NEW ROCHELLE, NY — As the two year anniversary approaches, the most horrific week of student-on-student violence in the history of New Rochelle has never been investigated and no one has ever held accountable for the many failures of Board Members, Administrators and Employees. While some of those people are now gone, many remain. The list starts with Dr. Brooke Balchan who should have been fired long ago.
In 2018, between January 10th and January 18th, New Rochelle High School was the subject of massive media scrutiny. An altercation at the high school moved to North Avenue as a group of students stalked two other students resulting in the stabbing death of Valaree Schwab by Z’inah Brown. On the day of Brown’s arraignment on murder charges, January 17th, a second violent altercation broke out a short distance from where the first one ended, at a pizzeria near the high school campus sending one student to the hospital. The following day, January 18th, one of the students involved in the pizzeria altercation stabbed a student in a classroom at the high school.
The following is an update on our story published on May 22, 2018 which provided a detailed account of what transpired on January 18, 2018: Bryan Stamps Chronology: What Really Happened on January 18 at New Rochelle High School?
Having reviewed hundreds of pages of records from the school district, police department and fire department and interviewed more than 20 people with direct knowledge of the events that transpired that day, we now want to turn to what has happened since that day.
But first, some context is in order.
Our previous chronology article detailed the timeline based on then-available school, police and fire department records; we now have the added details that came out of the criminal trial and what has come out so far in the ongoing civil lawsuit.
In 2018, EJ and Thelma Jordan, his grandmother, filed a civil lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against Bryan Stamps and the City School District of New Rochelle. Stamps never responded to the lawsuit so the Court granted a summary judgment motion last Fall. The case against the District continues.
Court records refer to the stabbing victim as “EJ”. We know the victim’s name. Although EJ is no longer a minor, he is the victim of a crime so we are not publishing his name without permission, which has been requested but not granted. If that changes we will update the story accordingly.
The story begins 3 1/2 years ago.
Bryan Stamps, then 13, stabbed a fellow 8th grader at Isaac E. Young Middle School on May 4, 2016. School officials claimed the incident happened off school property.
The stabbing happened on school property, on Tocci Field, the site of the former Trinity School, still owned by the City School District of New Rochelle.
Stamps was charged, as a juvenile delinquent, with Assault 2nd degree and tried in Family Court, he was given probation and barred from District property. He was allowed to enroll at New Rochelle High School in the fall of 2017.
In the weeks leading up to the stabbing. Stamps was being sought in connection with a number of crimes including a strong arm robbery (he allegedly stole another student’s Beats headphones).
Stamps was not involved when Z’inah Brown stabbed and killed Valaree Schwab on January 10, 2018 but one week later, on January 17, 2018, Stamps was involved in a melee at Gemelli’s Pizzeria when students returning from Brown’s arraignment on murder charges attacked Stamps inside the restaurant. Stamps, still on probation for the Isaac stabbing, was detained by police and found in possession of an edged-weapon.
Despite an apparent violation of his probation and being sought for other crimes, Stamps was released from police custody.
EJ was not present at Gemelli’s on January 17, 2018 when the melee occurred but was friends with some of the students who were involved which was later suggested by police, speaking on background, as a possible motive for the attack.
On January 18, 2018, Bryan Stamps, then 16, stabbed EJ in the torso with a sharp object, reportedly a pen. EJ was in 11th grade. There were 24 other students present according to court records.
The incident took place shortly after 8:30 a.m., during a Spanish language class taught by Santiago Gomez in Room 151 at New Rochelle High School.
As a result of the stabbing, EJ suffered a lacerated left lung, a lacerated spleen, and a lacerated diaphragm.
No one at the school called 911, a violation of the Board-approved School Safety Plan. School Medical Director Dr. Brooke Balchan ordered her staff not to call 911. Balchan’s violation of multiple school safety protocols both allowed a violent criminal to escape and delayed emergency medical treatment for a student who was bleeding to death in front of her. Instead of following basic security protocol, Balchan ordered her staff, over their objections, to call Thelma Jordan, the victim’s grandmother, and tell her to come pick up her grandson. EJ went into shock from internal bleeding and psychological trauma.
