DAVENPORT, Iowa -- The family of a Davenport West High School student charged with attacking another student said they can't stay silent any longer.
On Monday, November 4, one student repeatedly punched another student in the cafeteria, leaving the victim with a serious head injury. According to both families, the dispute began when the victim, Charlie, took an "inappropriate, but playful" photo of another student for the school newspaper. The student in the photo asked for it to be taken off social media, but began being bullied soon after.
On Friday, News 8's Bianca Reyes sat down with the family of the boy who threw the punches.
The boy's mother, Angela Hughes, said ever since the video of the fight went viral her son has been wrongfully portrayed and is a victim, himself, of cyber bullying.
"There’s been an image put out of our baby, our 15 year old, who they portrayed as like a thug or a bully," Hughes said referencing the video shared across social media. "And he is the furthest thing from that."
Hughes said up until now, the narrative surrounding the fight has been one-sided and she is ready to defend her son.
"It’s a nine second clip. And everybody got that one side of the story. But nobody knows what led up to this," Hughes said.
She claims what happened on Monday was a product of cyber-bullying.
The photo that sparked the fight shows Hughes' son laying down for a pose in the West High hallways. Behind him, in the same position, is the school's janitor. Hughes said her son described him as a "friendly, cool" janitor. However, Hughes finds a deeper issue with the photo.
"The photo, with a grown man, in the picture with my son was inappropriate. I should have been contacted immediately," said Hughes. "When the superintendent did his interview (with media) he said that the photo made him uncomfortable. But it didn’t make you uncomfortable enough to reach out to the parents involved?"
She said the school was aware of the photo and had pulled her son into the principal's office the morning of the attack to ask if he was a target of bullying. Hughes said she was never aware of that meeting and that she should have been notified.
"Once the photo is out there you can’t take it back," Hughes said. "Everybody knows that. That’s common sense."
The suspect's father, Jeffery Hickman, agreed with his wife. He said the photo needed to be shown to explain to the public that his son did not react without reason.
"By this picture going viral like that, now people are looking at him like he’s something different," Hickman said. "They’re not getting the story. They’re just getting the part where they’re thinking this kid jumps on another kid at school."
When asked if the thought of the victim dying from his injuries crossed their mind, both parents said yes.
"Has the thought crossed anybody's mind that my son could've taken his life from being cyber-bullied," Hughes asked in response. "There's two lives involved here."
The family said the spotlight on the video made their son go from being the victim, to being the suspect. Hughes said she is also appalled by the threats her son, and family, has received.
"He still has people harassing him, texting him. He has grown ups speaking about he should be injured, he should be charged as an adult, all these things," said Hughes.
"I’m just blessed that he didn’t take that (bullying) and go home and take his life," said Hickman.
The family said they did reach out to the victim's family to apologize for their son.
"My son didn’t eat or sleep until he found out whether or not that kid was okay," said Hughes.
According to Hughes, "disciplinary action" is being taken on the janitor photographed with her son. She said her son was removed from school after the incident. He had an expulsion hearing on Tuesday. A school board member confirmed that the teen was expelled from school.