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FPC Posts Video of Teacher’s Public Apology Over Gay Student Bullying

| April 9, 2011

Floyd Binkley's video apology was part of a public service announcement, and went up at FPC's website two months after the incident at the heart of the matter. (© FlaglerLive)

Floyd Binkley's video apology was part of a public service announcement, and went up at FPC's website two months after the incident at the heart of the matter. (© FlaglerLive)

In mid-March a gay student formerly at Flagler Palm Coast High School and the school district agreed that subsequent to the student feeling bullied by his shop teacher, the teacher would make a formal, public apology. The teacher, Floyd Binkley, had told a joke about Mountain Dew and Pepsi turning gay if both cans were placed in the fridge together.

Prior to that incident, the student—Luke Herbert, who is 15, and who’s took his case to various media before the ACLU took it up on his behalf—had been physically bullied by another student, who was suspended. Herbert decided not to return to FPC and take virtual school classes instead.

The school this week posted Binkley’s apology as part of a public service announcement about bullying and harassment, produced in part by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, and in part by the school’s television production program. (An earlier version of this story ascribed the production entirely to the Gay-Straight Alliance.) Kevin McCarthy, an assistant principal and the sponsor of the alliance, said the club had been planning to produce a public service announcement regardless of the incident. The Binkley case was then incorporated into it. (See McCarthy’s fuller explanation below.)

The video itself was the product of many hands, rewrites and reevaluations. The video, posted only at the school’s website and linked to the high school’s home page, provides no context about the incident or background to the video’s production. The manner of its posting and sloppiness of its production appear to downplay as much as possible the video’s origins and purpose.

The home-page link refers to it merely as a “public service announcement,” without reference to bullying, harassment or the Binkley case. It does not identify the five students as members of the Gay Straight Alliance. The page on which it is posted does not contain any text except for a tiny line above the video that reads, “bullying PSA.” Binkley himself does not appear until the final fifth of the video. The title of the video, once it gets rolling–“Anti-Harassment & Anti-Discrimination”–misspells the word harassment. And Jacob Oliva, the school principal, who opens the nearly six-minute video, looks distinctly uncomfortable delivering his lines, which he is reading rapidly, almost without pause betweens sentences, through a teleprompter.

“It is one of FPC’s goals for all of our students, families and faculty to feel respected, valued and appreciated here at FPC’s campus,” Oliva says, without mentioning the Herbert incident or its disposition at any point. If someone is being targeted or single out, Oliva says, “we really need your help. Please seek out the advice from [an] adult, an administrator, a guidance counselor, teacher, somebody that you feel comfortable with so we can help you maintain your high expectations.” (See the full transcript below.)

The video then moves to a student—a black student with glasses—trying to get into his locker, and looking afraid. He is set upon by a group of five students—four boys and a girl—who surround him, scratch his hair and slap him around as one of the boys says, “Hello there, queer boy. How’re you doing?” The victim and the bully exchange a few words, some of them unintelligible, while a few other students in the distance appear unmoved by the incident. The video then switches to five members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance who, in turn, recite the school district’s anti-discrimination policy, before leading into Binkley’s statement and apology. Binkley’s statement is less hurried than Oliva’s, but it is abruptly cut off at the end, in the middle of a word.

The full video:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

According to Kristy Gavin, the school district’s attorney, Hebert had agreed to the format of the public service announcement, including not being named in it. Herbert has since told a television station that he did not accept the announcement as “public,” because he’d left the school—even though the school’s website and the video are as publicly accessible as the YouTube accounts Herbert says the video should have been uploaded to. Herbert told the station he may yet sue the district.

Gavin conceded that it took a long time for the video to appear at the school’s website. The district also has yet to rewrite its anti-bullying policy in accordance with the settlement. That isn’t likely to happen until May, Gavin said.

Jacob Oliva’s full statement:

“Hello FPC Bulldogs, this is your principal, Mr. Oliva just reminding you that it is one of FPC’s goals for all of our students, families and faculty to feel respected, valued and appreciated here at FPC’s campus. Together we work hard to maintain our Bulldog expectations of being responsible, being safe, being engaged, and being respectful. If that is not happening and somebody is being targeted or singled out, we really need your help. Please seek out the advice from [an] adult, an administrator, a guidance counselor, teacher, somebody that you feel comfortable with so we can help you maintain your high expectations. It’s important for us to remember that we all come from diverse backgrounds and have different perspectives on life, and together we can learn how to embrace each other and make the world a better place. That is our goal at FPC, I’m very proud of you.”