Asked later by colleagues why she did not call 911, Balchan said “it did not look that bad,” according to one source. Another said she told EJ she was not calling 911 because his wounds were “superficial”.
Classes began that day as they normally do, with First Period at 8:15 a.m.
At 8:19 a.m., Assistant Principal Joseph Starvaggi sent an email to staff regarding the violent altercation the day before at Gemelli’s Pizza involving Bryan Stamps.
At 8:26 a.m., one minute past the “10 minute grace period” allowed under a policy instituted by New Rochelle High School Principal Reggie Richardson, Stamps entered the school through the Embassy Entrance at 265 Clove Road. He was not challenged for being late, or questioned as to his state of mind following the violent incident the day before, but instead was allowed to make his way to his Spanish class where a mid-term was already underway.
EJ later provided a sworn statement, seen by Talk of the Sound, as to what happened next: he was in his Spanish class when Stamps asked the teacher’s permission to go to the bathroom. As Stamps was leaving the classroom, EJ testified later, “he walked next to my desk and stabbed me twice with a sharp object in the area of my left armpit while I was seated at my desk”.
EJ did not know he had been stabbed, he thought he had been punched. Gomez told Jordan to pull up his shirt. He had been stabbed twice. Several students screamed. Rather than call 911 as required under the School Safety Plan, Gomez sought help from two school guards who responded to the screams emanating from Room 151. Security guard Christina Newman escorted EJ to the nurses office on the second-floor.
Three school district employees were involved at this point but there were no calls to 911 and no calls to Bruce Daniele, the District’s Director of Security who was in his office nearby.
Among those present in the Nurse’s Office, according to school records seen by Talk of the Sound, was House I Principal Daniel Gonzalez (now House IV Principal), Nurse Diane Vetrano, Nurse Nancy Marino, Dr. Brooke Balchan. Not in the records but present according to sources who were also present: Christina Newman, Security Guard Robert Johnson, then-House IV Principal Shadia Alvarez, and School Security Officer Paul Sarachelli.
At least ten employees were involved at this point but there were still no calls to 911 and no calls to Bruce Daniele.
Noticeably absent from the scene was Principal Reggie Richardson, Assistant Principal Joseph Starvaggi and Security Director Daniele.
In response to the civil lawsuit by EJ and Thelma Jordan, the District provided a list of witnesses.
Absent from the list is Dr. Brooke Balchan, Christina Newman, Daniel Gonzalez, Nancy Marino, Robert Johnson, Paul Sarachelli and two Security Guards unknown to Talk of the Sound at this time, the second Security Guard who responded to Room 151 and the Security Guard assigned to the doors leading to House IV where Stamps escaped.
Several employees on the list are not known by Talk of the Sound to have any direct knowledge or been a witness to any aspect of the incident: Brian Osborne, Jeff White, Joseph Starvaggi, Reginald Richardson, Camille Edwards-Thomas, Rhonda Jones or Joanne Jankowski.
The District has not explained why witness were left off the witness list and why people who were not witnesses were put on the list of witnesses.
The names of several witnesses left of the District’s list of witnesses were known to the District as their names appear in the Incident Report.
The Incident Report states EJ was examined in the Nurse’s Office — the records do not say by who. Two 1.5 centimeter lacerations were observed in EJ’s left/upper middle torso. EJ was treated with “first aid” and “wound care” (disinfectant and bandages).
At 8:37 a.m. Stamps exited the building through the “night school” doors leading to House IV, according to a review of CCTV cameras by New Rochelle Police officers Ray Andolina and Terrance Fudge and Daniele.
At about 8:39 a.m., Balchan, who happened to be in the building that day, took control of the scene in the Nurse’s Office. Balchan countermanded efforts to report the stabbing to police and call for an ambulance and instead instructed her staff to call Thelma Jordan, EJ’s emergency contact.
