As he got ready for his first day at Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis, Darnell “Dynasty” Young augmented his back-to-school shopping by dipping into his mother’s closet.
“Some of the items he chose included knee-high boots, purses, rings, and bangles,” report court papers subsequently filed by his lawyer.
Dynasty had no reason to believe that the kids at his new school would be any less accepting than those during his first two years of high school in Arizona.
“Dynasty was very active in the school community and loved going to school,” the court papers say of his Arizona years. “His peers accepted him, and he had very few problems with harassment and bullying. When isolated incidents of harassment did occur, Dynasty reported them to the school administration, which took swift and effective actions that ensured the bullying ceased.”
Then, in August 2011, his family moved to Indiana. The state is home to many fine people, but also to such characters as congressman turned Gov. Mike Pence, who imagines that there can be some justification for bruising bigotry such as Dynasty would soon report encountering.
Dynasty seemed to have no inkling that he would be anything but happy as his new school year commenced.
“Dynasty could not contain his excitement about starting his junior year,” the court papers say.
His mother, Chelisa Grimes, went with him as he formally enrolled at Arsenal Tech.
“Following the dress code, but wanting to make a good impression, Dynasty wore a form-fitting polo shirt, tan shorts and a large ring,” court papers say. “While they were waiting to enroll him, Chelisa overheard students and school personnel referring to Dynasty as a ‘fag’ and making comments such as ‘He looks like a girl.’”
The papers continue, “Dynasty describes his first full day at school at Tech as a ‘nightmare.’ He heard students all over the school make disparaging remarks about his presumed sexual orientation and the way he dressed.”
The papers add, “Nevertheless, Dynasty attempted to remain optimistic that this abuse would fade away after he settled into his new school. Unfortunately, that day never came.”
The mother says she subsequently visited Tech’s office to make known her concerns about her son’s treatment. She says the school offered no solutions other than for Dynasty to change the way he dressed.
Dynasty says he went to see his counselor only to be told much the same. Dynasty and his mother both say that to their knowledge the school took no action to stop the abuse.
“A few weeks into the school year, the bullying and harassment Dynasty experienced continued to intensify,” the court papers report. “Dynasty was walking to lunch one day when another student spat on him.”
The papers further recount: “Some groups of kids would prevent Dynasty from passing through certain hallways by standing in his way, while others moved far out of his way as if he had some disease that they could contract if they stood too close. In some of his classes, students would inform the teachers that they did not ‘want to sit next to that fag.’”
Grimes noted a change in her son such as would crush any loving mother.
“Dynasty no longer expressed enthusiasm about school and how much he loved going to school,” court papers say. “He no longer was the person in the room who was always smiling and cheerful.”
By the fall break in October 2011, Dynasty had become depressed.
“Although he continued to dress in the same manner, he took less care with his appearance,” court papers say. “Each time that he reported an incident of harassment, Dynasty would offer to walk the hallways and point the students out or find alternative ways to identify the harassers. Those administrators never took him up on his offer.”
Bad turned to worse with no sign of it ever getting better.
“Tired and defeated, in November 2011, Dynasty decided to try and wear stereotypically male clothes and even consulted male family members about how to ‘act like a man,’” the papers recount.
But his new look just made worse even worse.
“Dynasty was only able to keep it up for a day or two,” the papers say. “Just three months into the school year, Dynasty had been targeted for his gender non-conforming clothing and behavior so regularly that it did not matter what he wore; his peers still bullied and harassed him for being gender-nonconforming.”
And there was an added pain.
“Furthermore, wearing those clothes made him feel like someone other than his true self.”
Dynasty saw a chance to be himself while simultaneously making things better at a talent show that was scheduled just before the winter break.
“Not willing to give up, Dynasty entered the talent show in hopes that seeing his talent would help him gain respect and acceptance from his fellow students,” the papers say.
He took the stage with a dance performance and came in second, “giving Dynasty some hope that things would be different at school once everyone returned from Winter Break.”
The court papers say he was sadly mistaken.
