On Thursday, Jewlyes Gutierrez, a transgender student from Hercules, Calif., received some good news. Gutierrez, who has been charged with battery following a schoolyard altercation, has entered into an agreement with Judge Thomas M. Maddock of the Juvenile Division of Contra Costa County Superior Court that may spare her a conviction.
Gutierrez has agreed to begin a restorative justice program. Restorative justice is an approach sometimes used in juvenile cases, where both the victims of a crime and those who have allegedly committed it are mutually involved. These methods may include peer mediation, peer juries, talking circles, or other methods of conflict resolution. Gutierrez, who had been the target of bullying and harassment in the months leading up to the incident, hopes to acheive reconciliation with the other students who were involved in the November altercation.
Prominent LGBT advocacy groups voiced approval of the agreement. “I am relieved to know that Jewlyes will now have the chance to find peace and safety outside of the criminal justice system," said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. "Youth belong in schools, not jails. All students, including transgender students, should be able to go to school feeling safe and supported. At Transgender Law Center we have heard time and time again from transgender youth, especially youth of color, who are being excluded from being able to participate fully in school due to concerns about safety.”
In May, Gutierrez will make another court appearance to report on her progress. Both Gutierrez and her public defender, Kaylie Simon, are optimistic that the battery charge will be dropped.