A high school in North Pole, Alaska, expelled a girl who kicked a boy in the groin after he entered the girl's bathroom. The boy was there as a form of "protest" against a third student — who is transitioning from female to male — who posted a selfie from the boy's bathroom.
The incident at North Pole High School began earlier this month when the transgender student posted the selfie from the boys' bathroom on Snapchat, according to Dr. Karen Gaborik, the superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.
A group of boys at the school became "upset about the public nature of the post and restroom use," Gaborik said in a statement.
So they decided to enter a girls' restroom at the school to take their own Snapchat selfie "as a form of protest" against the transgender student's post, the statement said.
"Tomorrow identify as a women and use the women's bathroom if you want this shit to end," a snap about the protest — that was reposted on Facebook — said. "If we identify as Women and use the girls bathroom we are set so let's do it, don't do it to be a asshole we are doing it to boycot this bullshit."
On the day of the protest, the group of boys made their way to the girls' restroom.
As the first boy in the group made it past the door of the bathroom, a girl who was leaving the restroom kicked him in the groin, Gaborik said. All the boys turned around and left the area.
The school district said it conducted a Title IX investigation and disciplined the girl — who is not related to the transgender student — for using force against another student.
The school said it also disciplined seven boys for attempting to enter the girls' restroom. The school did not identify any of the students and did not provide details on the disciplinary actions against them.
However, the girl's family told BuzzFeed News on Monday that she was "expelled indefinitely" from the school.
"My sister was expelled for kneeing a guy in the dick after he was blocking her in the WOMENS bathroom," the girl's sister said in a widely shared tweet on Friday.
The girl is appealing her expulsion at a hearing with the school district scheduled later this week, her sister told BuzzFeed News. The family did not want to identify the girl pending the district's decision on the appeal.
"We do not advocate physical or psychological violence as a means to attain safety," Gaborik said in her statement. "If a student uses force against another student or against staff, that use of force is evaluated for potential discipline under the self-defense laws of the State and the facts and circumstances of the incident."
The school district's investigation found that there was no evidence that the boys threatened other students or used force against anyone.
Gaborik told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the boy who was kicked in the groin was referred for medical treatment by a school health aide, but that "it wasn't like a 911 call."
The boy was not immediately available for comment.
In a Facebook comment about the incident, the girl who kicked the boy defended her actions saying, "These guys (and men some were 18) came into the female bathroom and scared me. And in a reaction I kneed him. I didn't even know what I did till after. I was scared. There was no way for me to leave the bathroom or I would have."
The incident came to light on Friday when a Republican state representative of North Pole, Tammie Wilson, said she supported the girl's use of force against the boy, during an unrelated news conference.
"I don’t care why the boys were in the bathroom,” Wilson said at the news conference. "I heard there was some kind of protest going on, but doesn't matter. I just wanted to make sure I had this opportunity to tell those young ladies at North Pole High School... if you ever feel threatened for your safety, whatever force you think you have to give, I will stand behind you. And so will our community."
Wilson told BuzzFeed News on Monday that she "absolutely" supported the girl's actions against the boy.
"The boys did not belong in the girls bathroom. They were blocking the doorway and she felt threatened," Wilson said.
Wilson said that she brought up the incident at the news conference because she had just gotten off the phone with the superintendent who had told her that the girl had been expelled for using "excessive force."
Wilson said that the school was sending the "wrong message" to young women by expelling the girl. She said that girls shouldn't have to decide "at a moment's notice how much force you should utilize if you're feeling threatened."
She said that that even though the boys were upset about the transgender student's actions, they ended up "violating someone else." If the boys felt passionately about the issue, they should have taken it up with the school board or used other avenues to protest, Wilson said.
The incident also drew attention to the school district's policies on the use of bathrooms by transgender students, that has long been a subject of nationwide political and legal debate.
Gaborik said that staff at North Pole High School have known of at least 16 transgender students in the past three years. She added that there are "numerous" transgender students and staff members in the school district.
"When a student identifies as transgender in our district, the student (and often the family) work with school counselors and administration to determine how to best meet that student’s educational needs," Gaborik's statement said.
"The conversation includes use of restrooms. Each situation is addressed individually," she added.
She said that some transgender students choose to use gender-neutral restrooms or single-person restrooms at various locations around the school. She said that some trans students "continue to use the restroom of their birth gender" while others use restrooms that "correspond to their gender identity."
"The entire school community needs to work together to ensure that all students feel welcomed, safe and are able to learn and thrive," Gaborik said. "We recognize that parents, students and members of our community feel strongly about these issues, but advocating for the use of violence does not contribute to a safe learning environment."