By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com November 21 2013 5:44 PM ET
Four female high school sophomores, including a transgender student, have been suspended from Hercules High School in Northern California, while officials investigate a schoolyard brawl that was captured on video by a student's cellphone.
School officials said the fight broke out last week after some female students began verbally harassing the trans teen about her gender identity. Though the trans student was the first to initiate physical contact, numerous reports allege that the teenager was reacting to verbal harassment and continued bullying from a group of her peers.
Despite initial reports that police and school district officials might investigate the incident as a hate crime — the transgender student had reportedly complained to administrators about the bullying she was suffering just days before the attack — the Bay Area Reporter notes that officials are no longer pursuing that avenue, since all four 16-year-olds were actively involved in the fight.
"It's not about the transgender issue," Adam Taylor, executive director of K-12 schools at the West Contra Costa Unified School District, told the Bay Area Reporter. "It's really about friendships or allegiances that kids see."
All four students suffered minor injuries, and two of the cisgender (nontrans) students involved indicated that they want to press battery charges against the trans student. But the 16-year-old transgender girl also said she wants to press charges against the two girls who initially attacked her. A third girl joined in the melee after two others began beating the trans student and pulling her hair.
BAR reports that the school district has an antiharassment policy in place but that it doesn't expressly mention sexual orientation or gender identity. All of the high schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District have gay-straight alliances and other groups advocating acceptance for trans, queer, and gender-nonconforming students in place, reports BAR.
Nevertheless, the trans teen at the center of the fight said she wants to transfer schools because the harassment at Hercules High is too much to handle, according to Charles Ramsey, a 20-year veteran of the local school board.