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Achille Transgender Student Incident Reflects Power Of Social Media

Caroline Halter/KGOU
The GoFundMe page, "A Move for Maddie," was started by Oklahoma City resident, Anne Babb. This screenshot was taken on Aug 21, 2018 at 12:50 CST.

The tiny southern Oklahoma town of Achille made national headlines last week when schools closed after adults made threatening comments online about a 12-year-old transgender student named Maddie. Now Maddie is receiving financial support from people across the world.



Anne Babb is an Oklahoma City resident who, like many, found out about the Achille incident online. After seeing an article about it on Twitter, she shared it on Facebook.

“I made the comment, you know, I bet if someone started a GoFundMe, that family would be out of Achille, Oklahoma in thirty days,” said Babb. “And my neighbor said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’”

So she did. The GoFundMe raised over $45,000 in five days, surpassing its goal of $15,000. The fundraiser has was shared over 4,500 times on social media, and over 1,300 people contributed as of 12:50pm on August 21. Most donations are $100 or less. The highest is $10,000.

“It’s been shocking, the outpouring of support. We didn’t expect this at all,” said Babb, who has been coordinating with Maddie’s mother. Babb plans to extend the fundraiser through the end of August.

Babb said the family is relocating to Houston to be closer to extended family. They reportedly moved to Achille in 2017 to escape bullying that followed Maddie’s transition.

The viral nature of the story garnered financial support from far and wide— many donations have come from out-of-state, some from outside the country. But the incident also began online, with a Facebook post from a parent named Jamie Crenshaw to a private Facebook group that read:


“Heads up parents of 5th thru 7th grade girls. The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY . . . Looks like it’s gonna be a long year.”

A cascade of threatening comments followed. They’ve since been deleted from Facebook.

Achille Public Schools superintendent Rick Beene said most of the threats came from people living outsideBryan County, where Achille is located.


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Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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