Floyd Binkley’s full statement:

“Recently in one of my classes, I told a joke which was inappropriate. A complaint was registered and when the administration asked me about the incident I informed them that in fact I made the comment. I realize that as an educator, I am charged with the responsibility of setting an example and tone for how we should respect each other and every individual, no matter their race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social and family background. We all need to remember that words can hurt, and need to be mindful of this. I have been reminded of this and want to remind my fellow co-workers and students to lead by example, and speak up when you see someone being bullied. I want to apologize to the student, his family, my co-workers, the school board, the superintendent, and especially to you, my students, for failing to use good judgment when addressing my class and all of the students in attendan[ce].”

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16 Responses for “FPC Posts Video of Teacher’s Public Apology Over Gay Student Bullying”

  1. Tom Brown says:

    It’s not a slick Hollywood production, but at least it’s something. Too bad “Mr. Binkley” didn’t bother giving his first name but he did sound reasonably contrite. Thank you.

  2. revenge of the nerds says:

    Wow.. nothing but a bunch a freaks and weirdos. Wake up and look around. All of this PC crap is why America is in decline. My vote for “Flagler County Teacher of the Year” would be for Mr. Binkley.

  3. tina says:

    Do you realize the video was made by high school students? When you talk about the spelling mistake, do you realize last week you had a mistake in one of your titles? It may not be up to your standards, but it gets the point across. Your comments about Mr. Oliva are unnecessary. This is how he speaks. His morning announcements are just like this video. Once again, it may not be up to your standards, but it works. Let’s not continue harassing Mr. Oliva.
    Luke does not accept the statement as public because he had left the school – he was hardly in school BEFORE this happened. He has used Mr. Binkley as an excuse to stay home. Check his attendance. I was in a class with him before he was physically bullied and he was never there. He’s had his 15 minutes of fame.
    Yes, there is a problem with bullying. This is not a problem at only our school, but a problem everywhere. The faculty and students at FPCHS are working on it. Is the rest of the world? We are still Florida’s Proudest Campus, and we love our Principal and Mr. Binkley.

  4. Nancy says:

    As being one of the students participating in the PSA, I’m clarifying that we are in no way affiliated with the Gay-Straight Alliance.

  5. elaygee says:

    Yesterday is history and its never coming back so get used to it. We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not submitting to your bigotry and abuse anymore. We will sue your ass till there’s nothing left.

  6. The Truth says:

    While I do feel bad for the student who was “bullied” I do believe this was a bit extreme. I think the teacher apologizing to the student directly would have been more then sufficient. It sounds to me like this student wanted to “send a message” and “flex his muscles” by simply making the teacher embarass himself the way he did.

    Bullying has been going on for quite some time – but it seems more now than ever that students (and parents) are so sensitive about everything that goes on around them that everyone expects to be coddled all throughout school. When I was going to school, not very long ago, I had other students who made comments to me and friends about clothes we wore, what sports we liked, who we were dating, etc. While I don’t condone it, it’s part of growing up. How you handle those situations help you become a stronger person mentally and emotionally when you enter the real world. While bullying doesn’t exactly carry over into the real world, situations similar to this actually do.

    I do not believe that Mr. Binkley should have been let off easy, but I think to force the man to make a video that he was clearly just simply reading off of a board held by someone behind the camera is not necessary. I would have much rather had him speak man to man with this young man and apologize to his face. Shake his hand and truly be sincere. It seems this boy and his family are more interested in humiliating this teacher than then getting an actual apology.

  7. Kevin McCarthy says:

    The idea of creating a podcast/PSA addressing bullying and harassment was generated by the Gay-Straight Alliance. The actual PSA was pieced together from a couple of projects that were being produced in our TV Production Program. The entire PSA was student produced and edited. Some of the students in the PSA are in the Gay-Straight Alliance, but most aren’t. This is not simply a GSA issue, it is an FPC issue. I am very proud of our students for wanting to address anti-bullying and anti-harassment, and for working hard to make FPC a better place for everyone.

  8. I don't get it says:

    My 13 year old has already figured out “if you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t laugh at anyone”!!! We all need to have some amount of humility.

  9. Jessica Naomi says:

    Unfortunately Flagler School District does not follow their own laws concerning the rights of their gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender students. Maybe Flagler Live should check their Code of Conduct and you will see all the laws the administration and the teachers violated. You should also check the Flagler School Board rules and ask them why they are not enforcing these rules.

