Police say a 16-year-old student repeatedly used anti-gay slurs during a violent attack on a trans classmate.
KALAMA, Wash. — Two students at Kalama High School in rural southwest Washington were arrested this week after one allegedly attacked a transgender classmate and another threatened to shoot students who gathered to protest following the assault, police said.
The initial attack took place on June 6 when police said a 16-year-old boy used anti-gay slurs towards two trans students on campus and said out loud, “There are too many f ****** in this school”.
One of the trans students took a swing at the boy’s comment, police said, and the boy responded by launching an attack on one of them. Police said the suspect continued to use anti-gay slurs during the assault, which ended when he kicked the victim in the head, leaving the victim with a concussion.
“I went to my friends and said, ‘What’s going on?'” said Layla Mumford, a student at the school. “And then they described the situation. I was like, ‘Isn’t this a hate crime?'”
Officers responded and collected witness statements and video evidence.
Then, on Monday, June 13, a week after the assault, students gathered on campus for a peaceful protest to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
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During the protest, police said a student allegedly told a classmate he wanted to point an automatic machine gun at participating students.
Although no firearms were seen, the boy’s classmate was ‘concerned enough to report the statements to school administrators’ and the high school and middle school were placed under quarantine, police said .
The two students involved in separate incidents were arrested on the same day.
Police say the 16-year-old who attacked his classmate is facing assault and hate crime charges. He was booked into the Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center.
The student suspected of threatening to shoot protesters was arrested off campus and his charges are still pending.
“From a law enforcement perspective, violations motivated by hate and bias will not be tolerated,” Kalama Police Chief Ralph Herrera said. “Every member of the Kalama community has the right to live free from intimidation, threats and violence.”
“I’m really relieved,” Mumford said. “There are finally people trying to help.”
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Time reported that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States. And according to UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly one in five people who identify as transgender are between the ages of 13 and 17.
Seth Johnstone, manager of the transgender justice program at Basic Rights Oregon, and Jess Guerriero of Oregon Health & Science University’s transgender health program said schools should do more to empower students to be themselves.
“The most important thing is to make sure that there are protections for young people and that we don’t see this type of discrimination when young people try to access their basic education,” Johnstone said.
“So many studies show that when there are supportive adults in a young person’s life, the rate of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation goes down. And often our young people have to rely on schools to provide them with that if they don’t have that at home or with their families,” Guerriero added. “And when we see school environments that don’t allow people to be themselves — and to being targeted to be themselves – it’s definitely a failure of the system, and adults need to step up for the young people.”