Family of Bullying Victim Says New Rochelle School Officials Ignored Warnings Prior to Viscious Assault at Trinity Elementary

Written By: Robert Cox

TrinityBully1Last Thursday a student at Trinity Elementary School in New Rochelle, NY was brutally assaulted by another student on the school playground during recess. Covered in blood, the boy was taken by his mother to Lawrence Hospital in YonkersBronxville, NY where he was treated for six hours before being released with a broken blood vessel in his nose and two permanent teeth knocked loose. The family says the boy may require ENT surgery, plastic surgery and dental work.

The assailant, another 4th grader, was later arrested and referred to New Rochelle Family Court. His name was withheld due to his age.

Brandonn Baez, 10, a fourth grader at Trinity says that for the past three months two boys in his classroom teased him, called him names, shoved and hit him and stole his belongings. Unable to deal with the constant bullying on his own, he told his mother and grandmother who met with school officials to make them aware of the situation. As recently as last Wednesday, the day before the incident, the two women met with Trinity Principal Rolando Briceño, an account confirmed by Mr. Briceño.

The victim’s grandmother is Maria Baez, a former member of the New York City Council from the 14th District of The Bronx where she represented Fordham, Kingsbridge, Morris Heights, and the West Bronx. She served on the New York City Council for 8 years, from January 2002 to December 2009. She had previously worked as chief of staff for Assemblyman Jose Rivera and it the first Hispanic woman appointed to head the Bronx Board of Elections. She has since relocated to New Rochelle.

The entire experience has been traumatic for the family.

On Thursday, the victim’s mother, Carmen Baez, received a telephone call around lunchtime telling her there had been an “accident” and she needed to come to the school right away. She found her son, in the nurse’s office, bleeding from the nose, his shirt covered in blood.

“When I saw him I was hurt”, said Carmen Baez, “He was upset. There was blood all over his clothes.”

She said she had just been at the school the day before and met with Briceño about her concerns that her son was bring threatened. She no longer feels the school is safe for her son and, at this time, does not plan on him returning the school in September for fifth grade.

“This is a place where he should be safe,” Baez said. “Now he is home. He has not been back to school. He is afraid.”

TrinityBullying2Maria Baez she does not feel welcome in the school.

“We didn’t do anything wrong but I’m afraid to go into the school”, said Baez. “Any incident like this is an opportunity for school administrators like Mr. Briceño to show that parents and children come first. He lost sight of that”.

Mr. Briceño denied the Baez’ claims that they had contacted the school several times with complaints about bullying.

“She did not approach us 6 or 8 times about bullying,” said Briceño.” Wednesday was the first time that I became aware of misunderstanding or conflict between the two boys. There was no series of meetings. No one brought it to my attention”.

Asked about claims that there has been contact by the family with Assistant Principal Nadine Pacheco, Briceño acknowledge there had been one contact but claimed it was not related to bullying. Asked if he had any knowledge of discussions between Brandonn and his teachers or the family and his teachers, Briceño admitted he did not know.

Maria Baez responded was surprised to hear Briceño deny the family met with Pacheco about bullying.

“What else would we be there to discuss,” said Baez. “Of course we discussed the bullying issue with her.”

Baez added that there were also meetings with Mr. Chambers, the gym teacher and meetings with Mr. Bonhomme, Brandonns’ classroom teachers. In addition to direct conversations, Brandonn communicated with Mr. Bonhomme through a suggestion box Bonhomme kept in the classroom where students could make anonymous requests, complaints and suggestions. According to Maria Baez, Brandonn put notes about bullying in the suggestion box almost every day.

Maria Baez said the were two boys in the classroom that were involved in bullying her grandson over the past three months and that she and her daughter had complained about both.

“The other boy has been in trouble before,” said Baez. “He has been suspended before but he is still in school. Brandonn is afraid to go back because he is still there”.

Briceño declined to comment on the second student, saying the only concern that was brought to his attention involved the one student.

“In this particular incident there is only one child involved”, he said. “This is a case where two boys, friends, had a falling out. They would walk home or be driven by each others parents. This falling out led to this physical indiscretion.”

Maria Baez reacted strongly to hearing Briceño’s characterization of the relationship between the two boys.

