News (USA)

NYC Catholic school sidesteps blame for bullied teen’s suicide

NYC Catholic school sidesteps blame for bullied teen’s suicide
Danny Fitzgerald Photo: MARY DIBIASE BLAICH
Danny Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, N.Y., was so fed up with taunts, humiliation, and abuse from a group of school bullies from his private Catholic school, he took a belt and hanged himself in his attic on August 11. He was 13.

Although no media reports or family members identified Fitzpatrick as LGBTQ, his 17-year-old sister told the New York Daily News he was ostracized.

“Danny was always left out,” said Kristen Fitzpatrick, who previously attended the same school, Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “He used to come up to me and ask me to get kids to play with him. The other kids would say they thought he was weird.”

Her brother reportedly had been mercilessly bullied over his weight, and he wrote in a suicide note that the boys he thought were his friends and the teachers he turned to had “failed” him. And that ultimately, he felt as though he failed, too.

“I gave up,” Fitzpatrick wrote on a looseleaf paper, a month prior to his death. “The teachers . . . they didn’t do anything,” he wrote, adding that even the principal would not intervene.

NY Daily News

Daniel Fitzpatrick, the boy’s father, posted an emotional video to Facebook in which he bared his grief, and mourned his son, whom he called “a kind, gentle soul.”

His parents blame the bullying and the lack of support for an academic slide that led administrators to decide Fitzpatrick would not be welcomed back and recommended he repeat 7th grade.

“His grades went from passing to the low 40s and 60s,” Danny’s father told the newspaper. “His confidence was completely shattered.” One teacher in particular reportedly called him “lazy,” and was known to ridicule poor-performing students in front of their classmates.

“Danny said that he was afraid of his teachers,” his mother Maureen told the paper. “He felt like the whole school knew what was going on and was laughing behind his back. They humiliated him.”

The teen’s note ends: “I wanted to get out. I begged and pleaded. Eventually I did,” he wrote. “I failed but I didn’t care I was out that’s all [I] wanted.”

Although Fitzpatrick was set to start classes at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, his mother said her son was still very much just a child.

“He just wanted to be a kid,” she said. “He didn’t want to be involved in things that were too mature for him.”

The school didn’t respond to inquiries from the Daily News, but a spokeswoman from the Catholic Diocese was not accepting any blame.

“Daniel’s complaints about bullying did not fall upon deaf ears,” Carolyn Erstad said at a news conference. “The principal believes she did everything in her power to help Daniel, and to deal with any students accused of bullying.”

Erstad said that there would be an internal review.

“In light of this tragedy we are reexamining all bullying prevention policies and training. The principal, teachers, and staff of Holy Angels Catholic Academy are heartbroken over the loss of Danny Fitzpatrick. We take the issue of bullying very seriously and address every incident that is brought to our attention.”

If you are an LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) or know someone like that considering suicide, call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The number for Trans Lifeline is 877-565-8860. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours a day, every day, for people of all ages and all sexual and gender identities.

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