11-year-old Savannah Tirre returned to school Monday, arriving with a group of friends and family members after being attacked by fellow students for being gay.
The student's mother, Chelsea Tirre, told the Sun-news her daughter was being escorted between classes Monday by the school resource officer, a Mesilla town marshal regularly assigned to the school.
Tirre said her daughter has been the target of bullying since October, when her daughter came out as gay. She said the bullying began "right off the bat" when Savannah started attending Picacho Middle School, ultimately moving the family to transfer her to Zia where the bullying continued.
On Friday, Savannah was involved in a fight with an unidentified student at school. A mobile phone video published on Facebook shows Tirre on the ground being punched at least six times by a student standing over her before Tirre attempts to push her off with her foot, as recess monitors are heard blowing whistles.
Tirre said her daughter reported the other student punched her from behind. When she saw the video of the encounter later, Tirre said, "My heart just dropped," and she filed a police report.
The video does not show how the encounter began or whether it was instigated over the student's sexual orientation. However, social media comments included threats of further violence toward the student and referred to her being gay.
One example, shared as a screenshot on Facebook by the student's aunt, included a threat with the poster's name obscured that stated, "This little girl is about to get jumped Monday again so get your phones out," describing Tirre as "a little lesbian."
An additional social media threat by an unnamed male, currently under investigation by police, led to security measures Monday which the Las Cruces Public Schools said it took "out of an abundance of caution."
The shelter-in-place order was lifted sometime before 9 a.m., according to the district.
"Savannah is doing surprisingly well," Tirre said of her daughter Monday morning. "She's had a lot of people reach out to her, lots of support. Her adrenaline is still going really strong so it really hasn't hit yet ... Savannah has gone through a lot."
Tirre said that her daughter came out to her as gay the summer after graduating from fifth grade at Mesilla Elementary School.
Tirre recalled hugging her daughter, who was in tears. "We said, 'We don't care, we just want you happy.' It's never been an issue in this family."
Soon after enrolling at Picacho Middle School, however, Tirre said intense bullying began, and she ultimately decided to move Savannah and her brother to Zia because she was not satisfied with the school administration's response.
Picacho Middle School Principal Fred Montalvo referred the Sun-News to the school district's central office.
LCPS spokesman Damien Willis responded, "While we are unable to comment on matters pertaining to specific students, we take all reports of bullying very seriously and address them in accordance with the district’s policies and regulations. The safety and well-being of all students is our top concern.”
"The bullying has never stopped, although she has more friends at Zia who have protected her from this sort of thing," Tirre said. "It's one group of girls that's doing this, along with two boys."
"Savannah found out she would be jumped (Friday) morning," Tirre said. "I'm very disappointed the (recess) monitors were not informed of this situation."
She said meetings were scheduled later Monday to decide the next steps for Savannah, but that she had been told her daughter will not face suspension for the fight, the school having told her "she did not try to do anything but cover herself and defend herself."
Disciplinary measures for the other student had not been determined, but Tirre said she hoped for a constructive intervention.
"Middle school, for girls, is tough, I get that, but I think this little girl needs to be set on the right path," Tirre said. "I think she needs to be in some sort of program that can help redirect her. I don't think she should be locked and put away. I hope her parents guide her in the right direction."
Otherwise, Tirre said, "My focus is on my daughter only ... My daughter is being threatened for her life because she's gay."