“He said something similar on Friday after the incident and I told him to stop saying that,” she said. “They were not ‘friends. They were classmates. As for being “driven by each others parents”, Baez said that over the winter Brandonn’s mother offered the other boy a ride home, if it was OK with this mother, because it was very cold and the boy lived far from the school. Carmen gave the boy a ride a “couple of times” but stopped when the boy began treating the rides like a taxi service, demanding to be driven to places around New Rochelle other than his own home.

The school district has been developing an “Anti-Bullying” program through a grant that will begin in the fall. Briceño said the school has been laying the groundwork for that all year by conducting a survey on student’s experience with bullying and professional development for teachers and staffs on anti-bullying with an eye towards properly identifying bullying.

Asked to explain the school’s protocol for responding to a complaint of bullying, Briceño said he took a “community approach”.

“We address it with that child, with that family, we alert teachers, lunch monitors, aides so they are aware,” he said. “I pull the other student aside. By virtue of that I contact the family.”

Briceño said he “absolutely” followed protocol in Brandonn’s case with his teachers, with the nurse, with the assistant principals.

Baez cast doubt on that as well.

“We went to the school Wednesday to follow up with Ms. Pacheco and were told that she was in a seminar elsewhere,” said Baez. “We spoke with Briceño instead but he had to leave to attend the same seminar so I would wonder when he would have spoken to all these people before noon the next day”.

“Every one, every child, I treat as my own”, he said. “We take this kind of behavior very seriously to make sure this is not going to happen to anyone, especially Brandonn”.

“We are looking to have a very positive end to the school year”, Briceño added. “We handled in the most positive manner. We had communications with other family. We invited the Baez family to be parent representatives on our anti-bullying committee in the fall.”

Informed that the parents have said they do not intend to bring Brandonn back to Trinity in the fall, Briceño seemed surprised.

“They are valued members of our family, our community, I want him to come back”.

One concern raised by Maria Baez was the failure of the district to follow written and signed instructions on the school emergency card that due to severe asthma, the mother wanted Brandonn brought directly to the hospital in the event of an emergency.

Asked if these instructions were to be followed automatically, Briceño said “not necessarily” because this was a case where the nurse did not feel the need to call 911 right away. Asked if 911 was ever called in this case Briceño said “no”.

For her part Maria Baez has been surprised at the lack of concern for her grandson and his family. She reached out to Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak to express her concerns. She says Organisciak referred her to Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Korostoff but that Korostoff never contacted her. Follow up calls by Baez yesterday to Organisciak and Korostoff were not returned, she said.

“The district has expressed no concern or sympathy,” said Baez. “Then, yesterday, the Trinity School attendance office called to ask why Brandonn was not in school. I thought they were kidding”. Baez says she suggested the caller ask Mr. Briceño whose office is next door why Brandonn was not in school.

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15 thoughts on “Family of Bullying Victim Says New Rochelle School Officials Ignored Warnings Prior to Viscious Assault at Trinity Elementary”

  1. Trinity Bullying
    First, I feel very badly for Brandon and his family. I hope you are feeling better. In addition, I would like to express concern for the child who punched Brandon. He needs as much help as Brandon needed after his injury. Is anything being done for this boy? His school year, come next September, should be met with school guidance, counseling, and encouragement. Mr. Briceno, Ms. Pacheo, put away your brooms and stop sweeping everything under the carpet. The mountain of lies and deceptions you both have created has gotten too big for your carpet to cover.

    Furthermore, Trinity has the potential to be the best school in New Rochelle. Our teaching staff is like none other. The men and women who teach at Trinity Elementary should be applauded for their level of care and efforts. The only thing holding Trinity back is the micromanaging of our Principal, Mr. Rolando Briceno. Allow teachers to teach to their fullest abilities. Mr. Briceno is directly hindering our children from having the highest quality of education through his inability to lead and trust that teachers will get their job done.

    Mr. Briceno is too inexperienced to head a school, especially one with Trinity’s magnitude. Trinity has close to 900 students. Trinity is in need of a seasoned, well-groomed, strong leader, that is able to think on his/her feet, take command, have the knowledge and courage to get the best from his/her administration and staff, as well as, truly welcome parental involvement within the school. Mr. Briceno has alienated parents. He has made open attempts to prevent unity between parents and teachers.

