SEMINOLE, Fla. — Several students at Seminole Middle School were suspended and others were expelled and will be reassigned to new schools after attacking a non-binary student who was displaying a Pride flag.
The incident happened last Friday during an outdoor picnic lunch.
According to Isabel Mascareñas, public information officer with Pinellas County Schools, a group of children were minding their own business displaying a few rainbow Pride flags.
One of those students, Leo Hoffman was wearing a flag like a cape, draped across their back.
Another student snatched the flag and threw it in the garbage.
Hoffman got the flag out of the garbage but a group of kids tried to steal it away again. That's when a tug-of-war led to an entire commotion and Hoffman was attacked, dragged to the ground and stepped on.
Leo Hoffman's father, Benjamin Hoffman said he got a call about the incident Friday but didn't realize the severity until he saw the video Sunday.
"Someone put their foot on their back and pushed them back to the ground," said Hoffman.
Benjamin Hoffman said the same group of students have been harassing and bullying his child and their group of friends ever since the Hoffmans moved to Seminole, Florida in January.
Hoffman said his youngest child came out as transgender and omnisexual at the start of the year and moving to Florida was supposed to be a fresh start for the family.
Hoffman met with school administrators Tuesday but believes it was the video of the incident and the public outrage that spurred the disciplinary action taken against several students.
"My oldest daughter posted the video on Twitter and it just blew up, hundreds of thousands of views. People started calling the school and the Sheriff’s Office and then things started happening," said Hoffman.
Mascareñas provided this statement from the district, "The students’ behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable, and they were quickly disciplined. Pinellas County Schools does not tolerate this behavior. Pinellas County Schools welcomes everyone, and we teach students to accept and respect others for who they are. The district values diversity and promotes inclusion. Teachers and staff work hard to make sure students feel safe."
Seminole Middle School teachers were directed to review the school's values with their students and the school will be adopting and implementing an anti-bullying program in the Fall.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's office is investigating the incident after being alerted by the School Resource Officer.
Benjamin Hoffman says Leo won't return to school for the rest of the year and they're looking at different schooling options for next year.
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