  10. Scott Rose says:

    This video is a blatant attempt by Flagler Schools to brush what happened to Luke Herbert under the carpet while creating the appearance that it has “done something.” Binkley did more than make a “joke.” Even mischaracterizing his anti-gay slur as a “joke” or neutralizing his anti-gay slur by calling it a “comment” is to sweep what happened under the carpet. Binkley repeated this anti-gay slur on at least three different occasions, and the last time, he smirked at Luke Herbert, then walked over to his desk and mocked him personally. After Luke left the room to report this event to the administration, and then was back in the classroom, Binkley turned the talk to grades and said that everybody would be getting an A, except for Luke who would be getting an F. What Binkley did there is called “retaliation.” It alone is just as bad as the original harassment. Meanwhile, Flagler Schools Policy 651 states that a teacher who harasses a student will be dismissed, not that the teacher will be required to make an apology. The superintendent has ultimate authority to dismiss a teacher. But Floyd Binkley’s wife Liz Binkley is the superintendent’s secretary. Yes, you read that right. Floyd Binkley’s wife is superintendent Janet Valentine’s secretary. While Kevin McCarthy’s expression of concern for the victim might have some sincerity to them, he told Luke when Luke reported the harassment that “Binkley is an older gentleman.” In other words, he was serving as an apologist in Binkley’s favor. The current outcome has the victim punished in exile from the school, while a teacher who harassed him and makes him feel unsafe there is left on the job. The policy for dismissing this teacher is in place but not being enforced. I question whether it is even legal for a teacher to announce grades to the whole class, period, still less in the form of retaliation against a student who reported harassment. There are “whistle blower” laws, for example, that protect whistle blowers. Behaving as though what Binkley did was “not really so bad” is to revicitmize the victim and to leave other students vulnerable to similar abuses. Binkley must be dismissed. I e-mailed Janet Valentine, gave her the link to Policy 651, told her I know her secretary is Binkley’s wife, and then asked for an explanation of why Binkley has not been dismissed. She has not responded.

  11. Liana G says:

    Scot Rose – you nailed it! Godd luck expecting a response. I got the same treatment when I had a situation with this school district. I wrote a letter to the superintendent, made copies to every school district member but never received a response.

    The school district’s attitude is “‘unfortunately when you decide to bring children into this world and put them in a public school, these are the consequences you have to live with.” This is what was told to me. What a disgrace to tax payers, and a joke of an educational system that is all words and no substance.

    The Code of Ethics and The Principles of Professional Conduct of The Education Profession in Florida

    (1) The following disciplinary rule shall constitute the Principles of Professional Conduct of the Education Profession in Florida.

    (2) Violation of any of these principles shall subject the individual to revocation or suspension of the individual educator’s certificate, or the other penalties as provided by law.

    (3) Obligation to the student requires that the individual:

    (a) Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning and/or to the student’s mental and/or physical health and/or safety.

    (b) Shall not unreasonably restrain a student from independent action in pursuit of learning.

    (c) Shall not unreasonably deny a student access to diverse points of view.

    (d) Shall not intentionally suppress or distort subject matter relevant to a student’s academic program.

    (e) Shall not intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.

    (f) Shall not intentionally violate or deny a student’s legal rights.

    (g) Shall not harass or discriminate against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, marital status, handicapping condition, sexual orientation, or social and family background and shall make reasonable effort to assure that each student is protected from harassment or discrimination.

  12. Bob Amsel says:

    Mr. Binkley apologized for saying something “inappropriate” and NOT for saying anything deeply offensive and bigoted toward LGBT students in particular. Telling anti-gay jokes is more than just inappropriate.

  13. Mary says:

    This is ridiculous. Mr. Binkley is retiring this year, that’s why they didn’t fire him. As for Luke, yea being bullied by students is horrible but taking this to the media is insane. Where is the father of this child? Why didn’t the parents prevent all of this from happening? Mr. Binkley apologized, what more do you want? The video was re-made since the first one wasn’t good enough and submitted to the school’s website but for some reason, it has to go through eight people who put it off.
    This has to end and people need to get their facts straight. In the video, none of the kids are from the Gay Straight Alliance club. Maybe some people need to go straight to the source and ask instead of cowering behind the screen taking somebody’s word for it. This is how rumors are started.

  14. Just another teen homo says:

    I totaly think Luke over reacted.. seriously, it was a joke about soda.

  15. NortonSmitty says:

    I think that Mr. Binkley should suffer the harshest punishment imaginable. He should be forced to sit and watch the entire box set of Will & Grace DVD’s.

  16. Kevin says:

    Norton, that was maybe the first thing you wrote that made me laugh. I had a previous girlfriend from a horrible past relationship, and she would force me to watch that freaking show It was nothing but pain and suffering.

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