    Mr. Briceno’s air is one of arrogance. He holds himself above the population. Is compassion not part of the job requirements for the position of Principal? Where was the care or concern for Brandon, his family, and, I can only imagine, the child and family of the attacker? Has Mr. Briceno or a member of his administration called to see how either of the two boys are doing? Is there any reason why, our Principal, cannot check on the well being of children in need, good or bad?

    An emergency card is a legal document put into place by the parent(s) so the school has all the knowledge to properly care for our children. The act of the school nurse and the Principal taking it upon themselves to ignore such instructions is nothing short of negligible.

    Mr. Briceno holding parent meetings without teacher(s) involvement is holding a meeting without all the information. Teachers are part of the protocol. Procedures are in place to protect our children. Mr. Briceno ignored procedures by not having the Teachers in the meeting with Mr. & Mrs. Baez. Both Mr. Briceno and Ms. Pacheco should be ashamed of their misbehavior and denials of such meeting occurring the Wed. before the assault. What message are these individuals giving to those who know the entire story?

    Our children are safe in the classroom. However, children need to feel safe during their entire day, not just under the mindful eyes of their teachers. Our monitors need to be taught the same safety protocols that our teachers follow. Is there any reason why, the TA’s are not out on the playground assisting with the monitors?

    Sadly after all that has happened, Trinity is loosing the only administrator who parents, children, and staff admire and respect, Ms. Peluso.

  2. Bullying
    Where were the monitors? Everyone involved should be reprimanded and in my opinion fired. To many things have gone on in the new rochelle schools. I would never send my children to trinity it use to be a great school what is happening. i hope someone looks into this.

  3. Finding Anti-bullying Solutions
    It’s always disheartening to hear about kids who are being bullied; especially when adults fail to act and a bad situation becomes worse. My heart goes out to Brandon and his family… as well as to the young boy who did the bullying and his family.

    Having grown up in New Rochelle and graduating from Trinity back in the 80’s, my own bullying altercations from elementary, middle and high school are well remembered.

    Because of my own encounters and the life experiences of others, I published Speedsuit Powers, a novel that deals with finding solutions to school bullying situations.

    While many would agree that bullying has become an epidemic in our communities, I feel that we are “behind the curve” in creating solutions.

    Getting help for the one being bullied is a great necessity, however, it is only one part of the larger picture. Adequate resolutions must focus on helping the bullied, the bully, and the bystanders who know about the situation and do nothing to help.

    While what has happened in Brandon’s case is indeed sad, thank God the results weren’t a tragic loss of life. Let’s hope this situation will cause us – as a community – to stand up and work together (adults and kids alike) to do our part in putting an end to bullying in all of its forms.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    Author, Speedsuit Powers
    http://www.speedsuitpowers.com

  4. Parents: Be Aware…
    The Dignity Act for All Students

    The Dignity for All Students Act (Chapter 482 of the Laws of 2010) was signed into law on September 13, 2010. The goal of this law is to provide students in public elementary and secondary schools (including BOCES and public charter schools) with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, on a school bus, or at a school function.

    Regulatory, policy, and procedural requirements must be developed, promulgated, and enacted by the Department and school districts to comply with the provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act and ensure full implementation by July 1, 2012. At the January 2011 meeting of the Board of Regents, staff recommended the formation of a Task Force comprised of key stakeholder groups in the education community, advocates, and Department staff to guide the implementation process.

    http://www.p12.nysed.gov/newsnotes/archive/201102.html#dignity

    NPR: ‘The Bully Project’ Finds Its Moment
    by Linda Holmes
    NPR – June 23, 2011
    
http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/06/23/137362129/the-bully-project-finds-its-moment?sc=ipad&f=1008

