Jewelyes Gutierrez, a 16-year-old transgender student at Hercules High School in Martinez, California, is facing a misdemeanor battery charge after she fought back against the students who repeatedly tormented her. Although she originally looked to school officials to stop the bullying from her three female classmates, the harassment continued until Gutierrez lashed out on November 14th of last year.
The incident was sparked by taunts and bullying from Gutierrez's classmates, but her reaction was caught on a cell phone video that eventually made its way to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office. Gutierrez, who was born male and is being raised by adoptive parents, admits to starting the fight, but only after being bullied for being transgendered. "It comes to a point where you can't take it anymore," she told ABC7.
Gutierrez was the only student hit with criminal charges related to the incident, and the assistant district attorney is declining to discuss the case without a court order. Public defender Kaylie Simon, meanwhile, highlighted the message those charges send to bullied teens: "I think by charging her, it sends a message to bullies that you can bully individuals, and that adults will then further victimize the person that you've been tormenting."
Likewise, the incident has called the local school district's policies on bullying and harassment into question. "If a crime happens, a crime happens," school board president Charles Ramsey told CBS5, "but, I’d like to have a better understanding of the rationale and motivation behind it and sort of learn why this is not a punishment enough, especially when the child expresses a position that they had been bullied."
None of the other girls involved in the fight were seriously injured. Now that her case is receiving national attention, Gutierrez says she is starting a petition to have the District Attorney's case against her dropped. She is due in court on February 5th.