BERKELEY, Calif. – Students and staff members at a small private high school in California wore skirts to class on Friday to show solidarity with an 18-year-old senior who suffered serious burns when his clothes were set on fire on a public bus.
Luke "Sasha" Fleischman's classmates at Maybeck High School in Berkeley came up with the idea of trading pants and shorts for kilts and sarongs as a way of condemning the attack and supporting Fleischman while the teen recovers at a San Francisco hospital, school director Trevor Cralle said.
"The students wanted to rally their support for Sasha, so they came up with the idea of wearing skirts because that's what Sasha likes to do and what Sasha was wearing when Sasha was lit on fire," said Cralle, who wore a type of floral sarong known as a "lava-lava" that is worn by both men and woman in the Pacific Islands.
Cralle did not have a count of how many of Maybeck High's 110 students were sporting skirts, but he said there was widespread participation. "Everybody, students and staff, male and female, is wearing skirts," he said.
The school planned to pose for a group photo at lunch so it could be delivered to Fleischman, who remained in stable condition with second- and third-degree burns on his legs. His mother has said the injuries will require massive skin grafts.
Police say Fleischman was wearing a skirt on Monday when a fellow bus passenger set the garment on fire with a lighter. Other people riding the AC Transit bus in downtown Oakland came to the 18-year-old's aid after he tried to put out the flames himself.
A 16-year-old Oakland boy has been charged as an adult with hate crimes in the attack. Richard Thomas, a junior at Oakland High School, was arrested at school Tuesday afternoon based on surveillance video from the bus.
Thomas has not yet entered a plea. The Associated Press is naming Thomas even though he is a minor because of the seriousness of the alleged crime.
During an interview with police, Thomas said "he did it because he was homophobic," Oakland police Officer Anwawn Jones wrote in a court affidavit.
Relatives and friends have said Fleischman identifies as "agender,"a designation sometimes adopted by people who see themselves as neither male nor female.