General Crime

Authorities could pursue charges against teen that fabricated report of assault in a Hercules High School bathroom

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Investigators said today they are looking into possibly pursuing charges against a transgender teenager for falsely claiming he was physically and sexually assaulted in a Hercules High School bathroom on Monday. The 15-year-old ninth-grader, who identifies as male, had told police he was attacked by three boys as he was leaving a bathroom of the school, located at 1900 Refugio Valley Road, police said. Police were investigating the attack as a hate crime. The incident had prompted an emergency meeting at the high school this morning involving top administrators.

Hercules High has been the site of previous problems, including a Nov. 13 fight involving transgender student Jewlyes Gutierrez, 16, who identifies as female. The student’s report on Monday also garnered a response from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who had authored recent legislation about transgender rights at schools. Among other rights, Ammiano’s law, which went into effect in January, allows transgender students to use bathrooms according to the gender with which they identify.

In a turn of events, however, the student today admitted he had fabricated the incident while being interviewed by a detective. West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education President Charles Ramsey responded to news of the false claim today by saying he was “relieved it didn’t happen.” Despite the phony report, Ramsey said, “We have to support the student” and better understand what compelled him to make up the story. Police said that as officers investigated the attack, they were unable to substantiate details from the student’s statement, including the time frame of the incident. He also didn’t have injuries consistent with his account of what happened, according to police. A spokesman for Ammiano’s office, Carlos Alcala, today echoed sentiments of relief.

However, he said after learning about the fabricating story, “I think it is very obvious that this does not change the reality that this exists out there.” He continued, “Transgender students find it a very difficult world to get through.” He said this incident shows that “we need to do what we can to support all students so they feel they can have safe and equal environments at their school.” As to the possible arrest of the student, Alcala said Ammiano would not find that an appropriate response. Ammiano initially had said that the purported suspects “must be found and they must face consequences and go through counseling.” Similarly, Alcala said the student should receive counseling and “consequences instead of punishment.”

Additionally, he said regarding the administration’s handling of transgender and student safety, “the criticisms leveled at the school” have not been recanted. “They are still an issue of concern,” he said. Ammiano had said in a statement today before the student’s admission was revealed, “We also have to hold the adults accountable for not providing a safe environment for all students.”

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