LAKELAND, Fla. — A 7th grader is recovering after a video of him being beaten in a locker room surfaced last week. His family says the teacher who was in there didn't do enough to protect their son.
"I mean not only was I disturbed, but I was enraged. It is so hard to watch" Lauren Springfield said.
A spokesperson with the Polk County school district confirmed there was a teacher responsible for supervising the students, but did not say whether the teacher was actually in the locker room when the fight happened.
The teacher is being investigated.
Stephanie Yocum is President of the Polk Education Association. She says a teacher’s role during a student fight depends on the situation.
One time, a fight broke out in Yocum’s classroom and she opted to hit the intercom button for help rather than try and physically intervene herself. Yocum says teachers are protected if they physically intervene on behalf of students’ safety.
“We are protected under our collective bargaining agreement that if we do need to use reasonable force to break up a fight or for the safety of other children or others just in the area, we’re covered and protected for that,” Yocum said.
Yocum noted teachers don’t always have their eyes on all students and a fight could break out in an area without adult supervision. She urges people to wait for the facts to play out in this investigation before blaming the teacher for not intervening.
“I think it’s really just important to make sure you have all sides of the story before people start weighing in because at the end of the day you have students to protect and you have employees to protect,” Yocum said.
According to the district, the teacher involved is a physical education teacher at Blake Academy and is currently on administrative leave. The district’s Facebook post contains a message to parents and students at Blake Academy which says:
"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.
The teacher who was responsible for supervising the children is currently being investigated and discipline is pending based on the outcome.
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."
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