Educators in Texas are coming under fire for suspending a high school senior who came to the aid of a special needs friend being bullied by another student.
Officials at Rudder High School in Bryan, Texas suspended Christian Tumax, 18, after the incident unfolded during lunchtime mid-day Monday.
Local network KBTX reported this week that the trouble began when Tumax heard a friend of his with special needs causing a commotion in the cafeteria.
"I turned around and saw he was being harassed," Tumax told the network.
Tumax says he then approached the bullies and told them to “be quiet and leave him alone.” School officials intervened later that day, though, and after viewing surveillance camera footage they opted to initiate a two-day suspension against Tumax.
According to the remarks Tumax made to KBTX this week, the video portrayed him as the aggressor. He disagrees, however, as do dozens of students who witnessed the incident firsthand.
“The school district talks about how its anti-bullying,” Rudder student Shane Savage wrote in a public Facebook post this week. “Yet while a special education student is being bullied at lunch while teachers watch, not caring. But the student Tumax] who stands up for this guy when no one else is and then gets swarmed by the bullies. That student is the one who gets suspended. Does anyone else see the problem with this?! He was doing what the teachers wouldn't.”
Supporters of the suspended student echoed that message and similar ones across the internet since Monday, using the hashtagged-topic “#FreeTumax” to spread awareness online.
Literally the nicest, sweetest, most kind hearted student @ Rudder got suspended for standing up for someone getting bullied Wtf #FreeTumax
— Angie Bonilla :) (@angiebonilla12) February 10, 2014
“Literally the nicest, sweetest, most kind hearted student @ Rudder got suspended for standing up for someone getting bullied,” one supporter wrote.
“I have siblings with special needs, and if they were being picked on, I pray someone would stand up for them,” one former Rudder student wrote on Twitter.
I have siblings with special needs, and if they were being picked on, I pray someone would stand up for them. #FreeTumax
— Katherine Shaw (@KaayteeS) February 10, 2014
To Tumax, though, high school officials are simply doing what they deemed was best.
"They had to base it off what they saw in the cameras," said Tumax. "They saw me go forward, and that's the reason I got suspended."
When KBTX approached the Bryan Independent School District for comment, officials there said they couldn't comment on the incident at this time.
"Individual student discipline is tied to confidential student records. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding any one event, by law the district cannot comment. These privacy boundaries are put in place to protect students and their confidential information,” wrote the ISD.
"I appreciate the messages today, I do read them,” Bryan ISD Superintendent Dr. Thomas Wallis wrote on Twitter. “Please remember student discipline issued by a campus is a confidential matter."
As for Tumax, though, he doesn't mind opening up about Monday's events.
"My message is, go out and help somebody," he told KBTX. "If you see it, don't hesitate, don't be scared. We're all human, we all need help, and we all have demons that we're fighting with."