Family of Teen Who Killed Himself After Being Bullied at School Considers Wrongful Death Suit: 'You Failed Danny'
The heartbroken parents of the 13-year-old New York boy who took his own life after he said he was bullied for years at his Catholic school are pursuing legal action against those they believe could have prevented their son’s death, an attorney representing the family told InsideEdition.com Tuesday.
An investigation will determine who at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, knew that Danny Fitzpatrick was being tormented by classmates and did nothing to stop it, attorney Scott Rynecki, who is representing the late child’s parents, said.
"We’re going to perform an investigation and hold those accountable here that were negligent,” Rynecki said. “The intention is to sit down, go into all the information with the [possibility of filing] a wrongful death lawsuit that will show the supervision here was lacking... and that this was all preventable."
In a note he wrote before his death, Danny recounted the brutal treatment he allegedly suffered at the hands of five boys also attending the school.
“They did it constantly,” Danny wrote in the letter, written in the weeks before his death. “I gave up... [the teachers] didn’t do ANYTHING.
"I wanted to get out. I begged and pleaded, eventually I did get, I failed, but I didn't care, I was out, that's all [I] wanted," he ended his note.
One of Danny’s three sisters found him hanging in the attic of their Staten Island home last Thursday.
The pleas of the kind-hearted teen and his parents for help in dealing with the harassment fell on deaf ears, Danny’s mother and father said in emotional posts to Facebook.
“We’re trying, we’re trying but we need time to grieve after all this is done, before I have the strength and the true ability to channel my grief, my anger, my rage that I feel towards all those people and the administrators of that school, the teachers and those little monsters that thought it was OK to be mean to my son every day in school,” Maureen Fitzpatrick tearfully said in video Tuesday before the second day of Danny’s wake.
It was filmed in her late son’s bedroom, where the grieving mother said she sits every day, waiting for a sign from her boy that he is at peace.
“To that teacher who thought it was a smart idea to take his desk and keep it separate from the rest of the desks because that seemed like a good idea, all that rage I feel toward you, there’s a lot of it,” she continued. “That teacher that gave my son detention because she thought he wasn’t trying instead of realizing that he was depressed because he was being bullied all the time and he had just given up on trying to do well in math — you know who you are — I have a lot if for you too.
“And the other one who was just too lazy to goddamn give a crap, just too lazy. Too lazy to be bothered with anything, none of you belong in the system with children, not a one of you. You need to be gone, you need to be removed. Kids need teachers that care. That is your job, that’s your freaking job. That’s what teachers in the classroom are supposed to do; you are supposed to protect those kids. And you failed. You failed my son, you failed Danny,” she said through tears.
Danny Fitzpatrick (Facebook)
In a statement released after Danny’s death, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Archdiocese, under which Holy Angels Catholic Academy falls, said authorities did everything in their power to help Danny.
"Daniel's complaints about bullying did not fall upon deaf ears," the Brooklyn Archdiocese said in a statement. “Conflicts with other students were never ignored. The principal and teachers truly cared for Daniel and did everything in their power to help him. The school provided counseling for Daniel, suspended students accused of bullying him, and met with those students' parents."
Principal Rosemarie McGoldrick also had one-on-one meetings with every member of Danny’s class “work toward bullying prevention and conflict resolution,” the Archdiocese said.
“In addition to our most heartfelt prayers we will offer every resource available to Danny’s parents, our students, staff, and all the families of Holy Angels Catholic Academy,” McGoldrick said in a letter informing the community of Danny’s death.
But the Fitzpatricks refute the Diocese’s statement, Rynecki said, telling InsideEdition.com: ”There hasn’t been one person from the school that has reached out to the family.”
In a Facebook video post on Sunday, Daniel Fitzpatrick said his wife "asked if anybody was associated with Holy Angels Catholic Academy, please stay away from us."
"At this time we want to allow the Fitzpatrick family time to grieve. We are praying for them and working to provide the teachers, parents, and students of Holy Angels Catholic Academy the support and counseling they need," Carolyn Erstad, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Diocese, said in a statement to InsideEdition.com
She said that teachers and staff from the school wanted to go to the funeral on Wednesday, but also wanted to respect the family's wishes.
A family member also allegedly left a message on the school's voicemail saying that no one from Holy Angels Catholic Academy was welcome at any services, Erstad said.
