A Florida middle schooler was attacked by their classmates for having a Pride flag.
12-year-old Leo Hoffman, who identifies as nonbinary and prefers they/them pronouns, was attacked by several students at Seminole Middle School in Largo, Florida, according to Bay News 9.
Hoffman was outside for lunch and recess when a male student grabbed one of their Pride flags and threw it in the trash. When they went to retrieve the flag and fashioned it into a cape, the male student grabbed it back. A fight then ensued with Leo Hoffman at one time being choked as several other students attempted to pull the flag off Hoffman’s neck.
A 45-second video of the fight and tug-a-war, which included some students in support of Hoffman, made its way online. A Twitter user named Ashleigh under the username @Mermaid_Lover_ wrote to caption the video, “This is a video of my little sibling Leo who is non-binary being drug to the ground, stomped on, and covered in water just for wearing a pride flag at school.”
Caution: The video includes violence and language.
“Leo was frightened,” the student’s father, Benjamin Hoffman, told Bay News 9. “Not so much for themselves but for their friends. Leo is very strong and would do anything to protect their friends.”
After the video was posted on Twitter on June 1, it had gained over 160,000 views by Friday, June 5. Not only have LGBTQ people responded to the video with outrage, but so too did Rep. Charlie Crist. Crist’s office even contacted the school about the incident.
“I hope the students in question will be able to learn from this and do better in [the] future,” Crist told the Tampa Bay Times.
According to the Washington Post, Officials at Seminole Middle School said that the students who stole the flag and attacked Hoffman have been suspended. Some have also been reassigned to other schools.
“We teach our students to accept and respect everyone for who they are. This is a district that values diversity and promotes inclusion,” school district spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas told the Times. “The students’ behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable, and they were disciplined for it. Pinellas County schools does not tolerate this behavior.”
In addition to the suspensions and school reassignments, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the situation.