After an argument with her staff over whether or not to call 911, Balchan prevailed and Thelma Jordan was called at 8:44 a.m. — the Incident Report does not say who placed the call. Jordan was told to come to the school to pick up her grandson and take him to Urgent Care, sources in the room told Talk of the Sound.
At 8:51 a.m. a parent called 911.
Soon after, Bruce Danielle was made vaguely aware there might have been an incident at the high school and called officers Andolina and Fudge who were just leaving police headquarters for the high school to interview Stamps about the Gemelli’s altercation, according to Deputy Commissioner Gazzola. Daniele told Andolina and Fudge, “I think we had a stabbing”.
At 8:55 a.m., the New Rochelle Police Department called the New Rochelle Fire Department to dispatch apparatus and paramedics to New Rochelle High School.
At 8:57 a.m., New Rochelle Fire Department dispatched apparatus and ambulance to New Rochelle High School.
At 8:59 a.m. New Rochelle Police officers arrived on scene, New Rochelle Police Officer Jose Hued and New Rochelle Police Lieutenant Robert Wentzler responded to the Nurse’s Office. Andolina and Fudge responded to the Security Command Post to meet Daniele and review CCTV video.
Told by Balchan that the grandmother had been called to pick up the student, NRPD Lieutenant Wentzler took command of the scene, telling Balchan, “Fuck that. I am in command. He’s going out in a bus (i.e., an ambulance)”, and, unaware paramedics were already on their way, called for an expedited ambulance to the scene.
Soon after, EMS Paramedic Rothschild and EMS Paramedic Arena arrived on scene, two minutes after they were dispatched from Firehouse 3 at 756 North Avenue, near Eastchester Road, a few blocks from the Clove Road entrance to the high school.
Had 911 been called immediately, at 8:36 a.m., paramedics could been in the classroom assessing and treating EJ by 8:39 a.m. Instead, paramedics were delayed by 24 minutes as EJ went into traumatic shock and bled from internal organs and nearly died.
The delay was the result of a de facto policy that any calls to 911 are first routed from staff through a select group of administrators who then decide whether to call 911. The de jure policy is to immediately call 911.
Balchan is not on the list for New Rochelle High School which raises the question of whether she acted on her own or at the direction of another administrator.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On November 25, 2019, Joseph Starvaggi sent an email to high school staff with a list of phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. All of them are in-house extensions. New Rochelle Police Department, New Rochelle Fire Department or 911 are not on the list. The list includes 13 different numbers to call, primarily secretaries in the main office and house offices.
Also at 8:59 a.m., faculty and staff at the high school received a text alert stating “there was a fight in a class and a student was injured, not seriously”, adding “we were trying to get one of the boys however he left the building.”
Both statements were lies.
To this day, school officials never corrected their original claim that EJ’s injury was not serious and repeated this falsehood many times and allowed this falsehood to be repeated in media accounts of the incident.
There was never any effort to “get” Bryan Stamps.
Stamps exited the building almost immediately after stabbing EJ. He left through an unmanned security checkpoint. The security guard assigned to the door had left his post without permission to move AV equipment at the request of a teacher.
No one was looking for Stamps in the 15 minutes after the stabbing because no one notified the police or District Security Director of the stabbing and it took another 15 minutes to determine that he had left the building.
When First Period ended at 9:03 a.m., students were told to remain in place.
At 9:13 a.m., Talk of the Sound observed paramedics stabilize EJ then leave the scene. EJ was transported to the Trauma Unit at Jacobi Medical Center where he was rushed into emergency surgery.
Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Daniele reviewed video surveillance recordings with Andolina and Fudge. They observed Bryan Stamps exit the building at 8:37 a.m. Based on this, Starvaggi announced a “Lockout” over security guard radios, more than 30 minutes after the stabbing.
