Trigger warning: This post contains details and video of a disturbing physical and verbal assault on a defenseless child.
A gay middle school student in Ohio was attacked and choked with the Pride flag he wore to school by a homophobic fellow student.
14-year-old Tristen Torrez told local CBS affiliate WTOL 11 that while he expected some rude comments when he wore the Pride flag to classes at Defiance Middle School in Defiance last Thursday, he never thought he would be the victim of a violent attack by one of his peers. The school district issued a statement saying the matter was handled swiftly by the middle school staff and local law enforcement, and that local police said an investigation is underway.
“This was my official way of saying I was gay and not trying to hide it,” Tristen told WTOL of his reason for wearing the Pride flag to school.
Torrez was later quoted by The Crescent-News, saying he was sitting on the bleachers just before noon last Thursday when he was warned of the possible assault. Not long after, the unnamed student attacked.
“He came up behind me, dumped water on me, pulled me down the bleachers, grabbed the flag off my neck, beat me with it, and choked and hit me a few times,” Torrez said. “He also used a slur once or twice.”
The attack left Torrez with a headache, bruised collar bone, and a scraped ankle.
Torrez has not hidden his sexuality from his friends but wanted to use the flag as a way of officially coming out to the rest of the school. He knew there was a chance of hurtful language from his fellow middle schoolers, but the attack stunned him.
“When I went to school with the flag, I thought I might hear a slur or two, but I didn’t think I would get beat up for bringing as something as innocent as a flag to school,” he told The Crescent-News, adding he heard the attack “was a dare.”
Defiance City Schools Superintendent Robert Morton released a statement on Friday addressing the incident.
“We wish to let everyone know this incident was dealt with swiftly by the middle school administration and local law enforcement,” Morton said in the statement. “Due to student privacy laws we are unable to share any other information. Please know, this type of behavior is not and will not be tolerated at Defiance City Schools.”
When reached for a statement by The Crescent-News, Defiance County Prosecuting Attorney Morris Murray said an investigation is underway and “a lot of additional information needs to be gathered” in order for the incident to be “thoroughly examined.”
While the attack was hurtful, Torrez said a lot of students came out to show him support.
“During the day, I heard some people say some slurs to me, but a lot of people told me I was brave and they were proud of me, and some people gave me hugs,” Tristen said. “For the most part I felt very supported, and I’m glad I did it.”