Authorities are investigating the assault of 12-year-old black boy at a Lakeland, Florida, middle school.
The incident made national headlines last week, after a cellphone video of the attack was posted online. The clip shows a number of white students inside a locker room at R.W. Blake Academy, where they held the boy and repeatedly struck him while their classmates watched. At one point in the video, you can hear a bystander telling the kids to "chill out"; the student who filmed the assault interjects with, "Let them fight." We then see the 12-year-old knee'd in the stomach and thrown over a bench before one of the kids sits on top of him and begins punching him in the face. Two other students eventually intervene and pull the attacker off of the boy.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the altercation occurred last week during the changeout after a gym class. The victim is a seventh-grader who had only been at the school for a month and a half at the time of the attack. The boy's parents, Brandon and Lauren Springfield, described their son as a "bookworm" with an interest in technology and journalism. Brandon Springfield told the publication that his son did not know the boys who assaulted him, as "the only interaction they ever had was in gym class, which is multi-age."
The student who is seen hitting the Springfield's son at the end of the video is reportedly in the eighth grade.
"I have tried to be very respectful about this, because, obviously, running a school district is hard," Lauren Springfield told the Times. "We get that. But at a certain point, the story needs to be heard."
Lauren Springfield said she arrived at the school shortly after she was notified about the incident. The mother claims she was told her son had been in a "scuffle"; however, she realized that it was much more serious after a neighbor had sent her a video of the attack.
"Getting slammed on his back is one thing, but what we saw (on the video) was completely different," she said. "It wasn’t just like a little scuffle. This wasn’t some little tap on the shoulder or anything like that. It was a legitimate thing at that point."
One of the perpetrators has been charged with misdemeanor simple battery and received a 10-day school suspension. According to the Times, several other students will also receive suspension for their involvement in the attack. The school is also investigating the physical education teacher who has an office inside the locker room where the attack took place. The teacher was reportedly "in the area" during the incident, but the school district is trying to determine whether or not he was "in proximity to those students."
Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd addressed the investigation during a recent news conference, when she was asked whether the attack was motivated by skin color.
"I can't say if race was involved," Byrd told reporters. "It shouldn’t happen to any kid. No kid should come to school and that happen to them."
Warning: The following video depicts violence some readers may find disturbing.