At 9:15 a.m., police put out a BOLO ALERT (Be On the Look Out) for Bryan Stamps, “Male/Black, 145 pounds, 5’ 7”, medium complexion. Ran out of school at 8:37 a.m.. Last seen wearing green hoodie, blue jeans, dark sneaker, suspect possibly armed with a knife, may be combative.”
Had 911 been called immediately, at 8:36 a.m. police could have put out a BOLO ALERT by 8:39 a.m. School officials knew he lived at 87 Sickles Avenue with his mother Kelly Stamps so police could have intercepted him as he made his way home.
Instead, police were delayed for 39 minutes after the stabbing, giving Stamps plenty of time to get home then, with the help of family members, go on the run for more than 3 months.
The first public notice of the incident was a Tweet from @TalkoftheSound at 9:26 a.m.: “New Rochelle High School on lockout after another stabbing, but people going in/out of Embassy entrance.”
The first notice to parents from the school was an email/text alert at 10:05 a.m.:
There is currently a lockout in effect at NRHS. A lock out is when there is an possible exterior threat and no one is permitted to enter or leave the building. Students are safe and following their normal school schedule. We will lift the lockout once we have received clearance from NRPD.
The students were not safe. One student had been stabbed and was bleeding to death and the whereabouts of the perpetrator was unknown.
At 10:13 a.m. the New Rochelle Fire Department closed their event; the ambulance at Jacobi went back into service.
At 11:02 a.m. the New Rochelle Police Department issued a statement which said, incorrectly, that NRPD was first called by High School Security at 8:50 a.m. and, also incorrectly said “the injuries do not appear to be life threatening at this time.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Deputy Commissioner Robert Gazzola, in a subsequent interview with Talk of the Sound for the initial Chronology article, corrected the original incorrect statements that EJ’s injuries were not life threatening (he said they were) and that school security was the first to call police (he said it was a parent who was the first to call).
There are five official emergency terms for schools in New York, the SHELL system — shelter in place, hold in place, evacuation, lockout, lockdown — defines by the New York State Police in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act.
As summarized by the Democrat and Chronicle those terms are:
Shelter in place: Used to shelter students and staff inside a building.
Hold in place: Used to limit movement of students and staff in short-term emergencies.
Evacuation: Used to get everyone out of the building.
Lockout: Used to secure building and grounds during an incident that poses an imminent concern outside the school.
Lockdown: Used to secure building and grounds during an incident that poses an imminent threat in or around the school.
Over the next few hours, the District put out a series of statements with made-up meaningless terms fabricated by Starvaggi on the fly such as “modified lockout” and “lockout protocol modified to tight controls on access”.
There are no such terms.
Starvaggi used the made-up terms to justify his decision to allow anyone claiming a connection to a student — not just parents and guardians — to enter the school to take their children out of the school during a lockout while police were still searching for Bryan Stamps.
Policy 5140 states:
A student will be released from school only to those persons whose names appear on a list provided by the child’s parent. Only law enforcement officials and child protective services workers may take custody of a child without this prior permission. In the case of divorced parents, a student will be released to either parent if the parents have joint custody. A student will be released to a non‑custodial parent only if the divorce decree does not prevent such release and there is written permission for release to the non‑custodial parent signed by the custodial parent on file with the school. No staff member will permit any student to leave school prior to the regular hour of dismissal except by permission of the principal.
This reporter spoke to adults who said they were “grandparents” or “family friends” not on the parent/guardian lists but came to take students out of school; students were then released from school to these “grandparents” and “family friends” in violation of 5140.
Ironically, one of the allegations made against former head football coach Louis DiRienzo is that he violated 5140 by dismissing a student to her father with permission from now Interim-Principal Starvaggi.
As Bryan Stamps fled New Rochelle, EJ was undergoing emergency major surgery at Jacobi. According to court records seen by Talk of the Sound, EJ remained in the Intensive Care Unity for a week. He required 24 hour care. He suffered excruciating pain with numerous staples in his body to close his wounds He was hooked up to a number of machines and received medications and numerous injections.
