EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — An East Millinocket teenager has been suspended from Schenck High School and is being evaluated by juvenile court authorities after he was issued a summons for threatening a transgender student, officials said Friday.
The boy, 15, was issued a summons for terrorizing on March 5 after he allegedly threatened to shoot the 18-year-old senior, who was born female and identifies as a male, because he objected to the way the transgender student dressed, police said. The Bangor Daily News is not naming the accused boy because he is a juvenile and is not naming the transgender student because he is allegedly a victim.
“There were some comments made towards [the transgender student’s] sexual orientation, I guess you could say,” said East Millinocket police Officer Kevin Giberson, who investigated the incident. “There were some threats toward [the student’s] life. It rose beyond what you could call typical bullying toward the [student] – if there is such a thing as typical bullying — and that is when we stepped in.”
The threat occurred during a bus ride home on Feb. 15. The transgender student told his parents, who alerted police the following week, Giberson said. Giberson interviewed a half-dozen people, including some present when the alleged threat occurred, before issuing the summons, he said. The interviews took several weeks.
“February [school] vacation kind of got in the way of it,” Giberson said of the interview process.
The East Millinocket School Committee voted unanimously during a meeting about two weeks ago to suspend the student until the end of the school year, AOS 66 Superintendent Quenten Clark said Friday. The issue took several meetings to resolve.
Clark declined to comment further.
The incident, Giberson said, was the first he has experienced involving a transgender person.
The transgender student’s father has previously declined comment.
The Region 3 Juvenile Community Corrections Officer handling the case, Josh Ash, has not decided whether it warrants a referral to a juvenile court judge, Giberson said.
It could not be determined whether the incident would he handled or recorded as a hate crime. Ash was off Friday and could not be reached for comment.
The transgender student told Giberson that the harassment and bullying the student endured from the alleged perpetrator had been going on all school year, since September, Giberson said.
“The [student] said it was a constant thing. It was a constant thing, but this was the first time it rose to the level of a threat,” Giberson said.
As far as Giberson knows, no other students had been involved in the issuance of criminal threats, Giberson said.
He complimented the transgender student’s parents for handling the incident appropriately.
“I think [the student] was definitely scared. It had gotten to the point where [the student] had enough, to the point where [the student] was afraid to go to school and that is just not a good situation for any student to be in,” Giberson said. “I think the parents in this situation handled it very well by making the determination to report it to the police.”
“No child should have to be subjected to bullying, but when it gets to this level, it absolutely should be reported to police,” he added.
Any East Millinocket, Medway or Woodville parent whose child has been bullied in a criminal manner should call police at 746-3555, Giberson said.
“The first logical step in a bullying situation is to work with the school. Certainly if it gets to the point where a law is broken, a threat is made or worse, the police should be involved,” he added.
Issues involving transgender students are not unheard of in Maine schools. The Maine Principals’ Association approved on Thursday a new policy that provides a pathway for transgender high school student-athletes in the state to participate in interscholastic sports.
A lawsuit over a transgender student’s use of the girls’ bathroom at an Orono elementary school was decided in favor of the school last year.