Lauren and Brandon Springfield’s young son was attacked in a locker room at a Lakeland, Florida middle school Monday. Their boy is black. The kids that struck him repeatedly and held him down to be hit again over the course of nearly three minutes are white.
Springfield said she was called by the school’s nurse asking her to come without telling her much more. Springfield, a hospital administrator, arrived to find her son with welts, a cut and bruises on his head and face. She was not told that it was an attack rather, she was under the impression it was a “scuffle” but said the family would be pressing charges because of her son’s injuries.
It was not until later that night that she found out, when she was sent videos of the attack by a parent of a high school student, that it was not a scuffle with one boy, it was an attack by several.
“My son was attacked. In a violent, malicious manner …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. I am enraged,” she wrote on Facebook.
The initial video she was sent, which was one of a number apparently mostly shared among students, “showed the attack that lasted well over three minutes with no adult supervision or intervention. You hear the kids not only cursing but encouraging the attack and not stepping in to stop what was happening,” she wrote.
Portions of the video are still circulating but most have been removed from social media.
Here’s a portion of the video, and screenshots, and what you need to know:
1. The Springfield Boy Has 1 Kidney & the Attack ‘Could Have Resulted in Permanent Damage,’ the Family Said
Initially, Springfield said she “asked the school administrators what will happen to the other children involved,” and received no response, she said. It took a few days before she got a response.
“We are entitled to know how the school system plans to protect our child. I do not need to know the specifics of the child’s name or any other personal identifiers however I believe due to the nature of this attack we should know what the consequences are and if the children are in school,” she wrote. “What is our world coming to?”
Springfield’s son has “one kidney and after getting kneed several times, this could have resulted in permanent damage. He was thrown on the floor over a bench, head his head all while others watched. And all they can tell me is they will handle it – this is unacceptable.”
The Blake school has shuttered its Facebook page.
The family went to court Wednesday to get a “restraining order or injunction,” but was told by a judge “that because the attack did not happen multiple times, she would not award the protection to our son.”
Springfield wrote, “It only takes one hit for a child to die. How many more times would you like this to happen to our child or any other child? Throughout the entire attack this little boy laughed and smiled – and you think he won’t do it again? Yet the malicious videos were not taken into account.”
2. A School Board Member Said the ‘Violence Videos’ Will ‘Rightly Make News Today’
A Polk County, Florida school board member took to Facebook to apologize to the Springfield family but complained that going to court to seek a restraining order was not a solution. Adding that it was the district that encouraged that action. “I do not understand why we would send the child’s family to get a court injunction, rather than provide more robust engagement at the school/district level,” he wrote on social media.
“A number of people are asking about the terrible videos shared last night. I was made aware of them by the father yesterday afternoon and immediately connected the family with our director of discipline, who told us both that a serious investigation was already in progress — about both the incident and the videos. I also apologized — and apologize —to the family that this happened,” he said. After talking to the family, he wrote that “as a district vastly over-interpret privacy rules so that a victim’s family receives little or no information about how we are protecting/preventing any further harm for their child. So even when a serious investigation is underway, as I believe it is here, the victim’s family doesn’t really perceive it.”
Townsend said, “There has to be some middle ground between information blackout for concerned parents and injunction.”
“Let’s protect and nurture them. And correct unacceptable behavior and mistreatment of their fellow children,” he wrote.
3. One Boy Has Been Charged by Police & Suspended For 10 Days & Others Seen in the Video Are Being ‘Disciplined’
The schools and police held a press conference Thursday morning.
The children involved were disciplined “on the school side.”
Lakeland Police Department Capt. Steven Pacheco first called it an “altercation.” He said the school resource officer it was “immediately investigated” and the boy has been charged criminally and three other kids were disciplined by the school through the code of conduct policy.
The boy was charged by police with misdemeanor simple battery and has been suspended for 10 days from school.
In a post to Facebook, a school board member said, “The perpetrator and the students who videoed the incident have been disciplined according to the Student Code of Conduct. Additionally, law enforcement and the school district worked together to apply appropriate criminal charges to those involved in this incident. We continue to fully cooperate with the law enforcement investigation…”
“We are deeply saddened this incident took place at Blake Academy. We pride ourselves on ensuring an inclusive, welcoming, supportive learning environment. What occurred earlier this week is in direct conflict with our school values and will not be tolerated.”
4. The ‘Teacher Responsible for Supervising the Boys Is Being Investigated’
During a press conference, Byrd was asked about supervision: were the students in the locker room not being watched or supervised by a teacher or another adult or educator? She said it was a good question.
Byrd explained that the locker room is set up with office space where teachers can see what’s going on. Byrd said the teacher was “in the area,” but that is part of the investigation.
“The teacher who was responsible for supervising the children is currently being investigated and discipline is pending based on the outcome.”
5. Springfield, a Hospital Administrator & Former National Pageant Contestant, Said She’s ‘Disheartened,’ ”Scared for Her Son & ‘Completely Enraged’
Lauren Springfield is a community health manager at the Lakeland, Florida hospital. She studied business administration at Florida Southern College, professional C=c and fashion merchandising at University of Delaware. From Catonsville, Maryland, she is a former Miss America and Miss Universe organizations.
It was reported, Springfield was not contacted by Polk County Schools superintendent Jacqueline Byrd until a news organization saw the video and reached out.
During a press conference Thursday morning, Byrd, when asked if, based on the skin color of the attackers and the skin color of the victim, was racism involved, Byrd, who is black, said she “can’t say if racism is involved” and that’s being investigated. She said an incident like this “should not happen to any student.”
But Springfield said had the attack been one where a number of black students had attacked a lone white student, “we would be having a completely different conversation.”
“I am disheartened, I am tired, scared for my son and completely enraged. These videos make my whole heart sad – nothing warrants this behavior,” she wrote. “Policy must change to protect our children – or we will continue to mourn children for stupid reasons.”
A friend described what is seen in the video as a child “being not bullied, but beaten.”
But a friend wrote on Facebook, that, “We all know how quickly action would have been taken if the skin color of the victim and assailants, were opposite. You know it, and I know it,” adding it was not until local news began asking questions that a response came.