By Bill Parry
In the aftermath of a Staten Island schoolboy’s suicide, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) is calling upon state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long to resign his position at the Brooklyn school the child attended. Daniel Joseph Fitzpatrick, 13, was a student at Holy Angels Catholic Academy where Long is the chairman of the board.
“Michael Long has been negligent in his duty to protect Daniel from bullying and, in fact, holds some responsibility for his death because of his longstanding, staunch opposition to anti-bullying education,” Dromm said. “Mr. Long should not serve on any school board because of the hatred and malice he has shown toward many groups of people in our society, but especially against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people.”
Long, who grew up in Richmond Hill before moving to Brooklyn where he raised nine children with his wife, was a city councilman himself from 1981-1983. He called Dromm’s remarks irresponsible and a low shot over a young man’s demise.
“He knows my track record and he knows my politics, and I know his politics and that’s why this is just so hollow,” Long said. “We probably disagree on everything possible in the world. What he did was make a cheap political statement which involved a young man’s death for a cheap political headline. Shame on him.”
Dromm is the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Education and worked for 25 years as a public school teacher before being elected in 2010. Long was an opponent of the Dignity for All Students Act, which passed in Albany in 2010, with his opposition centered around the inclusion of LGBT students as a protected class.
Dromm points to a 2009 article published in the Guardian in which Long, who opposed the creation of the Harvey Milk School for LGBT students, was quoted as saying, “Is there a different way to teach homosexuals? Is their gay math? This is wrong. What next? Maybe we should have schools for chubby kids who get picked on.”
Dromm was shocked to learn that Long was the chairman of the Holy Angels board.
“He does not make the connection between his style of bullying and how it affects young people,” he said. “I suspect that Daniel’s pleas were not taken seriously because Mr. Long doesn’t take bullying seriously.”
Dromm said he empathized with Daniel’s pleas for help because he also attended a Catholic school and suffered from bullying similar to what Daniel experienced.
“I remember how horrible it was back in the 1970s and it is distressing to learn that this is still going on 40 years later,” Dromm said. “When I read Daniel’s suicide note, it rang true to me that his complaints weren’t taken seriously.”
Long said the principal, faculty and staff at Holy Angels Catholic Academy tried to do everything they could to help the “young man from a troubled home” despite tantrums, fits and failing grades.
“We heard his cries for help and tried everything we could, but there was one thing we couldn’t do and that is go home with him,” Long said. “If I thought for one moment the principal and staff had been negligent, I would have gotten rid of them myself. And that’s why I feel sorry for the onslaught (against) the principal, faculty and staff who are now receiving death threats. There’s a real lynch mob mentality taking place here and the sad thing is Councilman Dromm probably doesn’t even know where the academy is located. He doesn’t know us at all.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr