Leo Hoffman is 12 years old and just wanted to celebrate Pride with their friends. But when the Seminole Middle School student displayed a Pride flag at a school picnic, they were viciously attacked by other students, according to video acquired by Spectrum Bay News 9.
At the picnic, Hoffman was confronted by a male student, who grabbed their flag and threw it into the garbage. When Hoffman retrieved the flag and put it over their back like a cape, the same male student became even angrier. He then pulled the flag from Hoffman’s arms, knocking them to the ground where they were kicked, stepped on, and dragged as other students joined in.
According to school officials, several students have been suspended after the incident, with some of them being reassigned to an alternative school.
"We teach our students to accept and respect everyone for who they are," Pinellas County Schools public information officer Isabel Mascareñas told Spectrum Bay News. "This is a district that values diversity and promotes inclusion."
According to Benjamin Hoffman, Leo’s father, the 12-year-old is doing well, all things considered. "Leo was frightened," he said. "Not so much for themselves but for their friends. Leo is very strong and would do anything to protect their friends."
A video of the incident was shared on Twitter by someone identifying as Leo’s big sister. (Warning: this video is highly disturbing and shows violence against children.) She also posted several updates and messages from the Hoffman family.
"I want to thank everyone for the tremendous outpouring of support for Leo," one message from Benjamin Hoffman reads. "The video has been shared on Twitter and at last look has over 205,000 views! So far 6 students have been suspended and I just received a call from the school principal and he stated he is recommending expulsion for some of them. We are still pursuing charges but are still getting resistance from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office."
The school has stated that it will be "reviewing and reinforcing" its school values in classes this week. Those values include respect, tolerance, cooperation, and diversity. The school also plans to implement a bully prevention program when the school year starts again in the fall.