Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Confusion Over Comments at the Town Hall Meeting

Man, this is almost making me wish I'd gone to that County Council town hall meeting the other night. I was told that a woman had spoken about her daughter being bullied in school and about the new transgender law. She seemed to confuse people, because at first she seemed to be arguing against bullying at school, but then she was against discrimination against transgender people and also opposed to the new gender identity nondiscrimination law. I wasn't there, I don't know how she put it.

Looking back at my email, the woman, Valerie Ricardo, was described to me as "beautiful, well dressed, articulate" and she was respectful and polite. It sounds like her presentation to the Council mainly confused people. She told about her daughter, and then regarding the new law she said that we are all failing the homosexual community and the transgender community by not including the appropriate language and exclusions in this bill so that everyone will be clear as to its meaning as regards the use of facilities (I am told). OK, that's an interesting way to put it, pretty smart to argue against it as if it doesn't go far enough. Ms. Ricardo then told a story about being harassed and threatened by a possible transgender person at her friend Dolores' house. She was vague about the incident, but something had happened that frightened her. The email to me said that Ms Ricardo strongly approves of being non-discriminatory, but that she had expressed a great deal of concern for herself and her daughter as regards this kind of "confrontation", and ended by saying that "the threat is real".

I know there is video of this meeting, and it may be necessary at some point to go back to the tape.

Several Council members responded to Ms. Ricardo's comments, including Council member George Leventhal; here it is almost impossible to pick out the contextual relevance of what he said.

Leventhal's comments included the notion that gay and transgender students get bullied in school. This is true, and it is a nontrivial issue, but it should be noted that Ms. Ricardo believed her daughter had been bullied because she was small, and had said nothing about her being gay. So maybe Leventhal conflated two topics, and maybe there was something else going on that made his comment sensible.

Anyway, first of all Fox 5 got hold of it, in their Foxish way:
A mother in Montgomery County made a desperate plea for help after her daughter was bullied and teased at school, but was left confused and outraged by the answer she received from a county councilman.

Valerie Ricardo brought up her concerns about bullying during the town hall-style meeting after reportedly four months of harassment.

The response County Councilman George Leventhal gave: "The issue of bullying in schools is extremely serious, but I would like to acknowledge one very important fact, and that is that the victims of bullying in so many cases are young people, who, over the course of their lives, are gay."

"It was a strange comment he interjected sexual orientation which had nothing to do with the core issue," Ricardo told Fox 5. "It undermines what my daughter went through and it undermines what a lot of children are going through."

Ricardo says her daughter has been kicked, poked, and called names for almost a year at school. She thinks it's because she's too small to defend herself.

Council member Leventhal did not want to be interviewed on camera but says he's comfortable with what he said and stands by his comments. Councilman's Comments Tie Bullying to Sexuality

Not everybody was real happy with Fox 5's coverage of this story, you might say. For one thing, they left out the fact that the woman herself had been discussing discrimination against gay and transgender people.

Yesterday's Gazette goes into the issue more thoroughly.
A county councilman has drawn fire over a comment concerning gays and bullying, but an area gay rights advocate has come to his defense.

At a town hall meeting in Clarksburg last week, Councilman George L. Leventhal said many victims of bullying are gay after a resident commented about that her daughter was being bullied at school.
‘‘It was totally inappropriate,” said Kathie Hulley, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association. ‘‘If the County Council is going to come out to a town meeting and somebody in distress asks a question, to go off on a tangent, which has no bearing to what she was asking, is really bad.”

Councilman Marc Elrich, who also attended the meeting, said ‘‘I don’t know why [Leventhal] went there.”

But Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, said Leventhal’s comments were being misconstrued.

‘‘Within the context of a discussion in which people were criticizing the county’s [anti-discrimination law regarding transgender individuals], which is up for referendum, Councilman Leventhal was simply trying to point out that gender non-conforming and [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] students face a higher rate of bullying,” Furmansky said. Councilman’s remark defended by gay rights advocate

That is the question: were Leventhal's comments misconstrued? He was speaking to a more or less hostile upcounty audience, they aren't all that happy with the gay thing, the transgender thing, in the first place, and a lot of them were there to oppose the new nondiscrimination law. So they were primed to react negatively when somebody spoke out against bullying of gay and transgender students. The Council members had to know they were walking into a minefield here before the meeting even started.
Leventhal’s statement came during a standing-room-only town hall meeting Wednesday at Little Bennett Elementary School. During a question-and-answer segment, Derwood resident Valerie Ricardo described how her daughter was being bullied at an area middle school. Ricardo went on to discuss the county’s anti-discrimination law covering transgendered individuals, and also discussed her fears of being approached by ‘‘a man with an exaggerated walk, a female walk” and ‘‘evil intent in his eye.”

