A Florida mother says that her teenage son was brutally beaten on a school bus for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. But the superintendent of the school district disagrees with that sentiment, arguing in a letter to parents that there was no evidence to suggest that the attack had been motivated by politics.
The 14-year-old boy, who has been identified only as “Tyler” was attacked by at least five other students on November 21, 2019. The incident occurred in the Hamilton County School District in northern Florida. The students involved are now facing battery charges.h
Tyler’s mother posted video of the incident to Twitter on December 12 and it has since gone viral, attracting more than 14 million views. The video is embedded below.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Video Shows Tyler Being Punched Repeatedly By Multiple Students
Tyler’s mother, who goes by the Twitter handle @AmericanDiaries, shared the now-viral clip on December 12, 2019. Superintendent Rex Mitchell said in a letter to parents that another student had recorded the incident, which happened on November 21, 2019.
In the video, Tyler is seen sitting on the school bus as a girl stands over top of him. He was not wearing a MAGA hat at that time. The girl started hitting him over the head repeatedly. Tyler tried to stand up to defend himself and swung back but was outnumbered and overpowered.
Tyler was forced back down to the seat and he can be seen holding his hands over his head to try to protect himself. He suffers blows from several students, including the girl who appeared to climb on top of him on the seat and continued to hit him.
Attorney Foye B. Walker, who is representing the family, also shared the video on social media and confirmed that the attack had occurred on a Hamilton County School District bus.
2. The Teen’s Mother Says He Stopped Wearing His MAGA Hat After Other Students Began Bullying Him Over It
Tyler’s mother says that although her son wasn’t wearing the MAGA hat at the time of the violent school bus attack, the hat had started the issue. She wrote on Twitter that her son had been proud to buy the hat with his own money from a flea market.
She said Tyler was forced to stop wearing it to school after classmates began bullying him over it. But she says the “damage was already done” and that her son continued to be a target even without the hat.
She wrote in follow-up tweets, “From that point on he was steadily getting messed with. He was getting hit, tripped & verbally abused on the bus, but it all came to a head yesterday on his bus ride home. The nurse noted there are bruises on his arm that were older along with his new injuries. He didn’t tell us ….about the bullying, but they took it to a new level yesterday and we are just now learning what he was going through. My husband is going to the sheriffs department now and I really hope these kids are held accountable.”
A GoFundMe page set up for the family claimed that Tyler’s classmates were also accusing him of being racist.
3. The Hamilton County School District Denies That Tyler’s Support for President Trump Was a Factor in the Attack
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rex Mitchell shared a statement to the district’s Facebook page on December 13, 2019. In the letter, he disagreed with Tyler’s mother’s assertion that the beating had anything to do with Tyler’s support of President Donald Trump or his choice to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Mitchell explained that the school immediately investigated the incident and involved local enforcement. He insisted in the statement, “There was no evidence found during the investigation that indicated the student was wearing any of this apparel at the time of the altercation or that his wearing of such apparel on a prior occasion motivated the incident. The incident began with a verbal altercation between two students that escalated when additional students became involved.”
Mitchell added that the district had analyzed additional video footage that showed the lead-up to the violence and its conclusion. He said the video included footage from the surveillance camera installed on the bus.
The statement added, “We absolutely do not condone the use of physical force between students… I am very disappointed that the school district has been portrayed in a way as to bring negative attention to our staff and students when the District took immediate action to investigate and hold those individuals involved accountable… This was a very unfortunate incident completely unrelated to any political statements or agendas.”
4. Sheriff: The Beating Will Not Be Prosecuted as a Hate Crime
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office was brought in to investigate the school bus beating. The five teenagers involved in the incident were all suspended from school. They are also facing first-degree misdemeanor battery charges.
The department shared an update on December 13 to dispel speculation that the criminal case would go any further.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the sheriff’s office explained, “It seems that some misinformation has been passed along with the video. We at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office are as disturbed about this video as you are. An investigation has been conducted and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has filed charges on five juveniles for First Degree misdemeanor battery. We discussed charges with the State Attorney’s Office and they stated that this incident does not meet criteria for a hate crime. Any questions should be referred to the State Attorney’s Office.”
5. Tyler’s Mother Says He Suffered Head Contusions & The Family May Homeschool Him Going Forward
Tyler was taken to the hospital after he was beaten on the school bus. Florida radio station WFTL reported that, according to Tyler’s mother, he had suffered head contusions from the attack.
Tyler’s mother shared a photo of him with a blanket over his face on November 21. The caption read, “I am sitting in the hospital with my 14 year old kid because he was just jumped by 8 black kids on the school bus, I guess that’s what happens when a kid wears a #Trump hat to school. And who’s the violent ones again? Earlier today they poured milk all over his head.”
A GoFundMe account set up for the family explains that they plan to homeschool Tyler going forward. His mother explained on November 24 in Twitter posts that at first, she would have preferred to put Tyler in a different school. But that was not an option because Hamilton County has only one public high school.
She wrote on November 24, “And for those of you asking about homeschooling, I homeschool my 12-year-old daughter, but my son has ADHD (unmediated due to side effects) when I tried to homeschool him last year, neither my son nor myself could handle it. So instead I wrote a letter to the school & asked them to place him into Hope Academy, an alternative option located in the same school but instead of teachers they do everything on the computer so he can move along at a much quicker pace.”