Transgender student bullied in bathroom could be punished before boys who harassed him

Mother is left concerned about her transgender son’s safety after he was bullied in his school’s bathroom by his classmates last week. On Monday, August 23, her son Tobi had entered a boys restroom. Shortly after a group of boys entered and started chanting, “transphobic slurs, and then it got louder and louder… they started hitting and kicking at the stall door, so Tobi had to use his back to brace it and then put his foot on the toilet to keep the door shut,” shared the devastated mother.

The panic-stricken 16-year-old immediately texted his friend for help and held on to the door for as long as he could. “When finally somebody came in to clear out the bathroom, the assistant principal found Tobi in the bathroom stall, crying, scared to death,” shared Yandle. “I think the scenario going through Tobi’s head was they were going to physically harm him.” What’s more upsetting is that the 16-year-old could be punished even though he was the one harassed at his high school, claimed mother Sherri Yandle.

Per Tennesse’s new bathroom law for public schools, transgender students cannot be in a bathroom when others are present. If flouted, they can be punished for it. As a transgender student, Tobi has special permission to use the male faculty bathroom but that day it was locked. “So he ducked into the boys’ room and went into the first stall he saw available,” shared Yandle. When the furious mother called the school officials about it, she was told, “…because of Governor Lee’s laws the other students could sue the school if they didn’t like it that a transgender child [was] in the bathroom.”

“I don’t understand why my son would be punished when he’s the victim of what to me is a hate crime,” she expressed according to News Channel 5. Although the assistant principal intervened, the boys were not punished immediately. Thus, Yandle contacted the Sheriff’s Office, which has now started an investigation into the harassment complaint. A spokesperson for Siegel High School has assured the school district that it will investigate any allegations of sexual harassment or discrimination under the federal Title IX act, which prohibits sex discrimination in an educational setting. 

As for Tobi, he has been deeply affected by the incident as he experienced excruciating headaches that have disturbed his concentration and sleep. Despite this, he has been determined about sharing his story with everyone just so he could “help others” who are in a similar situation as him. “He shouldn’t have to be worried about being harassed or attacked for going to the bathroom, him nor anyone else,” expressed Yandle. “Not just transgender children, but all children.” The mother feels that the school is letting the laws get in the way of their responsibility to protect the students. “They are not supposed to let any child be bullied, and all children are supposed to be safe when they go to school and in that instance, I feel like this school failed,” said Yandle. 

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