‘‘So I want to say that the risk is real and I think that we need to take these situations of violence and bullying and crazy situations for what they are and begin to do something about it,” Ricardo ended her statement.

Three other council members responded to Ricardo’s statement, then Leventhal said the issue of bullying in schools is extremely serious. He then said, according to a transcript of the session provided by his office: ‘‘The victims of bullying in so many cases are young people, who, over the course of their lives, are gay.”

Okay, this is sounding more to me like something that has been blown out of proportion. Of course gay students are bullied, duh, it is a problem. And Leventhal was even careful not to describe a schoolchild as gay, but to note that "over the course of their lives" they are gay.
The interaction was first reported last Thursday night by WTTG-Fox 5 News. The station’s story drew criticism from Furmansky and Leventhal.

‘‘Fox 5 badly distorted my remarks and took them out of context,” said Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park. ‘‘Bullying is a serious issue for all victims. My expression was the hope that we would view all of our neighbors with love and tolerance.”

Elrich was still scratching his head a week later.

‘‘The only thing I can think he was going for was that gays get bullied more than other kids, but that was totally irrelevant to her concern,” said Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park. ‘‘I felt the appropriate answer was the way we could try to help kids not bully each other.”

Elrich is a good guy, he's on our side, and he was there, I take it, and he's confused. Well, I wouldn't want to be one of those guys. Every time they open their mouth somebody puts it in the paper or on TV. It sounds like Leventhal's response missed answering the lady's question, and tried to put her two points together, and ... it sounds like that didn't exactly work very well.
Before Ricardo’s comments, several speakers in the audience questioned council members about the county’s new transgender law. The law expands the county’s existing law to prohibit discrimination against transgendered people in housing, employment, cable television and taxi service. Opponents of the law collected enough signatures to have the law put on the ballot in November as a referendum.

‘‘The way I took Leventhal’s comment was that a majority of gay kids are bullied which is the case,” said Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, who was also at the meeting.

Trachtenberg (D-At large) of North Bethesda would not comment on whether Leventhal’s comments were out of order.

‘‘Apparently there are people who thought they heard something else and I really can’t comment on what they thought they heard,” she said. ‘‘Also, I think the mom who asked the question did combine different levels of issues because at the end she did get into commentary about the transgender bill and that wasn’t involved in the issue about her daughter directly.”

At some point I'm going to have to watch the video of this. It appears to be a pure matter of interpretation. Leventhal's comments, it does sound like, missed the point, because the lady's daughter is not bullied for her sexual orientation or gender identity but for another reason. On the other hand, the lady herself had brought up the question of discrimination against gay and transgender people, and it sounds like she was on both sides of the fence there, saying she was opposed to discrimination but also opposed to the nondiscrimination law and also threatened by a man who walked like a woman. You can hardly blame Leventhal for being confused there.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
So reading the accounts- I am confused and it sounds like this woman was as well. She brought up bullying of her daughter and then went into her odd remark" about a man walking like a women with an evil look in his eyes??? Leventhal gave an answer to what he thought she was saying- I would have asked security to remove the crazy woman.

March 26, 2008 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

I have a feeling that this woman was set up by the CRG... For some reason, her name seems familiar to me. Was she someone who wrote a letter to the editor in the Gazette?

Seems obviously fishy...


Derrick

March 26, 2008 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Was the woman saying that Trans people bully? That seems to be a major point by CRG, PFOX, CRWF a nd Colson? It sounds to me that she's saying that LGBT people are a threat (even without poisoning the wells or spreading the plague). Why did she go to Channel 5 with this? Is this bigoted grandstanding, like the Rio incident. Maybe Trans people should all be isolated on an island, or something.

rrjr

March 26, 2008 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Was the woman saying that Trans people bully? That seems to be a major point by CRG, PFOX, CRWF a nd Colson? It sounds to me that she's saying that LGBT people are a threat (even without poisoning the wells or spreading the plague). Why did she go to Channel 5 with this? Is this bigoted grandstanding, like the Rio incident. Maybe Trans people should all be isolated on an island, or something.

rrjr

March 26, 2008 1:31 PM  
Anonymous David Weintraub said...

It does sound, from all the descriptions taken together, that this woman was kind of rambling on about disjointed topics. She may have thought she was presenting a cohesive statement, but it sure seems that it didn't come out that way. I guess we'll have to see the tape to know.

