Citywide efforts are underway to identify the Bullard High student or students who pelted a girl with juice boxes while shouting gay slurs at the school earlier this week, including a cash reward.
Logann Pruneda says she was hit with full boxes of apple juice at school on Monday and was called “a faggot, a queer and a lesbo” during the attack. Monday was her 16th birthday.
The Fresno Unified sophomore, who has been openly gay since middle school, took pictures of abrasions on her neck and back that she says are from the incident.
The school has no surveillance cameras in the outdoor area of the campus where the incident happened during a fire drill, and no students had come forward as witnesses or suspects as of Wednesday.
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The district is planning to open an anonymous call line to encourage students to supply information, and is working with Fresno police to investigate.
Fresno Police spokesman Mark Hudson said Wednesday that police are seeking information from students and hope to make progress on the case soon.
“It’s an assault that can also be investigated as a hate crime based upon sexual orientation as a substantial motivating factor,” Hudson said. “Once we are able to obviously speak to a person who’s willing to talk to us, who committed the crime, then we’ll have more evidence to try and move a case forward. We’re asking for students’ help in identifying who assaulted her.”
Former Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea, along with two other donors, is offering a $750 reward for any student who identifies the perpetrator. “I was just outraged,” Perea said. “We want to get this out as broadly as possible. I have a pretty good feeling we are going to catch these kids.”
Pruneda did not see who threw the juice boxes or recognize their voices, but she said the voice or voices were male. “They were pretty hard throws,” she said. “All I heard was them calling me really mean names that involved my sexuality.”
Pruneda said the bullying is nothing new, but this is the first time it’s been physical.
“I know who I am. I know I am gay, but I don’t want to be treated unfairly,” she said. “But they just keep going at it, and it breaks my heart.”
Her mother, Gina Pruneda, said she fully supports her daughter, who first told her about her sexuality at age 9. She said Bullard High staff have been supportive of her daughter, and that she receives counseling regularly.
“This is a daily thing. She comes home, and I ask how her day was, and she says a kid said ‘lesbian’ under his breath while she was giving a presentation,” Gina Pruneda said. “Last year, she pretty much spent every day eating lunch in a classroom because of the bullying. It’s not easy for her, but she’s learned to deal with it.”
She called Logann “amazing and beautiful,” and said that the teen wants to be a voice for those who don’t have one.
“Her sexuality should not define her … Things like this shouldn’t happen. I want people to be aware and kind to one another,” Gina Pruneda said. “She’s been dealing with a lot of hatred for a long time, and I have to tell her that unfortunately, things like this are going to happen throughout your lifetime.”
The incident comes amid a push by the district to offer more support for LGBT students in response to criticism of comments by school board president Brooke Ashjian.
Ashjian is under fire for speaking out against LGBT-inclusive sex education lessons and for comparing LGBT advocates to perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. He represents the Bullard High region.
At a school board meeting earlier this month, Ashjian stepped away from the dais during a vote to proclaim October as LGBT History month, and was marked absent.
Logann Pruneda says she hopes telling her story will help other LGBT youth.
“All the things I’ve gone through in life, they’ve made me who I am today. I’m stronger than I was in seventh grade,” she said. “Ever since I came out, I finally get to be who I am on the inside, and I want people to know there’s a chance for you to be open with the world. They may throw things at you and say mean things to you, but it will be worth it in the end.”
Fresno Unified released a statement condemning the attack.
“Unfortunately, the investigation determined there were no witnesses that could identify the alleged perpetrators,” FUSD spokeswoman Jessica Baird said. “This incident is clearly disturbing and does not honor the standard we expect all our students to adhere to at Fresno Unified. Principal Castillo is reinforcing the high standards our students are expected to follow, ensuring Bullard High continues to be a safe campus for all students.”