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Michigan Groups Lash Out at Asst. AG; Demand Action by Mike Cox

October 4, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - Some of Michigan's largest social justice organizations are demanding action from state Attorney General Mike Cox regarding an assistant under fire for criticizing a student leader who is homosexual. National Association of Social Workers-Michigan chapter, Equality Michigan and several other groups want Cox to fire Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell, who made national headlines last week for his ongoing personal attacks on openly-homosexual University of Michigan student body President Chris Armstrong. Shirvell is a U of M grad who says Armstrong is pushing a "gay agenda" at the school.

National Association of Social Workers-Michigan executive director Maxine Thome says social workers have a professional obligation to fight all forms of discrimination.

"We are bound to promote social justice and social change on behalf of clients. And clients include families, groups, organizations and communities. What we will work for is the removal of Shirvell and the protection of Chris Armstrong."

Thome says Shirvell's actions, and those of two students at Rutgers University that led to last week's suicide of a college freshman there, are examples of the serious damage that occurs with cyber-bullying. She says schools have the power to counteract some of the negative impacts of social media.

"Curriculum is a key place to do that. In early education through university education (schools) can address and normalize LGBT youth and issues. That will be a critical step."

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued a statement related to the controversy, urging people to speak out against intolerance.

In addition to Thome's organization, the LGBT advocacy groups Equality Michigan and Affirmations are leading a letter-writing campaign asking that Shirvell be fired. So far he has been suspended from his position, but the attorney general says Shirvell did not break any laws and his actions outside of work are protected by the First Amendment.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI