Larry King's feminine attire was upsetting some of the students and faculty at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard.
But there was nothing Assistant Principal Joy Epstein could do about it because King's high-heeled boots, earrings and eye makeup were within the Oxnard school's dress policy, Epstein testified Monday at the murder trial of King's classmate, Brandon McInerney.
Epstein consulted with an administrator at the Hueneme Elementary School District after King started coming to school in late January 2008 in women's accessories. Epstein was told that, by law, as long as the 15-year-old student wore the school's uniform, he was entitled to embellish as he pleased.
"They said we had to protect his civil rights and his equal rights," Epstein said. "We could not discriminate between a boy or a girl wearing those items to school."
Epstein's testimony came on the fifth day of McInerney's murder trial. The prosecution alleges McInerney, then 14, shot King twice in the head at school in February 2008 because the two had been feuding and McInerney disliked the flamboyant student. Prosecutors say the slaying constituted a hate crime.
Ventura County Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox is trying to make the case that McInerney was motivated in part by his budding "white power" beliefs, which hold homosexuality as an abomination. If convicted, McInerney, 17, faces 53 years to life in prison.
McInerney's defense lawyers concede their client pulled the trigger, but only after King sexually harassed him and school administrators refused to do anything.
The teenager is being tried as an adult in a Chatsworth courtroom, where the case was moved because of heavy news coverage in Ventura County.
Teacher Dawn Boldrin, who told jurors in earlier testimony that she offered King tips on applying makeup and gave him a prom dress, testified Monday that she had not sought permission from King's foster care guardian before giving him the dress.
"It seemed that the foster care he was in was not condoning it, per se, but at least was allowing him to finally do as he wanted to do," Boldrin told the court.
King was removed from his parents' home in late December 2007 for undisclosed reasons. After returning from the winter break, he began wearing women's accessories and makeup to school. Epstein said she first noticed King's new attire in late January, when she saw a substitute teacher refusing to let him in class.
Epstein took King to her office and then called the school district office to find out how to proceed, Epstein testified. She was told that unless his dress was causing a disruption in class or was somehow unsafe, he was within his rights to wear girl's items.
She sent King back to class. Later, after the three administrators met to discuss the issue, Assistant Principal Sue Parsons sent an email to the school's staff informing them not to make an issue of King's attire.
But trouble was brewing. Martha Romero, a science teacher, testified that she saw some kind of scuffle involving McInerney outside her classroom the day before the shooting. Two or three boys were restraining McInerney, who appeared agitated over something.
Romero said she found out later that King had just said "I love you, baby!" to McInerney as they passed in a corridor. Earlier testimony revealed that later that day McInerney told a friend he was going to bring a gun to school the next day.
During first period the next morning, he sat behind King in a computer lab and shot him twice in the back of the head.