A high school in Tennessee is mired in controversy after police were apparently called on a Black student defending his trans classmate.
Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee is mired in controversy following the reported suspension of a trans woman who was being deadnamed by her classmates, and the classmate who defended her.
Police officers were apparently called to the scene, as evidenced in a TikTok video about the incident recorded by Willum Watson, a classmate of the unnamed trans student.
In the TikTok video documenting his experience, Willum says he was suspended by the school for standing up against bullies who deadnamed his peer, and films a police officer while explaining what happened.
“I’m being suspended right now at Fulton High School in Knox County, in Knoxville, Tennessee,” Willum says, “because I stuck up for a trans woman.”
He continues: “I stuck up for a trans woman, and she has the frigging police… she has the f*****g police outside, are you serious? She has the f*****g police outside because I’m asking her, ‘Why am I getting suspended?’”
Willum doesn’t name the ‘she’ who called the police.
In the TikTok video, Willum documented his experience and showed a police officer visible in the school hallway. (TikTok/Willum4606)
Willum asks: “Why is this happening, why are we facing repercussions because she also put the trans woman that was being deadnamed and bullied in the hallways in RLC, which is an alternative for in-school suspension?”
In the video, which shows Willum’s face with a mask pulled down while he talks, he asks again: “Are you serious right now?
“They’re just allowing it, and they’re acting like it’s normal?” he says, visibly distressed. “The bullies are not facing any repercussions, but we are?
“We are facing repercussions right now because I stood up for what I believe in. And you know what, I’m not ashamed,” Willum says. “She has two f*****g police officers and I’m a Black man, this is too f*****g sick.”
At this point, another police officer enters the hallway, causing Willum to become concerned. While Willum is locked in a classroom, the student who faced transphobic bullying was still in the hallway.
“She said I was being ‘threatening’, I was being ‘combative’, Willum is heard saying. “I was not being combative at all, I was just asking her a series of questions about what was going on and why I was facing punishment for sticking up for somebody who was getting bullied.
“She said I was using profanity – OK, so what, what are you gonna do about the actual bullies that were making fun of her in the hallway and humiliating her and [inaudible] her whole existence in front of everybody when class change was happening? What is going to happen to them? Oh, nothing?
Yesterday 08/20/21 at Fulton high school in Knoxville Tennessee a student, Willum Watson was suspended for defending a trans woman from her two bullies who were humiliating and harassing her in the hallway in front of the whole school. This is not ok!
— Keean (@Keeanc_13) August 21, 2021
“So y’all want to focus on what people said rather than dealing with the problem at hand, people don’t feel safe at school, they literally threaten her life! Do you know the life expectancy of a Black trans woman? She’s a Black trans woman and y’all are treating this as something to stick under the rug.”
In the US, the life expectancy of a Black trans woman is commonly reported as being 35 years old, although estimates vary. Black trans women face high levels of physical violence and abuse, and are over-represented in statistics about fatal violence against trans and gender non-conforming people.
“This is what it feels like to be Black and to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in Knoxville, Tennessee,” Willum says. “At a Knox County school, this raggedy-ass school, I can’t f*****g stand this school. Oh my gosh, this is disgusting. Please spread this, it needs to be spread, something needs to happen.
“She asked me into this classroom, she locked the door, and she has like two or three police officers out there. Like, oh, my God.”
Fulton High School was not immediately reachable for comment.
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