Father of Cobalt Sovereign, transgender teen attacked at Minnesota school, says attackers should face criminal charges


The father of a transgender Minnesota high school student who says she was beaten at school said Thursday he wants the students who beat or harassed his daughter to face criminal charges.

Mark Walztoni told CNN that his 17-year-old daughter, Cobalt Sovereign, a student at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, was in the school bathroom last Thursday when a student began calling her transphobic slurs. As she left the bathroom, Walztoni says her daughter said she was surrounded by that student and two others, who began following Sovereign down the hallway, and when she turned around to Asking them to stop, she was punched in the mouth.

During the attack, Walztoni said, Sovereign’s jaw was broken in two places. She suffered a compound fracture and lost teeth, requiring reconstructive surgery. Walztoni says the students responsible should face criminal charges.

“There must be repercussions for their actions. And if they are not charged for whatever reason, which is our fear, it will only make their behavior worse, because when you get away with things, you keep doing things,” he said. he declares. “There needs to be some sort of punishment and there needs to be a serious discussion about whether these kids should be able to come back to the same school.”

He also says he was informed of the incident by a school social worker and that school officials asked him to notify the police, adding that he was unhappy that the incident “n was not treated as an emergency.

Walztoni also told CNN that he didn’t know if his daughter would return to school safely and that he wanted to see changes.

“This is unacceptable. This whole thing of transphobia and homophobia belongs, in my opinion, to the 20th century, or should belong to the past. And it’s clear that the climate is deteriorating in that regard,” he told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source.” “We have tremendous community support here and Cobalt feels very loved, but you know the kids who are here today are not safe.”


Cobalt Sovereign, a transgender high school student from Minnesota who says she was beaten at school, and her father Mark Walztoni speak with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.

Sovereign tells CNN she never met or saw the students who attacked and harassed her before the incident. She said she had experienced harassment in the past, but “nothing like this magnitude.” Sovereign also said that using the restroom as someone who identifies as non-binary has always been a problem for her.

“I try to use all the general gender neutral or family restroom options if they’re available, but when that option isn’t available to me, I use the men’s restroom because that’s what brings everyone around of me the least uncomfortable and makes other people. feeling uncomfortable is something I tried not to do. “This comes from one of my worst fears,” Sovereign told Collins.

The Minnetonka Police Department said in a statement to CNN that it was investigating an attack that day at Hopkins High School as “a possible hate crime” but said “details remain limited as the case has was reported to police after school had ended for the day. ” “Hopkins High School said it was investigating “an act of violence” that “involved a student who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“We will address any issues that compromise the safety and inclusiveness of our school environment,” the school told CNN in a statement. “We support and support any marginalized group, including our LGBTQ+ academics and staff. »

Minnetonka Police Chief Scott Boerboom told CNN Sovereign’s mother reported the incident to the police department the same day and was not notified until the following Monday.

Boerboom said he would have preferred the school to notify police as soon as the incident occurred.

“We would arrive at the school, we would meet the victim, Cobalt, we would talk to the suspects, identify the suspects, get their side of the story, talk to the victim. And then we are required to notify parents at that time,” he said. “By informing us early, we can assess it as first responders and we have access to emergency medical services or medical services.”

Boerboom also says a video of the assault exists and that he has seen it. He says His department filed a subpoena for the school video, per policy. In the video, he said, a boy is seen attacking Sovereign in the hallway. There were two other boys nearby, Boerboom said, who were not involved in the physical assault.

The attack comes amid rising anti-LGBTQ legislation and, as advocates say, LGBTQ students face increased threats and violence. It also comes nearly four months after the death of Nex Benedict, a non-binary 10th grader in Oklahoma who told police he was beaten to the point of passing out during a confrontation in the school’s bathroom. ‘school.

Courtesy of Mark Walztoni

Colbalt Sovereign is a student at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka.

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, executive director of GLSEN, a nonprofit group working to end intolerance and homophobia in primary and secondary schools, said the attack is “a heartbreaking reminder of the violence and discrimination that young trans people face on a daily basis.”

“GLSEN stands in solidarity with Cobalt and his family, and we call on their school officials to take immediate and concrete action to ensure the safety and dignity of all students,” Willingham-Jaggers told CNN in a statement. “Hate has no place in our schools, and it is our collective responsibility to create systems in which every student can thrive without fear. »

Minnesota State Representative. Leigh Finke, a Democrat and the first transgender lawmaker in the state Legislature, condemned the school and police for their responses to the incident. Finke said violence against transgender youth like Benedict and Sovereign “will continue unabated until accountability is accepted.”

“The response from Hopkins High School and the Minnetonka Police Department so far sends the same transphobic message to…the world: Do what you want and if no one decides to make it public, you’ll get away with it.” . Is this the message we want to send? Finke said in a statement.

“We want to see Hopkins High School and the Minnetonka Police Department, and every school and police department in the future, do the right thing and take immediate action, not because people are watching, but because the Transgender people everywhere have the right to live a life free from everything. “fear and violence,” Finke added.

CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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