November 28, 2018 at 10:00 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Suspects unidentified in attack on lesbian at Hyattsville high school
Northwestern High School, gay news, Washington Blade

Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md. (Photo by Anthony Bailey via Wikimedia Commons)

The principal at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md. says a school investigation into the March 2017 assault by at least four male students on an 11th grade lesbian student, which resulted in the student suffering three broken ribs, has been unable to identify the attackers.

Lidia Reyes, the mother of the lesbian student, contacted the Washington Blade about the incident last month, saying the attack came after her daughter had been the target of bullying and harassment by fellow students. She said school officials weren’t taking adequate steps to address the problem.

Reyes said her daughter reported the attack occurred in the school auditorium on March 23, 2017. But Principal Elaine Carlene Murray told the Blade the auditorium was not open on that day and school security officials could not confirm exactly where the incident took place.

“It was brought to our attention the next morning,” Murray said. “We did a thorough investigation,” she said, adding, “We did the best we could. We gathered all the information we could gather.”

John White, a spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Public Schools, of which Northwestern High is a part, said school security officials and P.G. County police, who also looked into the incident, could not identify the students that Reyes’ daughter claimed assaulted her.

White said the P.G. school system has a strong policy of nondiscrimination that covers sexual orientation and gender identity. Murray said Northwestern High School has an LGBT student club.

Reyes said her daughter, who is openly gay, believes she was being targeted for bullying because she has a “boyish” appearance. Reyes said her daughter is a member of the school’s U.S. Navy Junior ROTC program.

According to Murray, Northwestern High has a mandatory school uniform policy in which all students wear the same uniform. She said there is a separate uniform for students in the ROTC program.  Given that Reyes’ daughter wears the same uniform as all other students, Murray said she doesn’t believe the student could be targeted based on her clothing.

Regardless of the reason for bullying or harassment, Murry and White said the school does not tolerate such conduct and would take immediate steps to intervene if the student reports being subjected to such behavior.

Reyes said she and her daughter moved to the U.S. from Guatemala several years ago and her daughter’s English language skills were limited. She said her daughter was taking an English as a second language class but that the language issue could have been a problem when school officials talked to her daughter about the attack last year.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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