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HERCULES (CBS SF) — Investigators looking into the sexual assault of a transgender student at a school in Hercules say the suspects may not even have been students at the school.
School district administrators held an early morning meeting Tuesday to discuss the latest incident at Hercules High School on Monday in which a transgender ninth-grader was attacked and sexually assaulted in a campus bathroom.
Police are investigating the attack as a hate crime, and said it occurred around 11 a.m. Monday in a boys’ bathroom at the school located at 1900 Refugio Valley Road.
The victim is a 15-year-old student who identifies as male. He was attacked by three boys believed to be about 16 or 17 years old as he was leaving the bathroom, police spokeswoman Detective Connie Van Putten said.
The student was confronted and held in the bathroom, where he was physically and sexually assaulted, she said.
Following the attack, the student reported the incident to the student health center and was taken to a hospital. He was released from the hospital Monday night, Van Putten said.
Detectives are continuing their investigation on campus. Police have yet to identify any suspects, and it is unknown whether the attackers are students at the school, Van Putten said.
West Contra Costa County Unified School District board of education president Charles Ramsey called the incident a “heinous crime.”
There are no surveillance cameras in Building 300 where the attack occurred, Ramsey said.
Top administrators, including the district’s Associate Superintendent Wendell Greer, held an emergency meeting at 7:30 a.m. on campus to discuss the attack and decide how to proceed, Ramsey said.
Psychologists were available Tuesday on campus for students, he said.
The school has been the site of previous problems, including a Nov. 13 fight involving transgender student Jewlyes Gutierrez, 16, who identifies as female.
Jewlyes was charged with misdemeanor battery in connection with the fight, which was caught on video.
After her family put together a petition claiming that Gutierrez had been repeatedly bullied and harassed before the fight, the charges were dropped, Ramsey said.
Ramsey did not know if the 15-year-old targeted in Monday’s attack had dealt with prior bullying on campus.
“Why is this happening now at Hercules?” Ramsey said. “It’s a major problem. It’s been out of control.”
He said the school board is already scheduled to discuss school safety at its upcoming March 12 meeting. Ramsey said campus security has been increased in the past year, and that there are now two police officers on campus.
Ramsey said that aside from security, there needs to be more dialogue in the school community to create a safer culture.
“Where’s the tolerance?” he said. “We have to have a heightened consciousness.”
“I think that there’s a real tragedy here. It’s not the first incident,” said San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who authored Assembly Bill 1266, which states that transgendered K-12 students in California must be granted access to school restrooms and locker rooms in public schools that align with their chosen gender identity.
Ammiano said any outreach done for students on the serious consequences for attacks, whether they are gender based or not, have simply not clicked in yet.
“There is one thing to have something on paper, but there’s another thing to really implement it. It’s a shame that it’s gotten to this extreme.”
Ammiano said the attempt (which ultimately failed) to repeal his bill, proves his point that when you try to make the transgendered student the enemy and when you dehumanize them, that only encourages the type of violence being seen at the school in Hercules.
“You need a multi-pronged attempt,” he said to deal with the issue in public schools. “You need parents, you need law enforcement. You need principals. You need to break down into small groups. You need people who are transgendered to come to the school and speak out.”
Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call Hercules police at (510) 724-1111 or Hercules police Detective Dwayne Collard at (510) 799-8267.
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