In a story that has spread to national sites such as Heavy and BET, a Lakeland mother complains that she’s had trouble getting information from how the Polk public school system is responding to the beating of her 12-year-old son in a locker room at Blake Academy.
In a Facebook post and interviews with reporters, Lauren Springfield, a Lakeland Regional Health manager, says school officials first downplayed the beating at Blake Academy and then declined to tell her what would happen to the boy who attacked her son. She also questioned why no adults were supervising the students at the time.
In a 16-minute news conference viewable on wfla.com, Polk School Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said bullying won’t be tolerated and the boy seen on video hitting and kicking Springfield’s son multiple times has been suspended for 10 days and that three other students who videotaped or cheered the fighter on have also been suspended.
An investigation is being launched into why the boys were unsupervised by faculty, and Byrd said discipline will follow.
Byrd said families’ victims will be given as much information as possible, but school district officials cite federal and state privacy laws in preventing them from disclosing details about student discipline.
On Facebook, School Board member Billy Townsend, whose Lakeland-based district includes Blake Academy, said he thinks administrators “vastly overinterpret 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.”
Along with privacy, he also wants the School Board to discuss policy regarding response to assaults: “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.”
Springfield sought a restraining order against the attacker Wednesday, but a judge denied it because it wasn’t a repeat offense. Her attorney told The Ledger that they want the alleged attacker prosecuted and given a no-contact order, not sent through a diversion program.
Disclosure: The daughter of LkldNow founder Barry Friedman is a middle-school teacher at Blake Academy. She was not involved in the incident.