Some parents of children attending a Bayside Catholic school have accused students of bullying and said that administrators have not done enough in response to the incidents.
Alison Fernandez, the parent of one former kindergarten student at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy, reached out to QNS and the Times Ledger to share her anger with how the school handled the aftermath of her son’s physical assault.
Back in October, Fernandez said that her son, whose name is being withheld at the request of his parents, was physically harmed by two third-grade boys in the school’s bathroom.
“Two third-grade boys held him down, slapped his penis, slapped his butt and put paper towels down his pants,” said Fernandez, who added that no one from the school immediately contacted her despite her son telling the principal about the incident.
QNS reached out directly to OLBS for comment but were instead referred to the Diocese of Brooklyn who handles all media for the Catholic Academies.
Adriana Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn, acknowledged that the diocese was made aware of the situation and learned that “the principal informed the NYPD, which conducted an investigation and closed the case without any further action.”
Additionally, the teachers spoke to the kindergarten and third-grade students who were involved and sent home notes to parents to inform them of the incident.
“At that time, the kindergarten student did not say he was assaulted. It was deemed to be a minor behavioral incident of boys fooling around in the bathroom. The students involved did not appear injured or particularly upset,” said Rodriguez.
Fernandez said that she and other parents were told that the kindergarten students were misbehaving in the bathroom and no mention of bullying was made. Her son told her that there were other kindergarten students in the bathroom and one of them was picked up and forcibly put into a stall by the older students.
During the investigation, Fernandez said, that her son was interviewed alongside the other children by “undercover cops” at the Queens Child Advocacy Center in Forest Hills. The center, according to the Queens District Attorney’s website, was “established to coordinate and expedite the investigation, prosecution, and delivery of treatment services in cases of child sexual abuse and serious physical abuse, while ensuring that victims receive effective and immediate support.”
She noted that her son was the only one who was not accompanied by his parents during questioning.
“The other kids were interrogated with their parents there and everyone had the same story,” said Fernandez, who believes that the other parents may have collaborated beforehand.
The mother said that she wanted the children to be expelled or disciplined, but when the investigation was over, the accused children were still allowed to attend OLBS. She subsequently pulled her son out of the school for fear that he would continue to be bullied.
“My son was bullied here and the principal, the board of directors, the superintendent of the dioceses of Brooklyn did nothing!” wrote Fernandez on her own Facebook page.
After news of her son’s attack got out, Fernandez received emails and text messages from other parents who said that their young children had similar experiences. A parent who wishes to remain anonymous claimed that older students kicked and pushed her kindergarten-aged son into the bathroom wall. Fernandez said that other parents told her that their child was asked to “pull down his pants.”
But Rodriguez said that OLBS took these allegations seriously and changed the bathroom policy in response to the initial investigation.
“Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy works every day to ensure children are learning in a safe and encouraging school environment. It takes any allegation of bullying, abuse or assault seriously. Since this allegation was received, our policy has been changed and now an adult escorts the younger students to the bathroom and stands outside,” said Rodriguez.
In addition, the diocese spokesperson said that the school has numerous anti-bullying education programs for their students. She added that the school has received favorable reviews from parents and students, and that each school day begins with a prayer to reinforce the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Last month, the NYPD gave a presentation to parents on bullying and anti-bullying tactics,” Rodriguez said. “Officers also gave an age-appropriate presentation on anti-bullying tactics to students in grades 1 through 4 with McGruff the crime dog. Students in grades 6 through 8 are getting a weekly program titled “Protecting You, Protecting Me,” a program provided by the Diocesan office of PDHP (Program for the Development of Human Potential).”
But Fernandez said that the actions taken by the school were not enough and wants other parents to be aware of what’s happening.
“A lot of people are scared [to come forward] but I want people to be aware,” she said.