Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High

A Murder Over a Girl is a new book by Ken Corbett, a gender studies expert and NYU professor who went to Southern California to learn why a 15-year-old transgender student Larry 'Letitia' King was murdered. Corbett takes the reader through painstaking detail through the trial with its various witnesses, describing each with both a flair for observation, and inferences about the context, motivation, and meaning of the words they used. The book is not just about the murder or even the trial, but about how context matters for everything and how we shape the context in our own lives can lead us down very different paths. This book is fascinating, trouble, and insightful.

Cover Art
Corbett analyzes race, identity, poverty, culture, gun violence, and adolescence in a way I have never read before. Some parts of the book were hard for me to read due to the abhorrent nature of the ideology examined. That said, I believe this is a necessary book for all psychology and sociology teachers to help us understand the role that culture plays in our personal and collective lives. After so many years of teaching experience, I learned to look at education and my students through a new lens after reading this book.

From the Amazon description:
A psychologist's gripping, troubling, and moving exploration of the brutal murder of a possibly transgender middle school student by an eighth grade classmate On Feb. 12, 2008, at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, CA, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed his classmate, Larry King, who had recently begun to call himself "Leticia" and wear makeup and jewelry to school. Profoundly shaken by the news, and unsettled by media coverage that sidestepped the issues of gender identity and of race integral to the case, psychologist Ken Corbett traveled to LA to attend the trial. As visions of victim and perpetrator were woven and unwoven in the theater of the courtroom, a haunting picture emerged not only of the two young teenagers, but also of spectators altered by an atrocity and of a community that had unwittingly gestated a murder. Drawing on firsthand observations, extensive interviews and research, as well as on his decades of academic work on gender and sexuality, Corbett holds each murky facet of this case up to the light, exploring the fault lines of memory and the lacunae of uncertainty behind facts. Deeply compassionate, and brimming with wit and acute insight, A Murder Over a Girl is a riveting and stranger-than-fiction drama of the human psyche.

From the Publisher:
On February 12, 2008 in Oxnard, CA, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney and the rest of his eighth grade class walked to the computer lab with their teacher, Dawn Boldrin. As his classmates typed their history papers, Brandon quietly stood and shot 15-year-old Larry King—who for just two weeks had been wearing traditionally female accessories and identifying as “Leticia”—twice in the head. Larry died in the hospital two days later. Psychologist Ken Corbett was unsettled by the media coverage that sidestepped the issues of gender identity and race, and went to California to attend the trial. In his new book, A MURDER OVER A GIRL, Corbett, a leading expert on gender and masculinity, details the case, and all the social issues still littering the American landscape eight years later. The brutal murder begged the question: How this could happen? Ellen DeGeneres spoke out; Newsweek and The Advocate ran cover stories. Once again, a “normal boy” like Brandon had taken a gun into a school and killed another student in cold blood. But others, still, wondered: How could this not happen? In many ways this was a “perfect storm” of race, poverty, gun violence, and gender identity fueled by ignorance and fear. Brandon had been raised by drug-addicted parents. His mother shot his father days before their wedding, and his father later shot his mother in front of him. His home was a veritable culture of guns. Larry’s birth mother was a 15-year-old drug addicted prostitute. He had recently been removed from his adoptive parents’ home after reporting abuse. Larry identified as gay from the age of 10, and by 15 had realized he was a girl. He wore makeup and stilettos to school with his uniform and had asked the boy who would be his killer to be his valentine. Brandon says he was being sexually harassed by Larry and sought peace the only way he knew how. Eight years later, the citizens of this country have yet to get on the same page on so many of the major issues at play: gender identity; sexual and racial equality; gun control; drug laws. Neither experts nor lawmakers nor voters can come to a consensus, and yet, teachers—most of whom have received no training in any of these areas—are thrust to the forefront in the classroom.

 posted by Chuck Schallhorn

The Teaching High School Sociology website

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Introductions and A Call for Input

Welcome back to the Teaching High School Sociology Blog. My name is Caitlin McGrew and I will be taking over this blog, from Chuck (thank you, Chuck!). I currently teach at Rutherford B. Hayes High School in Delaware, Ohio. Similar to Chuck, I plan to share resources and lessons so we can have an online community where we can connect, collaborate, maintain an updated curriculum, and continue to grow as Sociology teachers.