Unable to return to the high school, EJ was home schooled the rest of the school year.
On April 4, 2018, EJ and Thelma Jordan filed a Notice of Claim against the City School District of New Rochelle.
EJ and Thelma Jordan are represented by the law firm of Worby, Vecchio, Edelman, LLP of White Plains, NY. The City School District of New Rochelle is represented by the law firm of O’Connor, McGuiness, Conte, Doyle and Oleson of White Plains, NY.
Stamps was indicted in absentia by a Westchester County Grand Jury on April 16, 2018 for one count of Attempted Murder.
On May 14, 2018. after close to four months in hiding, Stamps was located by the FBI at the home of his grandfather in Gadsen, Alabama and taken into custody. He waived extradition to New York two days later. The Westchester County Police Warrants Squad went to Alabama, took him into custody and returned him to Westchester County to stand trial.
In the summer of 2018, EJ attended summer school.
On August 7, 2018, the District compelled “50-h” testimony from EJ. A 50-h hearing is a pre-action hearing where a person appears under oath to answer questions posed by an attorney retained by a government agency prior to filing a lawsuit.
On August 28, 2018, EJ and Thelma Jordan filed a lawsuit against Bryan Stamps and the City School District of New Rochelle in Westchester County Supreme Court. The case was assigned to Judge Joan B. Lefkowitz.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for injuries sustained by EJ including a lacerated left lung, a lacerated spleen, a lacerated diaphragm, internal bleeding and psychological trauma, as well as, damages to Thelma Jordan.
On October 4, 2018, in a plea agreement with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Stamps pleaded guilty to Assault in the First Degree, a class B felony.
On January 19, 2019, Stamps was sentenced as a Juvenile Offender by Westchester County Court Judge Barry Warhit, brother of New Rochelle Board of Education Vice-President Paul Warhit. He received a one to three year sentence in state prison on the Assault First charge.
At the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Kerrie Williams read an impact statement from the Thelma Jordan listing the trauma Stamps imposed on her grandson, family and the other students and teachers at New Rochelle High School. In her letter, Jordan also said in regards to the adults who helped Stamps flee the law and remain in Alabama, “Shame on you.”
She added, “Bryan does not seem to understand the seriousness of his actions.”
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
The morning of Thursday, January 18, 2018. My grandson had a scheduled doctor’s appointment that day but decided taking his Spanish Test was more important and so he went off to school without a care in this world. No one could have imagined and he never felt Bryan Stamps was a threat to him until he stabbed him in the back. My family was thrust into a life changing event that day by this violent act inflicted on my grandson in a classroom at New Rochelle High School. My family was filled with unbelief, fear, stress and uncertainty of how this situation was going to turn out.
He required emergency major surgery, he could have died from the attack, he stayed in ICU for 6 ½ days, had numerous staples to close his wounds, he suffered excruciating pain, numerous injections, hooked up to a number of machines, medications and he required 24 hours support and help with everything he needed to do. He suffered much trauma, his first time being in the hospital, being seriously injured and surgery.
He had to be home schooled the rest of the school year and this was time away from his classes, teachers, friends and schoolmates. He then had to attend summer school to catch up on his studies. Even though it has been over a year since this incident my grandson still deals with feeling unsafe on the outside and also feels anxiety and stress when people want to ask questions about the events of that day.
Not only was my family traumatized but their was the Spanish teacher and the many students that was present in Spanish class that day. When I arrived at school that morning I saw some kids in tears and having to leave school that day. They were not expecting to witness a 15 year old commit such a act of violence. The New Rochelle School Districts good reputation has also been tarnished by Bryan’s violent acts.
It is obvious this was a planned and premeditated assault on my grandson with also a get-away plan. The adults who helped this 15 year old to travel to another state to escape arrest should be accountable as well, they knew he had a penchant to stab because he has previously stabbed another child with a knife. For his crime, his family sent him on a vacation, pat him on the back and supported him even though he almost killed a classmate. Shame on you … Bryan, does not seem to understand the seriousness of his actions. To the court in closing, the family feels Bryan should be required to serve the maximum of the sentence so he can take this opportunity to reflect on the crimes he has committed in his young life and then choose a path he will be proud to follow in the future.
