James Franklin Jr. is no stranger to adversity. In many ways, that defines it.
The 18-year-old is struggling with epilepsy since his stroke at birth, when doctors had predicted that he would not survive more than 24 hours. According to his mother, he had seizures in the sixth degree that had made him unconscious on the playground of his school. Another seizure during his second year took place on the basketball court, which resulted in surgery to remove part of his brain.
But he returned to court two weeks later.
Today, James is a senior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and the starting guardian of the university team. Given what he has endured, the taunts of opposing supporters usually do not bother him. But during a disputed party on Friday, his mother explained, students at Center Grove High School took excessive action.
A video published by James on Twitter shows what he and many others have interpreted as a student at Center Grove High School making fun of his epilepsy by dragging himself to the ground – as if he had just to make a crisis. The student started dancing while James was shooting free throws.
"He thought it was nice to pretend I had an epileptic fit," James writes in the tweet.
James' mother, Tamieka Franklin, told the Washington Post in an interview Tuesday that she and her family were in the stands during the match. At first, they did not know if the dance was intended to make fun of her son.
She said that things became clearer afterwards. James told him that later in the game, while taking the ball out of the field, he had heard the students shout, "Make another crisis. Make a crisis for me!
Franklin said that while watching the game, she saw her son turn around and say something to a student, which was surprising because players are instructed not to interact with fans.
He said that he had told fans: "Hey, relax, what is it," Franklin said.
Her mother's suspicions were reaffirmed when a concerned parent approached her, along with James' father, about taunting. This led to a confrontation between James' father and the student shown in the video, which, according to Franklin, simply told him, "I'm sorry. I am sorry. "Before leaving.
Franklin said that James was incredulous when he saw the video. Originally, this page was posted on Twitter by a page of Center Grove basketball fans – run by parents and community members – with a caption containing hashtags #TheDistractor and #NewCenterGroveLegend. She added that James had recorded the video using his phone when he realized that the tweet would probably be removed.
"He could not believe it, he was in shock," said Franklin. He said, "Who does that?"
Franklin said that the incident had had detrimental consequences on his son, even going so far as to make him cry. James was not available for an interview with The Post on Tuesday because of his class schedule. However, he told RTV6, a subsidiary of ABC, that the students who were making fun of him probably did not understand what he had been through.
A look at James' Twitter feed shows many examples of attempts to raise awareness about epilepsy.
"If they knew what it was not to be able to drive, to be able to go anywhere alone, to be left alone, can not even use the toilet without closing the door", said James. You would not want to make fun of such a thing.
Cathedral High School declined to comment on the incident. James' coach, who could not be contacted on Tuesday for comment, told the Indianapolis Star that he did not doubt that the student intended to make fun of James.
Center Grove Superintendent Rich Arkanoff did not respond to an email or phone call requesting a comment on Tuesday afternoon. The director of communications at Central Grove High School did not respond directly to an interview request, but referred The Post to a letter sent Monday to students, faculty, and staff regarding the request. Friday's incident, according to which the reported behavior of the student would have "tarnished" the image of the community.
In a tweet on Saturday, the school wrote that the situation "does not represent our school and our values".
They continued this statement in Monday's letter, which was signed by Arkanoff and other senior executives at Center Grove. School officials wrote that the student shown in the video stated that he did not know about James Franklin's epilepsy and that his dance was an attempt to distract during the free throw by falling as a "fish". .
"The reports indicate that students in the crowd mocked the student athlete about his fits and that a student played a ground crisis. This happened in the second quarter of the match. This student stated that his intention was to "flop like a fish" to distract during a free throw. He stated that he was unaware of the status of the athlete athletes until the end of the match, when his father approached him. He apologized to the father at that time. The administrators who oversee our students have not heard of crises. However, the student-athlete said he heard those comments and was convinced that the collapse on the floor was making fun of him. We take all allegations seriously and continue to investigate who could have made these comments. "
Administrators of Center Grove High School
"As you know, children do not always understand the perceptions and potential implications of their actions," reads the letter. "As parents and educators, we can view this type of situation as an opportunity to teach our students how to show respect for others and take into account the consequences of their actions at all times."
Tameika Franklin said that she and her family did not buy the student's excuse. When the student apologized to James' father after the match, she said, he did not say anything about the taunt being linked to "collapsing like a fish".
"No one believes it," said Franklin.
In an interview with Indianapolis-based WTHR published Monday, the Center Grove student in the video, who identified himself as Fred Lyons, described the incident as coincidence and dismissed all accusations that he was making fun of James.
He explained that his actions were part of a "fish out of the water" routine, while he was working with desperation and excitement to distract the leader.
"I just wanted people to know that I had no intention of ill will," Lyons told the NBC affiliate. "I was there to entertain the game and for other people to have fun. I'm really sorry that this happened. "
"I did not know that he was suffering from epilepsy before the announcement of the match and I did my best to excuse myself."
Lyons said in the interview that he had managed to taunt another student of the cathedral before attempting to distract James. He managed by removing his shirt and displaying his torso – which included a large picture of this student's mother. This distraction forced the student to miss two free throws.
However, this confession made Franklin skeptical about Lyons' claims that he did not know who James was before the match. If Lyon did enough research to know the mother of another player, she wondered, what would have prevented him from seeing the various articles detailing his son's epilepsy?
Cathedral and Grove Center arranged a face-to-face meeting between Lyons and James Franklin to address the problem in detail, but Tamieka Franklin explained that her son was not interested. Lyons told WTHR that he had the intention to apologize in person at the meeting. He said the incident had prompted others to attack him on social media.
"It makes me angry because they do not know who I am," Lyons said. "I do not know who they are either. I can not be mad at them for being angry at me. "
Franklin says James aspires to play basketball at the university, although school bids have slowed since his brain surgery. the outpouring of support received since Friday's incident, however, he has shown how many people are behind him.
"It's his dream, it's his passion," said his mother. "He just wants to play."
James' team lost the match from Friday 63 to 60, said his mother. Despite Lyons' attempts to distract him, James spills both free throws.
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