A middle school in Tualatin, Oregon, would not comment on whether a student who was seen beating up a smaller girl in a school hallway earlier this month is transgender.
Hazelbrook Middle School spokesperson Traci Rose told The Oregonian that federal law prohibited the school from discussing a student’s gender identity.
Video footage of the incident showed a larger student wearing girl’s clothes dragging a smaller girl classmate by her backpack in the hallway before pulling the victim’s hair and hitting her several times.
The attack left the victim in tears, and can be heard in the video saying, “I can’t breathe.” It is unclear what prompted the beating.
The identities of the two students have not been publicly released, but the video led to public outrage after it was shared online. Some members of the public angered by the incident have alleged that the attacker is transgender, but it is unclear at this time if the student is actually transgender.
Tualatin Police arrested the suspected attacker on assault charges and the case has been referred to the Washington County Juvenile Department, Oregon Live reported.
The video of the attack was shared widely on social media, including by former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who has been a vocal advocate against transgender women competing in women’s sports since she competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in college.
After the attack and subsequent outrage over the incident, the school was forced to evacuate on Friday over social media and email threats to bomb and shoot up the school.
Bomb threats were made against the homes of school and district staffers and city officials the day after the clip was shared on social media. Threats of a school shooting were also made, and the school was forced to evacuate its staff and students.
The school board said in a statement on Thursday that the students in the video of the hallway attack had not consented to it being shared and that the clip prompted “false information and a focus and discourse on sexual identity.”
“These acts have contributed to the trauma individuals and families are already experiencing,” the statement read.
A petition was shared among parents who called for harsher penalties for students who commit violence, particularly for repeat offenders.
A video of a second incident that allegedly involved the same attacker was shared online. In this clip, the student could be seen shoving another girl to the ground. A third student attempted to intervene, but the attacker began also hitting her, throwing her to the ground and throwing more punches.
The fight ended after an adult was heard instructing the students to back away.
District superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith described the second incident as “horrific” but that the incident had been addressed by the school’s principal and staff.
“Now that [the second video] has come to this office’s attention, I too am concerned about a repeated pattern and all the pieces around that … I have to get more information from the school, so I can understand that incident, how it was investigated and how it relates to the [other] one. That is the work that is ahead of me,” Rieke-Smith told parents last week.
The superintendent defended the district’s discipline policy that explains how students can learn from their mistakes, especially for minor behavior violations, including bullying and physical contact that is not assault.
“Zero tolerance is antithetical to our work as educators,” she said Friday. “If it is safe for the victim and the school community as a whole to extend an opportunity for the student to relearn different behavior, that is what we do.”
But Rieke-Smith said that when an incident rises to an assault, there is “no tolerance,” adding that an immediate referral to law enforcement would then be made. She said that is what happened in the case of the first video.