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Jewlyes, in white blouse, surrounded by her loving family.

Today Judge Thomas M. Maddock of the Juvenile Division of Contra Costa County Superior Court entered an agreement with Jewlyes Gutierrez and her Public Defender, Kaylie Simon. Ms. Gutierrez, a transgender student from Hercules, CA, is facing a battery charge after defending herself against ongoing harassment and bullying at her school, has been granted her request to begin a restorative justice program to achieve reconciliation with her peers. Ms. Gutierrez will appear in court again in May to report on her progress, and is hopeful the battery charge will be dismissed.

Said Kimberly Aceves, Executive Director of RYSE:
“As a youth leadership organization committed to the safety and well-being of all young people, RYSE is pleased to see and support a restorative process outside of the justice system that involves and addresses the needs of Jewlyes and all the students, and which fosters the opportunity for genuine healing and community building. Jewlyes’ honesty, courage, and commitment to reconnecting and healing with her peers is a compelling and inspiring call for RYSE and our partners to continue to shed light on and shift the current conditions of unwelcoming and unsafe school environments that cause harm for all students, including transgender youth and youth of color.”

In a recent nationwide study, 89% of transgender youth reported having been harassed at school within the previous year. Another comprehensive study found that, of transgender people who reported being harassed at school, a staggering 51% had attempted suicide. Many schools simply ignore the harassment until youth feel like they have no choice but to defend themselves, for which they are punished by their schools or even the courts. According to data released in 2012, 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-2010 school year. Black or Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students.

Last month, the Obama administration released guiding principles for improving school climate and discipline. The guidelines recommend best practices, including restorative justice approaches, and condemn punitive policies and court referrals that lead to a “school-to-prison” pipeline, which disproportionately impacts youth of color.

Said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center:
“I am relieved to know that Jewlyes will now have the chance to find peace and safety outside of the criminal justice system. Youth belong in schools not jails. All students, including transgender students, should be able to go to school feeling safe and supported. At Transgender Law Center we have heard time and time again from transgender youth, especially youth of color, who are being excluded from being able to participate fully in school due to concerns about safety.”

For more information please contact Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, Community Health Director, at kanwarpal@rysecenter.org / 510-579-1922 or Mark Snyder at mark@transgenderlawcenter.org / 617.416.0552.