A fight at Hercules High School last month that involved a transgender student prompted a special meeting. Kimberly Tere reports.
A 16-year-old transgender student took to the podium Monday night to tell the school board about being bullied by three girls at school and how she felt she was left with no choice but to fight back.
"As I was telling her how she was being disrespectful and rude, she spits gum in her hand and throws it in my face," Jewlyes Gutierrez, a sophomore at Hercules High School told the West Contra Costa Unified School Board in Richmond. "It was just build-up, after build-up, after build-up and no one was there to really help me."
Jewlyes, who said she tried unsuccessfully to get help from her school's vice principal beforehand, ended up fighting with three girls at lunch on Nov. 15 - a fight that got captured on cellphone video, which shows some students pulling hair and pushing each other. Hercules police said Jewlyes started the fight by throwing the first punch.
Jewlyes and the three girls were suspended. She pleaded with the school board on Monday night to provide better support to LGBT students in her district. Jewelyes told NBC Bay Area she felt she didn't have a choice last month when she was confronted by her attackers.
"I was just sticking up for myself," she said. "Because you're different, you'll get picked on, you'll get name calling, bullied, taunted, harassed -- all those."
Jewlyes is the third reported Bay Area student in recent months to be caught up in a high-profile case of bullying over race or gender orientation.
On Nov. 4, an "agender" student, Sasha Fleischman, who wears a skirt suffered second- and third-degree burns when another teen allegedly set Fleischman's skirt on fire. And from August to mid-October, an African-American San Jose State University freshman was harrassed - to the point of having a bike lock fastened around his neck and being surrounded by slavery-era symbols - by at least four white students.
In each of those cases, the alleged perpetrators were charged by the district attorney, and school leaders vowed to do better in terms of crafting better no-bullying policies.
It's no different in West Contra Costa County. At Monday's meeting, school district member Charles Ramsey said his district's sexual harassment policy is not only outdated, but was never actually implemented throughout the schools.
In the meantime, Ramsey said not having a sexual harassment police leaves the district open to legal action.
The meeting made it clear work needs to be done on getting a new code in place, and also on getting more programs into the schools to support students of all orientations.
"There is no safety for us youth," student Charlie Campbell said. "There's nothing for us here to do to help better ourselves. Not one person has stepped up in schools to say and help students and the LGBT group."
Bay City news contributed to this report.