Monsignor Kevin Noone from the parish reached out and asked if could concelebrate the funeral Mass and was told no, she said. Bishop James Massa from the diocese also reached out and asked if he could attend the funeral and has been granted permission to attend, she said.
Holy Angels Catholic Academy is working to provide counseling to the children publicly named and blamed for Danny's death, as well as parents and teachers at the school, Erstad said.
Rynecki said he was told only one student was suspended in connection to an altercation with Danny, in which administrators originally intended to punish both boys involved.
"They were originally threatening to suspend Danny,” Rynecki said. “Video from a security tape showed Daniel was not the aggressor."
That video tape Rynecki has been told existed will be part of a discovery request, he said.
“In New York, the schools have an obligation to provide proper supervision to the students,” Rynecki said. “Their own school handbook talks about a bullying prevention program they have in place,” he continued, saying Holy Angels Catholic Academy has in place the Olewus Bullying Prevention Program, “the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today,” the program's website claims.
“Just because they had the program, I don’t believe they followed it,” Rynecki said.
The subject of a potential lawsuit has not been ironed out yet, but information about the torment Danny faced and those who knew about it could point at a multitude of players, including the Brooklyn Queens Diocese, the school, administrators, teachers, the principal as well as the families of the children accused of bullying Danny, Rynecki said.
He said that the boys involved may need to be deposed, saying: “What happens if these boys come forward and say ‘the school never even sat with us’?”
The search for accountability comes as Danny’s family readies to say goodbye to the boy who loved ones referred to as an angel.
Daniel Fitzpatrick and his son, Danny. (Facebook)
“I don’t get to celebrate his birthday in two weeks,” Maureen Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t get to be with him on Christmas or this Halloween or Thanksgiving. We have an empty chair in our house. And you can’t fill those shoes. Nobody could fill my son’s shoes … He had a moral code that was phenomenal. He believed in being kind to everybody... And now he’s not going to have a chance to use his gift for the rest of his life. That’s such a waste, that’s such a waste.”
Mourners paid their respects at a visitation for the teen at Harmon Funeral Home in Staten Island on Monday and Tuesday. His funeral mass, which will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart R.C. Church on Staten Island, will be open to the public as a way to shine light on bullying.
The boy's father issued a heartbreaking online plea to other victims of bullying, begging that they remain strong.
“You have to keep going,” the elder Danny Fitzpatrick urged in a Facebook video Monday, crying as he said: “The choice that my, that my boy made, is an answer but it’s not the right answer.
“To all you kids out there that are feeling the same way that my son Danny was feeling, when you get that thought that runs through your head, don’t act on it,” he said. “Please don’t act on it. You are put here on this earth for a purpose.”
The family’s goal to shine a light on bullying and memorialize their son in a way he deserves caught the attention of countless others who took up their cause.
A GoFundMe page created by one of Danny’s sisters to “give Daniel a proper memorial, as well as shine a bright light on the bullying that killed him” had raised more than $120,000 by Tuesday, far surpassing its original $10,000 goal in the four days since it had been created.
Donors shared their condolences and own experiences with bullying and losing loved ones to suicide.
“Your son deserved so much better. We are all thinking of you in this terrible time,” one person wrote.
Another donor wrote: “It feels extremely isolating when you are going through it on a daily basis. Something needs to be done about bullying.”
Maureen Fitzpatrick and her son, Danny. (Facebook)
It was a cry echoed by many, including former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, who tweeted: “[heartbroken] to see yet another story like this. RIP daniel; condolences to his family. we need to listen + care more.”
“There are some types of stories that no matter how much you've seen, no matter how many years you've worked as a reporter, you never get inured to,” veteran newsman Dan Rather wrote. “A parent's grief tops my list - especially when it falls in the wake of the undefinable tragedy of a young suicide… Childhood is a mysterious and often magical time. But it is one of unseen stresses and threats. We must be vigilant in protecting our children.”
Rynecki agreed, saying bullying needs to become an issue dealt with in a more permanent way, and not just when a tragedy brings it to the media forefront.
“We can no longer bury our heads in the sand,” he said.
“Please, I want the whole world to help us fight this, please,” Maureen Fitzpatrick said. “That’s what we need; we need the help of the whole world.
“Now. I’m gonna sit in my son’s room now and hope that he,” she said as she began weeping, whispering, “Hope that he gives me a sign. Because, I need something.”