    Director Lee Hirsch started filming The Bully Project in 2009, about a year before bullying fully came of age as a high-profile crisis with the launch of what became the It Gets Better project. (That’s not to say that’s when bullying started, obviously — it’s when the current wave of popular media coverage swelled after several awful stories of suicides by bullied kids.)
    What The Bully Project adds to the public conversation is an unflinching look at the stakes. At its center is the family of Tyler Long, a 17-year-old who had just recently hanged himself in a closet when filming started. It follows his anguished parents as they launch a community discussion of bullying in the wake of his death that it certainly appears the school doesn’t want to have (they organize a town hall meeting, and plenty of kids and parents show up, but nobody from the school or the district).
    The film also follows Alex, a 14-year-old who can be funny and comfortable at home, but who has been so relentlessly brutalized at school (his special zone of torment seems to be the bus) that he walks around looking shell-shocked and a bit lost, which seems to isolate him even more.
    There are other kids in the story: Kelby, a young lesbian from Oklahoma whose father explains that after she came out, people he’d known for years started refusing to acknowledge him on the street; Ja’meya, a 14-year-old whose very difficult path represents the dangers of and to bullied kids who get fed up and decide to fight back; and Ty Field-Smalley, whose suicide at 11 years old — 11 years old — drives his father, too, into activism.
    At times, The Bully Project is a pretty grueling experience, but it probably wouldn’t be fair if it weren’t. And it isn’t only the bullying that’s frustrating: We see Alex’s parents try to take their concerns (which are amplified after the filmmakers conclude that they’re obligated to tell them what’s happening on the bus) to the school. There, they have a bizarre meeting with an administrator who gives them precisely the pacifying “we’ll take care of it” speech that many of the parents in the film say they hear all the time right before nothing happens.
    Unfortunately, by that point in the film, we’ve already seen that same administrator intervene in what certainly smells like a bullying situation by forcing the two boys involved to shake hands and later telling the one who’s complaining of being bullied that if he doesn’t shake hands and make up and really mean it, he’s just as bad as the bully. (She really says this. It’s almost surreal.)
    It gives you a sense of what these families feel like they’re up against, although in fairness, the schools are up against quite a lot themselves. There’s a point where a local official tells the Longs that it’s extraordinarily difficult for the school to single-handedly stop destructive behaviors by a kid whose parents are reinforcing those behaviors at home. To the Longs, it feels (very understandably) like blame-shifting and refusing to do anything, but I felt some sympathy for the school, too, because … it’s probably true.
    There aren’t any suggestions of easy solutions in The Bully Project; it’s more about driving home the need for everybody to keep trying by just standing as a reminder of what’s at stake. Kelby’s father says at one point that he never understood the expression “you never know what someone’s been through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” until he had a gay child. The Bully Project can’t let you walk a mile in any of these people’s shoes, not by a longshot. But it can let you look at those shoes up close, maybe try them on. It’s not fun, but it’s well worth doing.
    Note: The film has an online home at TheBullyProject.com, where there are extensive links to resources for kids and parents dealing with bullying and to the “grassroots movement” the film is intended to spur. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]
    To learn more about the NPR iPad app, go to http://ipad.npr.org/recommendnprforipad

  5. Where were the lunch monitors?
    It seems like the bully had plenty of time to inflict that amount of damage on the poor victim.

    All that blood on the shirts and nobody called 911. That’s unbelievable! Does a child need to be close to bleeding to death before it warrants a 911 call. Why not err on the side of caution? It’s the child’s head and face that are bleeding for God’s sake! Use some common sense. Ah, there’s the rub, common sense is checked at the door when it comes to our city school district.

    And then to add insult to injury, the principal is debating wheather the parent contacted the school 6 or 8 times. Really?

  6. Worst thing to happen to Trinity School
    The worst thing to happen to Trinity School was when they let Mr. McMahon go. I understand he was only an interm principal, but what a person he was. His dedication to the children should have been an inspiration to Mr. Briceño as he was the assistant Principal at that time. Never a day went by that Mr. McMahon was not in the main lobby greering each and every child by his/her name. I just thank God that my child only had to deal with Mr. Briceño and his style of “leadership” for only one year!

  7. Bullying @ Trinity Elementary
    My Heart Goes out to this Family… I had a very similar situation Last Year with my son at Trinity as well. I made several complaints and spent most of my time at the School. The one thing that I learned was that I was not comfortable sending my son to school and everyday I was nervous until the school day ended. I felt that the Principal and assistant Principal have no control over the Children and I saw first hand that they have no control over their Staff as well. I wrote letters to the police Department Board of Ed and the school. towards the end of the year the school thought it would be a good idea to keep my son in at recess to avoid him getting hurt rather than dealing with the situation. i also remember them blaiming everything on my son ( even after showing them his Black eye and Cuts going down his arm) instead of taking action against the children who were doing all the bullying they have this system that they think is working for them talk to the other children and see who they blame and than thats who they decide started the whole thing. it is sad that it takes a child to get hurt and the parents of that child to take a stand and let the public know. I really hope they do something about it before another child gets hurt even worse. I remember one comment very well that the assistant principal told my son last year she told him here you are the big fish but when you go to school accross the street next year you will be the little fish. well that was enough for me to move out of New Rochelle and Westchester all togeather. I saw that the school was not there to take care of my child so I moved to Putnam county where the district and the Schools put the Children first. Needless to say he has felt safe to go to school and had a Very good Year.

