Metro Weekly

Female Trans Student Attacked in Boys’ Room, Suffers Broken Jaw

A Minnesota transgender teen was attacked by a fellow student for using a restroom matching her assigned sex at birth.

Restroom stalls – Photo: David Tonelson, via Dreamstime

On May 30, Cobalt Sovereign, a student at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, entered the boys’ bathroom and used one of the stalls. But another student looked over the stall and began harassing her, calling her anti-LGBTQ slurs while hurling insults at her.

Sovereign left the restroom, only to be trailed down the hall by the student and two others.

She got up the coverage to confront them, but when she turned to verbally confront her harasser, he punched her in the mouth.

“He had no reason to have anything against me,” the 17-year-old told Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE. “I’ve never talked to him, never done anything negative to him. And I was insulted and then eventually hit in the jaw.

“I was hit in the jaw, and at the time, one of my teeth exploded, pieces in my mouth. My jaw was broken in two places … molar, just shattered.”

Sovereign’s father, Mark Walztoni, confirmed that his daughter’s jaw was broken in two places. She suffered a compound fracture and lost teeth, requiring reconstructive surgery.

Despite having to be hospitalized for her injuries, Walztoni claimed school officials told him to notify the police, rather than doing it themselves. He told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, the host of the program The Source, he was displeased the incident “wasn’t treated as an emergency.”

Walztoni believes the students responsible for attacking his daughter should face criminal charges as well as disciplinary action.

However, whether charges are eventually brought will depend on whether police are able to gather enough evidence, and whether the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office believes it can successfully prosecute the case.

“There has to be repercussions for their actions,” Walztoni said.

The Minnetonka Police Department is investigating the incident as a “possible hate crime.” The department noted, in a statement to CNN, that “details remain limited as the case was reported to police after school had ended for the day.”

Minnetonka Police Chief Scott Boerboom told CNN that the police department received a report from Sovereign’s mother — not school officials — on the day of the attack, and that he only personally learned of the incident on the following Monday. He said he would have preferred the school notify the police directly as soon as it occurred.

Boerboom confirmed that video footage of the assault exists and that he has seen it. He says police filed a subpoena for the video from the school. In the video, one boy is seen assaulting Sovereign, while two other boys stand nearby, watching. 

On June 4, Hopkins High School Principal Crystal Ballard released a statement calling the assault “upsetting” but noting that the incident has not yet been deemed a hate crime. 

“Regardless of the facts of this particular case, we know that even hearing a rumor that an act of violence has occurred to a member of a certain group — in this case, our LGBTQ+ community — is upsetting and can be traumatizing,” Ballard said in the statement. “Hopkins Public Schools works very intentionally to create safe places for LGBTQ+ families, staff, and scholars.”

Supporters have launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help Sovereign with her medical expenses. The campaign has raised over $48,000.

On June 5, hundreds of the teen’s supporters also rallied outside of Hopkins High School to condemn the attack against her and criticize the school for what they say was an insufficient response to the violent incident.

The school confirmed that the student accused of hitting Sovereign in the face was “disciplined immediately,” which usually includes suspension. But because June 5 was the last day of classes, the assailant will only serve less than a week of suspension unless the school adds additional disciplinary measures at the start of the next school year.

Perhaps most disturbing is that Sovereign was attacked for using what anti-LGBTQ opponents would deem the “correct” bathroom for her to use.

One of the frequently raised arguments used to justify barring transgender individuals from women’s restrooms is that their presence intimidates and poses a potential threat to women and girls.

As such, the argument goes, even people like Cobalt Sovereign, who presents outwardly as female, should be required to use the men’s restroom.

The incident at Hopkins High School underscores that anti-transgender violence is not only possible, but perhaps even likely — regardless of whether transgender individuals are using restrooms or changing facilities that align with their assigned sex at birth

Cobalt Sovereign told CNN that while she has faced harassment for being transgender in the past, it has never risen to this level.

She noted that navigating restroom use has always been a problem for her — because even though Hopkins High School has gender-inclusive bathrooms, sometimes they’re already occupied or are not as easily accessible.

“I try to use any gender-neutral or family restroom options if they’re available, but when I’m not given that option I … use the men’s restroom because it’s what makes everybody around me the least amount of uncomfortable, and making other people uncomfortable is something that I tried not to do,” she said.

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