Support and funds are pouring in for an 18-year-old Berkeley student who was set on fire while riding an AC Transit bus in Oakland Monday evening.
Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, a senior at Berkeley’s Maybeck High School, was sleeping in the rear of a bus heading toward East Oakland. Fleischman’s skirt was set on fire, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times.
Police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland High School student Tuesday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem. He could face other charges, according to the Tribune, which said he was identified through surveillance video on the bus.
Fleischman, with the help of other riders, was able to extinguish the flames but suffered second- and third-degree burns to the legs that will require significant skin grafting. The student is in stable condition at St. Francis Memorial Hospital’s Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco and has a good prognosis for recovery, according to an email sent out to the Maybeck community by the school’s director, Trevor Cralle, Tuesday.
Fleischman does not identify as male or female but rather as “agender,” and feels comfortable wearing a skirt, Debbie Fleischman, the victim’s mother, told the Tribune.
Laurie Kahn, operations and finance manager at Maybeck High School, a private, multi-cultural high school on College Avenue in South Berkeley, said Wednesday that Fleischman is a “remarkable kid” and an “excellent student” who is a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist.
“This has been devastating for all the community,” she said
Fleischman prefers to be referred to as “they” rather than “he” or “she,” Kahn added. “Sasha worked out the gender issues on their own and we try to respect the wish to be referred to as ‘they.'”
Friends and acquaintances have been quick to rally around to support the Berkeley student. At the time of writing, nearly $16,000 has been raised from 283 people through a campaign set up on the Fundly website by Fleischman’s cousin, Joshua Allan. Nearly 200 comments expressing support have also been left on the site. The fundraising goal is currently set at $20,000, with funds earmarked for medical bills.
The Maybeck office is accepting cards and gifts for Sasha, but note that flowers are not permitted in the burn unit of the hospital.
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