A 16-year-old California transgender student who stood up to three bullies, who she claims have taunted her for years over her gender identity, is facing criminal charges. The other three teens were only suspended, the New York Daily News reports.
Jewlyes Gutierrez, a student at Hercules High School in Hercules, Calif., says she snapped during a Nov. 15 fight, which was captured on cellphone video.
According to the Daily News, the video shows four girls scratching and pulling each other's hair before Jewlyes is seen trying to run away.
Initially, all four students were suspended, the Contra Costa Unified School District confirmed, but 10 days later, only Jewlyes was charged with battery by the district attorney.
Charles Ramsey, the school district's president, told the Daily News that the decision to charge Jewlyes is biased and absurd.
"There are fights that happen at school campuses every day. What's the real motive here? I've never seen something where a child has been bullied and, yeah, they did something inappropriate but the school dealt with it. They went through a period of apologizing to one another and then going back to school. And then the district attorney filed criminal charges? Wow," Ramsey told the Daily News.
Ramsey said he praises the teen's bravery for turning the situation into a public discussion by bringing the story to local media.
"This is just a young child who is 16 years old, already going through a lot of stress," Ramsey said. "This is a remedy? Is this the way we want to deal with children?"
An online petition against the charge on Change.org was created Jewlyes' sister. The petition claims that the teen faced taunting, harassment and "during one particular incident, a peer even spit gum in her face" before the November fight broke out.
She writes that Jewlyes sought help from her school's vice principal, which Ramsey confirmed, but the bullying continued.
As of Thursday afternoon the petition had received 427 signatures—short of the 573 requested, the Daily News reports.
Ramsey said that he plans to hold a community-wide meeting addressing the situation on Jan. 29, and he hopes the nation's entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community helps Jewlyes' fight.
The Transgender Law Center spoke with the Daily News about the charges.
"Jewlyes, like so many transgender people, was the victim of constant harassment and attacks just because of who she is," said the center's legal director, Ilona Turner. "The charges against Jewlyes should be dropped immediately."
Read more at New York Daily News.