Justin Lookadoo

Justin Lookadoo

By now you’ve likely heard about the dustup caused last week at Richardson High School when students turned the tables on speaker and author Justin Lookadoo, questioning his advice on becoming more “dateable.” The immediate reaction of some teens to tips like “dateable girls know how to shut up” and “dateable guys know they are stronger and more dangerous” was to walk out. Others took to Twitter to protest his misogynistic message. By the time he opened it up to Q&A, he recognized the hostility and booked a hasty exit.

The event made state-wide and national headlines.

First year Principal Charles Bruner, former longtime leader at Forest Meadow Junior High in Lake Highlands, issued a public apology, but behind the scenes he gathered student leaders to brainstorm about how to make lemonade from lemons.

“I really appreciated the way he listened to our ideas for ways make things better at Richardson High School,” said Berryman Toler, a senior on the award-winning Eagle debate team (and – full disclosure – my nephew).

“We can all admit Wednesday was a disaster,” added Berryman. “Lookadoo told the females in the audience ‘you are the most vindictive, evil creatures on the face of the earth’ – it doesn’t get much worse than that. But Mr. Bruner took the blame. He apologized to us, he said it was on him for not nixing the assembly before it happened. Contrary to the rumor around school, he said there would be no punishment for those who tweeted about it – in fact, he had praise for those who stood up for what was wrong.”

By Friday morning, Bruner was meeting with class officers, and by the afternoon, he was seeking input from unofficial student leaders from a variety of ages and backgrounds – including Berryman.

“We talked about lots of ways to move forward in a positive manner,” Berryman told me. “We agreed that this episode made RHS look bad. Moving forward, we all want to build up RHS. We’re planning to have a pep rally for something Richardson does best – academics. Instead of focusing on beating another team, we’re going to celebrate the accomplishments and diversity that makes Richardson such a unique community, with a social media theme – #weReagles.”

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis

As a counterpoint to Lookadoo’s “girls are soft” views, Berryman is gathering signatures to invite gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis to speak to the student body at Richardson.

“I can’t imagine anyone whose message is more contrary,” said Berryman. “Wendy Davis speaks about empowerment to women and young people. I don’t know if her busy schedule would permit, but I think she would be well-received.”