Transgender student threatened, school closes

School officials in Oklahoma decided to close a public school for two days after a 12-year-old transgender student was threatened on Facebook.

Posted: Aug 16, 2018 9:34 AM
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 9:48 AM

A rural Oklahoma school system closed for two days earlier this week after a group of adults made threatening Facebook comments about a 12-year-old transgender girl, Achille Public Schools Superintendent Rick Beene said.

The incident began after the student used the middle school girl's bathroom this year at Achille school system in southern Oklahoma, Beene said. In previous years at the district elementary school, she had used the staff bathroom.

Two district parents complained about her use of the girl's bathroom in a private Facebook group called "Achille ISD Parents Group," which is not officially affiliated with the school, according to Beene.

The threats escalated in severity and number when someone made the Facebook group public, Beene said, and some of the Facebook threats have been traced to other parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

According to CNN affiliate KXII, Facebook commenters called the seventh grader, "it" and "thing." One Facebook poster suggested it was open hunting season for transgender people, and others advocated for the 12-year-old to be stabbed or beaten up.

"That's scary," Brandy Rose, the girl's mother, told KXII. "These are adults making threats to a child. I don't understand it."

The Facebook page appears to have since been deleted. Still, Rose said the comments had scared her daughter.

"She's just an awesome kid. To see any kind of fear in her like that, because other people, especially adults, I can't explain how bad that hurts me," she said.

Decision to close school

School system officials met Sunday night with members of the local police and fire departments, as well as Bryan County Sheriff Johnny Christian, who ultimately requested the school close for two days, according to Beene.

"This was never an issue with any of our kids or school staff, just with this group of adults," Beene said. "Some of whom aren't even in this school district or town."

LGBTQ supporters held a small peaceful rally outside the school, and Beene said the decision to close was made in part to keep them safe if counterprotesters showed up.

"We just weren't sure where some of these threats were coming from," Beene said.

Beene said district officials have met with the transgender student and her mother, and Achille Public Schools resumed classes Wednesday morning.

"We had a great visit with the student and her mom this morning, and she is back in class today," according to Beene.

The student's mother has also filed a protective order against one of the district parents who made Facebook comments about her daughter, Beene said.

CNN has also reached out to Christian, the sherriff, but did not receive a response.

PFLAG Oklahoma City Board of Directors, a group made up of the families and allies of LGBTQ individuals, posted an open letter to the Achille ISD saying group members were "heartbroken, angered and dismayed" by the Facebook posts.

The letter called on the school administration to publicly denounce the Facebook comments and their violent threats.

"The Achille ISD community MUST show that they stand by their stated values by actively and publicly supporting and protecting this family," the letter said. "This should include not just the child but also her parents, who we imagine are also heartsick, angry and terrified for their child's safety.

"That's not hyperbole. That is the reality too many families in the LGBTQ community face on a daily basis."

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