I wouldn't go so far as to call her a "crazy woman" without seeing the tape, but I understand how frustrating it is to try to respond to someone effectively when they haven't been able to provide a cohesive statement or question.

March 27, 2008 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wouldn't go so far as to call her a "crazy woman" without seeing the tape"

Why not, DW? TTF believes in jumping to convenient conclusions.

March 27, 2008 6:40 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Valerie was a woman in distress, clearly, though it's hard to know about what she was distressed. Her question was long and rambling, and she was even given a follow-up question.

She started off mentioning her daughter being bullied, which, like the school redistricting questions, is not a Council issue. Had she stopped there, she would have received responses that she might have considered helpful, as were those she actually did receive. The problem is that she clearly segued into the trans issue, closing with a very incoherent statement about being accosted by a man whom she possibly perceived to be a woman, only to be saved by her friend, Dolores.

No one understood these comments, but by linking her daughter's being bullied with her apparent fear of trans women and her opposition to the bill she was clearly using her question to link trans women with predation. This, of course, is one of CRG's favorite approaches, but in this case if that was her goal she mucked it up and sowed confusion.

If her daughter is being bullied she needs to report it to the school and it will make its way to the Community Superintendent. No child should be bullied, for any reason.

March 27, 2008 7:22 PM  
Anonymous anony1234 said...

Robert and Derrick are correct, she's a Covenant Life Church member who is vehemently opposed to the LGBT lifestyle and feels extremely threatened by LGBT individuals. Her name may seem familiar as she has been lobbying against the trans issue especially after the RIO incident. She's on a mission....

March 29, 2008 9:07 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Was Valerie part of the hoax to which Theresa admitted?

March 29, 2008 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Was Valerie part of the hoax to which Theresa admitted?"

Theresa denied Jim's scurrilous allegation about a hoax, Dana. You're a liar.

March 29, 2008 3:09 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Scurrilous again!

Actually, in the interview with CWA Theresa admitted it was a hoax. She denied playing any part in it, but she admitted it was staged.

March 29, 2008 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're playing games with words, Dana.

You're scurrilous too.

March 31, 2008 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
See, so she is a crazy woman in my view- connected with Showerlike views.
I know about kids being bullied- we dealth with this when a boy attacked my son in middle school. The kid was suspended(after we found out from my son what happened- not the school- although school authorities knew what had happened) and a sort of restraining order put into effect- if he approached my son again, he would be expelled. I understood my son was not the first student this kid had harmed. The school had not been dealing with the situation.

So if your child was actually being bullied at school and you were concerned over how that was being handled- why would you then throw in your "concern"(hatred and bigotry) over transgender people at the same time? It seems suspicious to me- maybe trying to garner some sympathy and then toss in your real issue.

April 02, 2008 9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right in that Mrs. Ricardo has some mental issues. There is presently a restraining order against her, issued in St. Mary's Co. Maryland, following the violent attack she imposed on someone who did not agree with her.
So Ricardo bullied an innnocent guest in her home and will soon answer for it in State of MD. vs Ricardo. She needs mental help and anger management to say the least.
anonymous

January 21, 2010 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny whoever wrote this in 2010!

As always, Mrs. Ricardo is a compassionate, respectful and sensible woman who has a profound love for all people regardless of age, race or sexual orientation. Concerning your statement and lack of facts to support your allegations anon, how was she to know that a new acquaintance, who sought her friendship was actually schizophrenic and would try to extort money from her? As a matter of fact anon, this woman threatened her with trouble (bullied her) if she didn't pay saying she'd be sorry? Mrs. Ricardo got a restraining order on her first!

Come on, give me a break, the "truth" is that the woman who wouldn't leave her home after the extortion attempt, beat her up and then turned the tables to save her own a**. Then in an attempt to continue to do harm and retaliate (being nuts) she continued to harass her using the system, just because she could! The charges against Ms. Ricardo were found completely unsustainable and dropped as there were eye witnesses to the actual event as well as a 911 recording.

Unfortunately this woman, who has no fixed address, targets any well meaning citizen and particularly the elderly. This woman has a record, a history of violence, and pretends to be someone she's not portraying whatever figure she decides on at the time. Since she is estranged from her family, it is not obvious if she knows who she really is. This person goes from town to town looking for people she can take advantage of, steal from and hurt. She is a danger to all. She may even be the person who wrote this most recent statement.

So completely sad, the whole thing.

August 18, 2010 10:04 PM  

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