Outside the courthouse, Kelly Stamps complained to reporter Rebecca Solomon that her son was unfairly prosecuted.
After the sentencing, Stamps was remanded to the Woodfield Detention Cottage in Valhalla, NY where he remains incarcerated to this day.
On September 19, 2018 lawyers for the District filed a raft of motions seeking various things: a Bill of Particulars, Medical Records, Prior Notice of Surgery, Intra Operative Photos and Pathology Reports, Eyewitnesses and Notice, Witnesses, Statements, Photographs, Expert Witness Information, Collateral Source Information, Medicaid/Medicare or DSS Lien, Economic Expert Witness Information, Prior and Subsequent Claim/Lawsuit, Oral Depositions, and Social Media Information including access to social media accounts LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram.
Over the past several months, Stacey Nolan Meaney, Clinical Trauma Specialist for the Westchester County DA Victims Services Bureau has refused repeated requests by the plaintiff’s lawyers to turn over ￼psychological records plus notes (redacted) despite EJ waiving his privacy rights. EJ’s lawyers want the records to support the trauma claims in the lawsuit.
In December 2019 current and former school District employees were deposed by lawyers for EJ and Thelma Jordan including Joseph Starvaggi, Dr. Brook Balchan, Christina Newman, and Santiago Gomez. Reggie Richardson is scheduled for a deposition.
EJ and Thelma Jordan were deposed by lawyers for the District on December 18, 2018, in White Plains.
On the same day, Stacey Nolan Meaney was ordered by the Court to turn over EJ’s records.
The next court date in the civil case is a conference on January 24, 2020.
A number of questions from the case remain:
- What was EJ told by school staff? In the Nurse’s Office? By Dr. Balchan?
- What was Thelma Jordan told when she was called on January 18, 2018? Who called her?
- How long was EJ in surgery? Did he have multiple surgeries? What was the length of his recuperation?
- When did EJ return to school? Which school (court records reference White Plains and Tuckahoe)? If he went to school outside of New Rochelle after the incident who paid for the tuition and transportation? Did EJ graduate from high school? Which high school? Where did he attend summer school and who paid for that?
- Was EJ at Gemelli’s? What, if any, was the connection between the altercation at Gemelli’s at the stabbing at the high school? What might have been a motive for Stamps attacking EJ?
- If police were looking for Stamps for alleged crimes before the Gemelli’s incident and he was found in possession of a knife or edged-weapon, an apparent probation violation, why was he not detained or arrested?
- Who is the mom who police say called 911 to report the stabbing?
- If Dr. Brooke Balchan is not on the list for New Rochelle High School administrators authorized to call 911, did she act on her own or at the direction of another administrator
- If the School Safety Plan says to call 911 why is New Rochelle High School staff told to call secretaries in the Main Office and House Offices in case of an emergency and why not one easy to remember number like 911 instead of 13 different numbers?
- What is the District’s explanation for the discrepancies in the list of witnesses provided by the District? Does the District intend to correct the inaccuracies?
- Given that Bryan Stamps was last seen in New Rochelle at 8:37 a.m., on CCTV video, and was never seen again (he was captured in Alabama and has been locked up ever since) did NRPD ever give clearance to the District? Do they typically give clearance?
- Did Stacey Nolan Meaney comply with the Court order to turn over psychological records plus notes (redacted)?
The most important question for the community is why has the New Rochelle Board of Education failed to conduct any sort of look back at what happened in January 2018 and why hasn’t anyone ever been held accountable — starting with Dr. Brooke Balchan who was willing to let a student bleed to death in what appears to have been an attempt to hush up the incident and avoid negative publicity in the immediate aftermath of the murder of a student the week before.