NEW YORK (PIX11) — Bullying is recognized as a huge problem in the nation’s schools. Statistics show that 1 in 4 kids are bullied on a regular basis. A Bronx father claims his daughter is one of those victims. He has filed a lawsuit against the New York Archdiocese and the Catholic school she attended claiming they failed to protect her which led to the girl taking drastic measures.
“As a result of bullying, my daughter tried to take her own life and broke down,” Rafael Hernandez revealed, speaking at his lawyer’s office in Brooklyn.
Hernandez said his special needs daughter, now 16, was bullied throughout her education at Catholic schools. In the lawsuit, he names St. Margaret of Cortona school in the Bronx as the institution he contends failed to protect her.
“She was ostracized, she was left out, the children would talk behind her back, there was name calling. They called her awful things and said she was stupid. It was name-calling she had to endure for a long time,” Hernandez said.
The father has filed a lawsuit in federal district court alleging “outrageous and unlawful” treatment of his daughter.
“The climate of bullying is a real problem for young children,” attorney Sanford Rubenstein noted. “Schools do not pay attention and don’t take appropriate action.”
Rubenstein maintained that the smoking gun in this lawsuit is the email sent to the school by the girl’s mother in December of 2021 complaining about the toxic environment surrounding her daughter. She cited “cruel words that left her in a depressive state.” The legal action claims the school failed to act. A month after the email was sent, the parents claimed their daughter attempted suicide by swallowing 80 pills of her father’s blood medicine.
Hernandez argued that the school was “complicit. They didn’t do much. It was extremely disheartening when they put the onus on my daughter to come up with a solution.”
The lawyers said the suit was filed in federal court, rather than a state court, because the case involved a violation of section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act. “It’s a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability to entities that received federal funds,” attorney Mark Shirian explained. The school reportedly received supportive funds from Washington during the pandemic. “The failure of a school to act when they were aware of the problems of bullying violates the federal statute,” Rubenstein declared.
PIX11 News sought reaction to the lawsuit from the Archdiocese of New York and was given this statement: “We are unable to comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.”
The lawsuit makes no mention of what the family is seeking in damages. But attorney Rubenstein said he’s hopeful this case will again shine light on the bullying problem and remind institutions like schools that they are accountable and have to do more to prevent it.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) . It is a free, 24/7 service that offers support, information, and local resources. You can also click here for additional resources.