A school in Oklahoma is shut down for two days after threats were made against a 12-year-old student.
Achille School is not normally in the news. After all, the small town is only home to around 500 people.
That changed after reports that some parents have allegedly made threats against a 7th grade student named “Maddie” that included references to assault with a knife and encouraging other students to physically assault her.
Maddie is a transgender girl. When she moved to Achille school, a student complained about her using the girls restroom. To avoid any confusion, her mom says she has been using a school staff restroom for the past two years.
However, the school recently moved buildings and it was the first day back in class after summer break. After a miscommunication (no one had told her where the new stuff restroom was located) Maddie used a girls restroom a single time.
Unsurprisingly, nothing bad happened. There was no “incident.”
However, after word got out, some parents on a Facebook message board for the school began making threats against the young girl. The threats escalated to the point where the FBI is investigating the response as a potential hate crime.
What happened is awful. But now people are racing to support Maddie and her family.
The anonymous bullies just ran into a wall of very real people supporting Maddie.
Anyone can be a bully and a coward anonymously online. Standing up for what’s right takes courage. And some of that courage is rapidly coming out to help support Maddie in the face of hate.
"She's an awesome kid,” her mother Brandy Rose said in an interview. “To see any fear in her,I can't explain how bad that hurts me for them to hurt her."
The local chapter of “Free Mom Hugs” and the Oklahoma City chapter of PFLAG have posted letters of support for Maddie. The Free Mom Hugs letter reads in part, "The time is now to say enough is enough. And we will help you."
Meanwhile, district superintendent Rick Beene is making it clear the shut down is unfortunate but part of an effort to protect Maddie against any threats. “Achille school believes that everybody should receive a free and safe education," he said.
Amber Briggle who is a mother to a young transgender student who was thrust into the national headlines voiced her support for Maddie as well, saying, “I just want them to know that they're not alone and it's super scary. But there's a lot more support out there than there are bullies."
It’s terrible this happened. But how the community and country responds could make a positive change.
Photo by Derek R. Henkle/Getty Images.
Like any other child, Maddie should be free to learn, grow and just exist without having to live in fear of violence of discrimination from adults in her community.
It’s horrifying to see parents reduced to the level of threatening a child.
But it’s also important to recognize how people are bravely rising up to defend Maddie as well.
Other courageous individuals, like the state’s first open transgender police officer, are using the moment to speak up about trans rights and the larger, still ongoing fight for true LGBTQ equlity.
Keeping Maddie safe is the first priority. But it’s everything that happens next where we can all make a real difference.