HERCULES -- Police and school authorities on Friday were investigating whether a vicious fight involving four Hercules High School students this week was a hate crime or a bullying incident.

Marin Trujillo, spokesman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said school leaders have teamed up with police to determine what caused the melee on school grounds Wednesday. The fight drew attention after it was learned that one of the students involved may possibly identify as transgender.

But on Friday, Trujillo said he would not confirm that due to legality issues.

"We are conducting an investigation that includes whether or not this will be classified as a hate crime," Trujillo said. "If it was a hate crime it will be determined by the Hercules police and we will work with them to take the necessary steps," he said. "If it's a bullying incident we will make sure that the child who was bullied feels safe at school and those who bully receive the support and consequences that are warranted. Our priority is that all children feel safe in our schools."

Hercules Police Department Sgt. Ruben Rodriguez said the altercation, between four 16-year-old students, began about 1:42 p.m. when a male student possibly thought to be transgender punched a girl for unknown reasons, reportedly after being teased. Two other girls then intervened and the boy threw one of them on the ground, Rodriguez said.


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Before campus security came in to break up the fight, one of the girls punched the boy. Two of the teens had minor scratches and a third complained of pain to her wrist.

On Friday, Trujillo said the students were all in the 10th grade and that they were now suspended for an indefinite amount of time. He also said officials are reviewing a video of the fight, shot by another student.

As of Friday that student had not been suspended.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, a throng of students gathered as the combatants ran around a courtyard, throwing punches and pulling clothes and hair, until eventually one of the female students was knocked to the ground.

After one of the girls was pushed to the ground in the video, the campus security guard stepped in to intervene, separating the teens.

City spokeswoman Margaret Roberts said there was an unconfirmed report that the male student involved in the fight identifies as transgender. Police have not confirmed that report, nor yet indicated the fight was a hate crime.

A report has been sent to the Contra Costa County Juvenile District Attorney's Office for review.

Anyone with info is asked to call police at 510-799-8260.

Katie Nelson contributed to this report. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.