LAKELAND — A Sleepy Hill Middle School seventh-grade student was beaten so badly last month by a sixth-grader that he had to be rushed to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where he was treated for a bleeding head wound and a severe concussion, a police report says.
Despite being charged with misdemeanor battery, the victim and his mother said the alleged perpetrator was never suspended or disciplined because the incident took place a few feet off school grounds.
Now the boy’s mother says that her son continues to be bullied at school by this same boy and two of his friends, and the school is doing nothing to stop it. She has pulled her son out of school and filed for a protective order — a hearing on that is scheduled for Monday.
“He has suffered a severe concussion, has (post-traumatic stress disorder) and (post concussion syndrome) from the attack, as well as neurological issues since the attack,” said Jennyfer Brown, the victim’s mother. “His glasses have been broken three times, and the emotional stress this has put on our family has put my husband in the hospital. The school is not doing anything to protect my child as they are not taking responsibility for what happened.”
Brown said that her son tried to return to school following the Nov. 13 incident, but the accused child, who was allowed to remain at Sleepy Hill Middle, and several of his friends take turns bullying him.
“He threatened me and pretended to punch me, yelling , ‘pow pow pow,’” said the boy, who is an accomplished violinist in the school orchestra and hopes to grow up and work for NASA as a mechanical engineer.
“This has to stop — the school systems need to step up and take responsibility and stop sweeping this under the rug,” Brown said. “This is why our kids want to commit suicide.”
A police report on the incident provided by Brown shows her son was walking from Sleepy Hill at about 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, carrying boxes of popcorn for a fundraiser on the seat of his bike. He was in front of the school, but just a few feet off school grounds and was trying to make his way to the church across the street, where his father was going to pick him up.
Just outside of the school gate, the victim said he was approached by the sixth-grader, who is 5-feet, 11 inches and weighs 210 pounds — four inches taller and 90 pounds heavier than the victim. He said he had never met the other child until that moment. The accused child asked what was in the boxes, asked if he could have one and, when told no, knocked the boxes of popcorn onto the ground. The victim told The Ledger that he had asked why the other boy had done that and the boy responded, “You got a problem? What are you going to do about it?”
“The defendant picked him up by his shoulders and threw him down on the ground,” Lakeland Police Officer Jacqueline James wrote in her report. The victim said he was slammed into the ground in the roadway and hit his head on the pavement. “Once (the victim) was on the ground, he stated that the defendant punched him in the head repeatedly ... as a result, (the victim) suffered injuries to his head (and) was transported to Lakeland Regional Health to be treated for the injuries he sustained.”
The victim said students had gathered around them and were telling the defendant to stop. Jasmine Sanders, who was arriving to pick up her own child from school, stopped to help and comfort the victim. Responding officers picked up the victim and carried him back onto the sidewalk.
According to James’ report, the defendant admitted to beating the victim. The victim said that the defendant was never suspended or disciplined because the attack happened on the sidewalk along the road in front of the school, but not on school property.
“We cannot comment on possible disciplinary matters and other personally identifiable student information because of state and federal privacy laws protecting students and families,” Polk County Public Schools Spokesman Jason Geary said. “Sleepy Hill Middle and all of our schools take reports about alleged bullying seriously. Such reports are investigated and, if bullying is determined to have taken place, an action plan is developed.”
Joseph Brown, the victim’s father, is on disability and said the entire incident caused him so much stress he had to be hospitalized. Brown said he is hoping the restraining order is granted Monday, that the defendant is kicked out of school and that he apologizes to his son.
“That’ll teach a lesson to whoever wants to do something to my boy,” he said.