The eighth-grader had just left his middle school lunchroom when he said he exchanged a few words with another student, who then attacked him “out of the blue.”
According to the account of both the eighth-grader, Omid Babakhani, and police, the other student tackled Omid to the ground and struck him repeatedly, sending him to the hospital with what would turn out to be two broken collarbones.
But what has heightened the seriousness of the alleged attack Monday at Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, authorities said, is that the accused student made “verbal reference to the victim’s national origin just prior to the attack.”
Omid, 13, said the boy who attacked him, whom he described as a seventh-grader, first said to him, “Hey, Persian. Do you want to fight a black man?”
The eighth-grader said the same boy had called him “Persian” in the past.
Citing Omid’s injuries and the alleged statement about his ethnic background, police said the alleged attacker has been charged with aggravated battery and committing a hate crime.
The boy’s name was not released, and he was placed in juvenile detention pending an upcoming hearing in juvenile court, authorities said.
In an interview Wednesday, Omid said he had told the boy he didn’t want to fight and tried to nudge the boy away.
“I didn’t even expect it. I didn’t have time to defend myself,” Omid said.
Omid is an avid swimmer who competes for a team at the local Sage YMCA. His mother, Melissa Babakhani, said she’s concerned about how the injuries will affect his future in the sport. But she said he has received an outpouring of support from his swimming community.
Omid’s mother said she is of Puerto Rican descent, and her husband, Ben, came to the U.S. from Iran 26 years ago.
Crystal Lake School District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz said there is supervision at all times in the school lunchroom and hallway. The alleged attack occurred in the hallway outside the lunchroom.
Police were called immediately when the altercation occurred, Hinz said. She said the district would continue to work “collaboratively” with police and the McHenry County state’s attorney’s office on the case.
“Something like this is unusual in any of our schools,” she said. “We don’t see many fights, and we don’t see many events certainly of the severity of what occurred on Monday.”
School disciplinary action for this type of incident could include suspension or expulsion, Hinz said, speaking generally. She declined to say what action might be taken in the alleged incident.
“My heart goes out to (Omid’s family), not only from the district but as a parent,” Hinz said. “We are doing everything we can … to place student safety, Omid and everybody else, as a top concern and priority.”