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Hazelbrook Middle School in Tualatin, just south of Portland, evacuated students and staff today after it was targeted by anti-trans outrage mongers. Yesterday, a disturbing video of a student assault made the rounds on the far-right media circuit. A bomb threat came in around 10am today and targeted specific “students, staff and families” of the school, according to the school district.
Right-wing media targeted the school after a video of a fight went viral. Video, apparently from sometime last week, shows an assailant repeatedly striking a victim while the victim was already on the ground in a crowded hallway. School fights, while on a steady decline from 2009-2019, but rose after in-person classes resumed in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The incident is under criminal investigation, according to Tualitin PD and Tualatin-Tigard School District.
School Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith, who told KATU she was named in the threat, said the video was “premeditated” and part of a “social media challenge.” She also emphasized that the video, which LCRW will not share or reference in detail beyond our description above, was shared widely without the consent of the children involved.
“No permission was given. And yet we seem to think that in this age of social media we can take those videos and we can post them wherever. And we can have no sense of responsibility to the impacts on those children,” Supt. Rieke Smith told KATU.
Rieke-Smith also said students will return to campus Monday with a security plan for the campus in place.
This isn’t the first time the district saw bomb threats. In 2021, a Missouri man was arrested on federal charges for a string of bomb threats at Oregon schools and hospitals.
Because the incident that incited the right-wing outrage campaign involves minors, there’s not much verified information to go on for context besides the video itself. Despite this, right wing media baselessly claimed the assailant in the video was trans, (and that whether the child is trans or not matters) and proceeded to use it to fuel the kind of predictable anti-trans outrage that’s resulted in bomb threats at children’s hospitals and schools, as recently as last month.
The outrage vector this time seems to be Andy Ngo, the (formerly?) Portland-based far-right propagandist who’s been targeting local activists and scaremongering about “antifa” for the last half-decade. Ngo boosted video of the fight from a man named Ben Edtl, who claimed he had video “two prior assaults” by the same student. Ngo called him a “Portland area parent who has a family member at Hazlebrook Middle School,” but Edtl is also the founder of COVID denial/general right wing grievance nonprofit “Free Oregon.” Ngo also posted photos from inside the school showing books in the library humanizing queer people and pride flags draped in front of a desk. Ngo described this as “trans and radical propaganda.” Hazelbrook Midde School, which Ngo tagged, locked their account after getting piled on by Ngo’s followers.
But Ngo was far from the only Portland-area person stirring the pot over this incident. Ben Edtl, who first posted the video of the fight to Twitter (now X) posted other videos of children fighting, alleging it was the same student. LCRW is not able to verify his claims, but we can say it’s pretty creepy to watch a bunch of adults seek out videos of children like this. Edtl also deflected blame for the bomb threat in the far-right’s usual way:
“BREAKING: Bomb threat at Hazelbrook Middle School threatening Administrators…These threats ARE NOT coming from parents. These are leftists trying to distract from the REAL ISSUES and paint parents as perpetrators of violence,” Edtl tweeted.
In a statement, Tualatin-Tigard School District addressed the right-wing outrage over the incident.
“Students and adults contributed to the sharing of this recording that exposed minors who were directly and indirectly involved without consent. In addition, the sharing of this incident has spread across the country and beyond, inspiring false information and a focus and discourse on sexual identity. These acts have contributed to the trauma individuals and families are already experiencing.”