  8. Ridiculously Irresponsible!
    This is an outlandish story!
    It is shameful that a school district official is more concerned about “looking to have a very positive end to the school year,” than addressing an issue of violence in his school. You want to really believe that someone in that school is truly concerned about the well being of young Brandon Baez. But clearly, that concern was not expressed.

    The school broke its own protocol. The nurse as a medical professional should have acted according to the instructions of the parents. Even if the “accident” had nothing to do with an asthma attack. It was clearly a vicious attack on Brandon’s person and an emergency.

    If the boy went into shock, or became short of breath, or displayed concussion type symptoms, would they have taken him to a hospital? Clearly not.

    I met a parent today who was hesitant to send her child to Trinity. I can now see why. Her child will not be protected.

    I served on a Board of Education for six years. A principal that did not follow protocol or ignored an incident that was an endangerment to the welfare of children would have much explaining to do. Not only in the press, but in executive session.

    Whose in charge in our school district? And are students attending schools in the Southern parts of our city valued?

  9. Tangled web
    Where do you start with a story like this out of our school system.

    First – I feel very bad for the Baez family. (get a good lawyer)

    They came for help many times and were waltzed around by the people we are supposed to trust.

    Saying that – let’s make sure all the people responsible at Trinity get their story straight. They would never lie. Would they??

    Why would the Baez family lie? They certainly didn’t make this stuff up!!! It was happening on a regular basis.

    As for the Police – we have seen their due diligence in dealing with school problems – it’s like it’s not their turf and leave well enough alone. Well the cover-up is usually worse than the crime. How about a little help here Blue?

    My experience with teachers is that they are more concerned about tenure, benefits, union activities and somewhere down the line – lesson plans and maybe the students. Of course there a few that are real creative and actually teach, but… look at our graduation rate in the high school, less than 50%.

    Nice job teachers and bureaucrats, look in the mirror and enjoy your summer!!!

    More thoughts – the thugs who perpetrated these deeds are still in school. They should be in a group home for minors. At least Brandon Baez didn’t run into Jose Martinez for help, but that’s another story.

  10. Taken to Yonkers Hospital?
    Seems like a strange choice of hospitals for a New Rochelle resident.

    1. Not strange at all
      Tom,

      Most North End residents insist on being taken to White Plains if they need emergency medical care. The City partnered with Scarsdales’s volunteer ambulance service which is now responding to calls above Eastchester Road.

      In this case, the school did not call 911 and request an ambulance (as instructed) and instead asked the mother to come to the school without telling her the real reason why, the mother did not know the child needed to go to the hospital until she arrived at the school. At that point she called the police, spoke with Tom Straehle but then left to get medical care for her son. The child’s pediatrician has privileges at Lawrence Hospital and asked her to bring him there.

      There is nothing strange at all about going to a hospital outside of New Rochelle for emergency care. When my son fractured his elbow we ended up at Westchester Medical. For 2 emergency deliveries, my wife went to Einstein in the Bronx.

      1. This situation is
        This situation is unbelievable and the fact that the Assistant Superintendant or Superintendant did not get back to the family is a disgrace. Is this situation not worthy of their valuable time? Is it not worth the valuable time of the princial or assistant principal? These people need a reminder as to who pays their salarys.
        I am not a parent of a Trinity child but have had some negative experiences with Nadine Pacheco and have found her to be unprofessional,uncaring and out for her own agenda. This situation needs to be dealt with immediately and properly and if these folks are not able to do their jobs they should be invited to leave. Lets find someone who feels the need to deal with a childs terrible experience at their school more important than sitting through a seminar. Where will you learn more?

      2. Trinity Bullying
        The things that are going on in Trinity school are only tolerated because the parent population is made up of largely working and immigrant people. These families are treated like second class citizens.The behavior of the administration would never be tolerated in the North end.The complaints of parents are ignored by the administration and the Board of Education. The children of the South end are as smart, talented and worthy as any other children and deserve the best education that they can get, they are not getting it at Trinity.

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