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NM Student, 11, Suffers Vicious Playground Attack, Social Media Trolling

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Feb 13, 2019
11-year-old Savannah Tirre
11-year-old Savannah Tirre  (Source:Courtesy of Chelsea Tirre)

An 11-year-old middle school student in New Mexico whose family says she identifies as gay was struck from behind in a schoolyard attack that was captured on cell phone video. But her schoolmate wasn't the only attacker; adults piled on via social media issuing threats and hurling slurs, reports local newspaper the Los Cruces Sun-News.

The student, Savannah Tirre, had transferred to Zia Middle School from Picacho Middle School after coming out and suffering what her family said was "intense bullying," the newspaper article said. But she found herself the target of violence at Zia Middle School when, on Feb. 8, she was attacked from behind while another student made a video.

But while the school's administrators set about handling the situation professionally, other grownups failed to be the proverbial adults in the room. Social media soon sizzled with insults and threats, one of which alarmed the school's administrators so much that the school briefly went into a "shelter in place" lockdown. That threat came from someone identified only as a "male." Police are looking into that threat, the newspaper reported.

The situation was more than a little reminiscent of the shocking situation that unfolded last summer in Oklahoma when, as EDGE reported at the time, a middle school was briefly closed for two days out of security concerns following social media threats aimed at a trans student.

The student in that case — a 12-year-old — was new to her school and didn't know where to find the restroom that had been set aside for her use. When she urgently needed the facilities and resorted to using the girls' restroom, another student reported her, leading a parent of one of the school's students to post hateful rhetoric on social media. "The transgender is already using the girls' bathroom," the parent posted, giving no context for how and why the child had done so.

That post spawned a flurry of hate and threats, with other adults chiming in to offer sickeningly violent suggestions that ranged from advising students at the school to "kick ass in the bathroom and it [the trans child in question] won't want to come back" to a call for castrating the 12-year-old with "A good sharp knife" that would "do the job really quick."

Still another post declared it to be "open hunting season" on transgender individuals.

In New Mexico, the social media posts were similarly disparaging and violent, with one adult putting out the word that Tirre was "about to get jumped on Monday again so get your phones out," the Sun-Times article said.

The Sun-Times looked into allegations of bullying at Tirre's former school, Picacho Middle School, and was told by a school system spokesperson that "we take all reports of bullying very seriously and address them in accordance with the district's policies and regulations. The safety and well-being of all students is our top concern."

The county's Democratic delegation, meantime, took the proactive step of releasing a statement on the violent incident, the Sun-News reported in a follow up story.

"The anti-gay attack that unfolded Friday at Zia Middle School runs contrary to our values as New Mexicans," the legislators said in their statement. "LGBTQ students like Savannah deserve a safe and welcoming place where they can learn in peace and live as their authentic selves.

"We honor Savannah's courage and bravery," the statement continued. "As your representatives, we stand against bigotry and violence in all forms. We stand with Savannah."

Tirre's mother, Chelsea Tirre, filed a police complaint over the attack but expressed hope to the media for a constructive outcome for all concerned.

"I don't think she should be locked and put away," Tirre's mother said of the student who attacked her daughter. "I hope her parents guide her in the right direction."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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