“It did not take long for Dynasty to realize that his performance at the talent show did not change the hearts and minds of his peers,” the papers report. “In fact, many of his harassers became more aggressive.”
The papers contend that Dynasty continued to report the incidents and that the administrators continued to do nothing.
“About two weeks after school came back to session, a group of students saw Dynasty get off the school bus on his way home and began throwing rocks and empty glass bottles at him while yelling, ‘There goes that fag!’” the papers say.
The papers say the mother again went to the school and was again simply told that her son should change the way he dressed.
“After that incident, Dynasty hit a new low,” the papers note. “He stopped caring about school, his hair began to fall out, and he began distancing himself from his family.”
He started missing school, and when he did go he often arrived late.
“Dynasty seriously contemplated suicide,” the papers report.
The mother had become convinced that the school was not going to protect her son.
“Fearing for her son’s life, Chelisa gave Dynasty a self-protection flashlight, a small device that emits a weak electric charge and loud noise when activated,” the papers say.
Dynasty began carrying the device to school in a small shoulder cage without telling anyone that he had it. He struggled to catch up with his schoolwork and to raise his grades, and became so frazzled he cursed at a teacher during a disagreement about make-up work.
The administration leapt into action as it never seems to have in the many times Dynasty reported being cursed at.
He was suspended for five days.
After his return, Dynasty met with his teachers to devise a plan for him to regain his academic momentum. He was buoyed by the meeting and left resolved to get “back on track.”
“Then, after lunch while Dynasty was on his way to his next class, a group of six male students began to surround while yelling at him and threatening to attack him,” the papers say.
Dynasty took the self-protection device from his shoulder bag, raised it straight above his head and activated it.
“The noise startled Dynasty’s would-be attackers, allowing Dynasty to continue on to class without further incident,” the papers say.
Shortly after he sat down in the classroom, a school security officer entered. Dynasty was escorted out in handcuffs.
“Once outside the door, the officer remarked, ‘If you did not dress like this, people would not mess with you,’” the papers report.
The papers contend that the school declined an offer by Dynasty to point out the students who had threatened him.
After Dynasty was expelled for bringing the self-protection device to school, his mother filed an appeal that the school district declined to hear. She finally filed suit in federal court, submitting a written complaint that told her son’s version of his days at Tech.
A very different version was offered by the papers the school filed in reply, which contend that Dynasty Young—D.Y.—was to blame for whatever difficulties he may have encountered.
“Defendants deny that D.Y. was targeted by students for his clothing or gender non-conformance,” the school’s reply says. “Defendant admits that D.Y’s behavior created problems for D.Y. among his peers.”
These papers insist that “the defendant took reasonable steps to prevent and remedy any allegedly harassing conduct of which it was aware.”
The defense papers further deny that students threw rocks and bottles at Dynasty or that he was ever surrounded and threatened. The papers say that what was marketed as a “self-defense flashlight” was in fact a stun gun.
With regards to the many allegations of which the authorities could not have direct knowledge, the papers repeat the phrase “Neither admit nor deny said allegations, but demand strict proof thereof.”
Dynasty’s legal team pronounced itself ready to see which version prevailed at trial. The front of Dynasty’s formal complaint was marked with two particular words in bold.
At the prospect of having jurors decide it, the school agreed to a settle for a relatively modest $65,000 along with an agreement to expunge the expulsion from Dynasty’s record.
Dynasty had by then enrolled at a charter school, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, where he was made to feel welcome by some of Indiana's many decent souls. His lead attorney, Richard Waples, said that at last report Dynasty was bouncing back to being his happy self.
“He was on his way to college,” Waples said.
Dynasty’s case is among those that led to a new law against bullying in the schools that was signed by Governor Pence in 2013.
That did not stop Pence from signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act this month, a law that would seem to allow discrimination against gays.
As if any just God could countenance what Dynasty says happened to him after he arrived for the first day of school in Indiana, so excited just to be there and to be exactly as his maker made him.