Darnell “Dynasty” Young, a 17-year-old senior at Tech High, in Indianapolis, was suspended last month for bringing a stun gun to school. His mother, Chelisa Grimes, gave her son the gun as protection against physical abuse at the hands of Young’s classmates, who, he told her, had been bullying him for being gay.
Young came out his freshman year, while living with his father in Arizona. His classmates occasionally called him names like ‘gay boy,’ he said, but prior to moving back to Indiana he hadn’t experienced much bullying due to his sexuality.
WATCH: DYNASTY YOUNG EXPLAINS WHY HE USED A STUN GUN TO DEFEND HIMSELF
Beginning in October, the honor-roll student endured bullying on a daily basis. He says he’s been followed home from the school bus stop and from his after-school job, while being threatened with bodily harm and battered with homophobic slurs. He’s had rocks thrown at him, students bump into him purposely in the hallways, and he says students have spread rumors that he’d performed sex acts in the school bathroom.
Indiana law defines bullying as words or actions that are intended “to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or harm.” Although Young and his mother made at least a dozen complaints to administrators, they say none of them were formally addressed. Young says the bullying become so unbearable that he’d considered suicide.
Alternatively, Tech High principal Larry Yarrell suggested that if he “tone down” his accessories — he often wears his mother’s jewelry and carries her handbags — the “flamboyant” teen wouldn’t give his aggressors reason to bully him.
“If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids, and they’re going to say whatever it is that they want to say,” Yarrell said. “Because you want to be different and because you choose to wear female apparel, it may happen. In the idealistic society, it shouldn’t matter. People should be able to wear what they want to wear.”
Regardless of his appearance, Yarrell says he doesn’t blame Young for being bullied, and he insists that the school has tried to investigate the complaints. The problem, he says, is that Young cannot always identify his aggressors. “If we had known who the perpetrators were, we would’ve dealt with them immediately,” he said.
Having lost confidence in the school’s ability to ensure her son’s safety, Ms. Grimes took matters into her own hands and armed Darnell with the stun gun. “It has been a nightmare,” Grimes says, “I’m trying to fight for my baby’s education.”
On April 16th, the teen was between classes when six students suddenly surrounded him, he claims, taunting him and threatening to beat him up. Young retrieved the stun gun he’d been carrying in his bag for weeks, pointed it in the air, and fired a warning ‘shot.’
Unlike taser guns — which release barbs that clench onto a person’s skin, temporarily paralyzing them — stun guns must come into direct contact with someone to effectively shock them.
Minutes later, school police officers came into the 17-yr old’s class, handcuffed him, searched his person, and found the stun gun. He was immediately suspended for one week. On May 2, Young told his side of the story at his expulsion hearing, mediated by an independent arbitrator, who will determine within the next few days if he or the school should be punished for the incident.
Grimes says that if Young is expelled, she will appeal the decision based on the fact that he’s a good student, and, she says, it’s unfair for him to be punished for trying to protect himself.
Follow Briana Lopes on Twitter at @briananikohl