KALAMA, Wash. — Two students at Kalama High School in rural southwest Washington were arrested this week after one of them allegedly attacked a transgender classmate and another threatened to shoot students who gathered to protest in the wake of the assault, according to police.
The initial attack happened on June 6 when police said a 16-year-old boy used anti-gay slurs toward two trans students on campus and loudly stated, "there are too many f****** at this school."
One of the trans students took a swing following the boy's comment, police said, and the boy responded by launching into an assault on one of them. Police said the suspect continued using anti-gay slurs during the assault, which ended when he kicked the victim in the head, leaving the victim with a concussion.
"I went up to my friends, and was like, 'What's going on?'" said Layla Mumford, a student at the school. "And then they described the situation. I was like, 'Isn't that a hate crime?'"
Officers responded and gathered witness statements and video evidence.
Then on Monday, June 13 — one week after the assault, students gathered on campus for a peaceful demonstration to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
During the demonstration, police said a male student reportedly expressed to a classmate that he wanted to point an automatic machine gun toward the participating students.
Although no gun was seen, the boy's classmate was "concerned enough that they reported the statements to school administrators" and the high school and middle school were placed on lockdown, police said.
Both students in the separate incidents were arrested that same day.
Police said the 16-year-old who attacked his classmate is facing assault and hate crime charges. He was booked at the Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center.
The student suspected of threatening to shoot demonstrators was arrested off campus and his charges are still pending.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, hate-motivated and bias-based violations will not be tolerated," said Kalama Police Chief Ralph Herrera. "Every member of the Kalama community has the right to live free of intimidation, threats, and violence."
"I'm really relieved," Mumford said. "There's finally some people trying to help."
Time reported that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the U.S. And according to UCLA's Williams Institute, nearly one in five people who identify as transgender are between the ages 13-17.
Seth Johnstone, transgender justice program manager with Basic Rights Oregon, and Jess Guerriero with Oregon Health & Science University's Transgender Health Program said the schools should be doing more to let students be their true selves.
"The most important thing is making sure that there are protections for young people and that we're not seeing this type of discrimination when young people are trying to access their basic education," said Johnstone.
"So many studies show that when there are supportive adults in a young person's life, the rate of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation goes down. And a lot of times, our youth have to count on schools to provide that if they don't have that in their homes or with their families," Guerriero added. "And when we see school environments that aren't supportive of folks being their true selves — and being targeted for being their true selves — it's definitely a failure of the system, and adults need to step up for youth."