A Black Florida mom is speaking out after video captured three white boys attacking her son Monday in a school locker room during gym class.
Lauren Springfield said in a Facebook post her son was attacked in a “violent, malicious manner” at R.W. Blake Academy in Lakeland.
“As one student repeatedly hit him over and over again, others not only held my son down so that the student could hit him but encouraged the attack,” Springfield said on Facebook. “I am enraged.”
School and police officials told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the sixth grade student shown leading the attack faces a simple battery charge and at least a 10-day suspension and others involved are being disciplined as well.
Lakeland, which is located about 55 miles southwest of Orlando, has a population that is about 74 percent white and 20 percent Black.
“I can guarantee you had this been a group of black students on a lone white student we would be having a completely different conversation,” Springfield said in her post. “I am disheartened, I am tired, scared for my son and completely enraged.”
The 52-second video of the incident, a shortened version of other footage, started with one student trying to knee the boy, while others grabbed at him.
“Y’all need to chill the f— out,” one student can be heard saying in the video.
Others laughed and shouted, “Oh my God.”
At one point in the incident, a child went to break up the fight and another stopped him and said, “Let them fight.”
The video showed one student wrestling the targeted child, causing them both to fall over a bench. The accused attacker is then shown punching the other boy at least 10 times.
In police video of the news conference, a man believed to be a reporter can be heard saying:
“Kids are going to be kids. Going forward, how do you prevent something like this from happening? How do you protect children? I mean, kids are always going to be kids.”
Lakeland Police Capt. Steven Pacheco replied that that’s why the district has school resource officers in place to teach students that “actions have consequences and to do the right thing.”
The recent incident started when a student took something a peer said “to heart and acted upon it,” Pacheco said.
Polk County Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd apologized to the child’s parent and condemned the attack at the news conference.
“Those are things that should never ever happen on our campus, never. Our children come to school to learn,” Byrd said. “We’re here as a joint force to make sure that we ensure that safety is first foremost, so they can learn, so we apologize for what happened.”
When asked where was the adult supervision, Byrd, a Black woman, said she has asked the same question.
There is office space in the locker room for teachers to see what is happening, but officials are still investigating where the teacher was in proximity to the students, Byrd said.
“And I will tell you that the teachers are supposed to be ensuring that all the students are safe when they’re in their care,” she said. “And we are investigating that teacher, and discipline will follow in that as well.”
Springfield, a community health manager at Lakeland Regional Health, criticized school administrators for failing to immediately contact her after the fight. She said in her Facebook post that the school nurse was the first official to call her but could not give any details.
Authorities explained the injured child did not notify school officials until about one hour after the incident, when a school resource officer started looking into what happened.
“I immediately left my office and went to the school – not one school administrator contacted me on the way to the school,” Springfield said. “I got to the school to find a welt on my son’s forehead and back of head, a cut above his eye brow and bruising all around his eye.”
“At the time we didn’t think it was anymore than a scuffle and still due to his injuries we decided to press charges on the boy,” Springfield said. “At this time we had no clue others were involved. UNTIL later last night when we received videos from the parent of a high school student [our son is in middle school].”
Springfield said the attack lasted “well over 3 minutes with no adult supervision or intervention.”
The mother said when she asked school administrators what would happen to the other children involved, they responded, “We can’t tell you!”
Springfield said she doesn’t need to know the names of the children but as a parent is “entitled to know how the school system plans to protect our child” and the nature of the attack.
“This could have ended much differently,” she said. “Our child has one kidney and after getting kneed several times this could have resulted in permanent damage.”
Springfield said she tried to get a restraining order in the incident, but Polk County Judge Kelly Butz rejected the request “because the attack did not happen multiple times.”
“It only takes one hit for a child to die,” Springfield said. “How many more times would you like this to happen to our child or any other child?”