of any “wrongdoing,” and said his Facebook account was “compromised.” Story here.

A high school teacher in Joplin, Mo., is the latest teacher under fire for allegedly posting anti-gay remarks on Facebook, which included a suggestion that more gay youth should commit suicide.

Jim Whitney, an instructor at Joplin High School, allegedly posted a comment on the wall of a former student’s Facebook profile on Oct. 19, reported the Joplin Globe.

The former student had posted a link to a news article about Jamie Hubley, a 15-year-old gay teen from Ottawa who committed suicide recently.

In response to the link, Whitney allegedly replied, “Moral of the story: Don’t be gay.”

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The brief thread included this question from another commenter: “How many more kids have to kill themselves before everyone realizes that this is an actual issue?”

The reply, attributed to Whitney’s Facebook account, was “11-13 ought to do it.”

The former student, Josh Gonzalez, said he later talked to Whitney, who denied writing the anti-gay comments, and said his account had been hacked. But in a email statement issued Monday, Whitney did not specifically deny posting the remarks:

Whitney did not respond to requests for an interview but released a statement via email on Monday afternoon saying he was sorry the incident occurred.

“I do not condone bullying or harassment of any kind and I am very aware and saddened by the negative impact this type of behavior creates. I regret that the posts appeared on Facebook. They do not reflect my personal views and I apologize for any and all offenses caused by the comment.”

Whitney, however, did not respond to follow-up emails and telephone calls to explain how comments that do not reflect his views came from his Facebook account, nor has he been available for additional questions.

The Joplin Board of Education said it is investigating the incident — Board President Ashley Micklethwaite and Superintendent C.J. Huff told the Globe they had received an unspecified number of complaints.

The advocacy group Missourians for Marriage Equality initially alerted the school to the Facebook post, and posted the tread online, encouraging its follower to contact the school board.

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