One space I plan to use to collaborate is a Google Drive folder in which I will store files I blog about, and other resources that are high quality for you to implement in your classroom. If you have a lesson or resource you wish to add to the folder, please email it to

I hope to also include book and video reviews that are pertinent to our content, and appropriate for our students.

My AP Psych students and I were able to meet Dr. Zimbardo!
If you have a topic you are interested in reading about, a weak area in your course you want to improve, or resources you want reviewed, please send me an email at

To conclude, here is a little background information about me: I have been teaching for 3 years in central Ohio, and I am originally from Northeast Ohio. I have taught World History, Sociology, Geography, and AP Psychology. I have presented at various local and state conferences on topics including the Flipped Classroom, Google Apps, and Mastery Learning. Thank you for reading my first blog post, and for joining me as we transition ownership of the THSS blog!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

First Day Activities for Sociology

A few teachers contacted me over the summer and one asked about starting the year with a "Bang!" Here is a copy of the email plus some additions.

Here is a file that I just received from a friend in Arizona that he uses for intro to psych 


You could do the birthday activity--have the kids arrange themselves in a line or circle (depending upon space) based on birthdays-Jan 1 on one end and Dec 31 on the other. Beforehand, you can make a bet with them about the likelihood of having any matching birthdays. The last time I did this last fall I had three sets of matching birthdays in a class of 35. 


You could use the Riding Hood Revisited reading and activity (on the blog)


You could use an adapted version of perspective that I use when I put a stuffed animal (I used a stuffed moose that has hidden eyes, tongue, and scarf to add to the mystery and incomplete observations that they all have) in the middle of the room and I ask the students to either draw it or describe it. Inquire as to why no one is describing the same thing. 


These are quizzes for understanding the culture of and understanding the knowledge of different social classes. Great stuff 



So many possibilities with this one. For me, it depends upon what unit you are starting with, perspectives or culture. What do you think? If you have great ideas, please put them in the comment section.

The Teaching High School Sociology web site

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Greek Life and Racism

After a discussion in class about the Oklahoma racist chant, one of my students mentioned seeing an article that included a picture of a sorority that posed with sombreros, moustaches, and signs that said, "I don't cut grass, I smoke it." I might add that that class is two-thirds Latino. That particular picture struck a nerve.  My students have heard the terms "beaner," "burrito-eater," and the like, but this one hit a little harder, especially when the photo appeared to be nearly exclusively white.

I did a quick search and discovered this article which cites a dozen examples, several that have pictures. I know kids are young and make mistakes. But these make me sick. This article could be great for a discussion on group decision-making, prejudice, stereotypes and so much more.

The Teaching High School Sociology web site

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fraternity and Racist Chants

Why does this not surprise me?

The more I learn about people, the more optimistic I am.  Then something like this happens and I get discouraged.  I could make a list of hundreds of recent events that detail poor behavior on the part of white people.  As a white person, it grieves me that anyone thinks like these young men or their counterparts around the nation and world.  As a teacher, I am constantly trying to fight the good fight to raise awareness about structural racism, discrimination, harmful attitudes, intergroup relations, and more.

So frustrating. Each day in the classroom gives me hope though.

The Teaching High School Sociology web site

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sneetches, Prejudice, Discrimination, and Status

Dr. Seuss gave us many classics in regards to human behavior. My personal favorite is "Sneetches," a story about two kinds of Sneetches, creatures who lived on the beach, some of whom had stars on their bellies, some who did not.

Those with stars fancied themselves better than the others and excluded those without stars from their social gatherings. Those with stars also had stereotypes about those without. This led to discrimination, name calling, and social shunning. Along comes an inventor who can put stars on those without. Conflict ensues when the originals with stars feel the need to change once all Sneetches had stars--they needed some visible identifier for in- and out-group labeling.

Then the inventor who took the stars off the original star-bellied Sneetches.  They reclassified the status of both kinds of bellies.

This new designation leads to chaos as both groups end up adding and subtracting the stars so that everything gets messed up from the original grouping.  No identifiers work for in- and out-group designations.

Lessons are learned and the scam artist leaves.

The video version is available here:

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn

The Teaching High School Sociology web site