NJ Mother and Son Assaulted After Racist Bullying at School

A mother from New Jersey said she was beaten by a 13-year-old boy who was bullying her son and called him ethnic slurs.Beronica Ruiz, 35, told WNBC that she was walking home with her 12-year-old son and her one-year-old daughter from her son’s school at The Gifted and Talented Academy in Passaic, New Jersey on June 19. While they were walking, another student from the school approached them on Lexington Avenue near the intersection with Monroe Street, according to a press release from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

The statement read that the 13-year-old attacker reportedly hit Ruiz, which caused her to fall onto the sidewalk and lose consciousness. The attacker also hit her son in the face, according to the statement.Ruiz was taken to the hospital and treated for facial fractures and a concussion. Ruiz’s attorney, Daniel Santiago of Clifton, New Jersey told NJ Advance Media that Ruiz was hospitalized for two days after the attack and suffered a fractured eye socket, bruises and a bloodied eye.

The 13-year-old was arrested and charged with one count each of aggravated assault and simple assault, according to the prosecutor’s office statement. He was released to his parents pending an appearance in Family Court.

“A juvenile delinquency complaint is merely an accusation,” the statement from the prosecutor’s office read. “Despite this accusation, the juvenile is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The 35-year-old told WNBC that her son was being bullied at school before the attack occurred, and was told by the attacker to “go back to Mexico,” even though her son is a US citizen. "They told my son Mexicans should go behind the wall," Ruiz told the news station.Santiago, who called the attack a hate crime, told The Washington Post that after Ruiz’s son was taunted and threatened by bullies, he reached out to school administrators who placed him in another office or classroom, but they did not notify his parents.

“He pulled one of the teachers aside and said ‘I’m scared for my safety,’’ the Santiago told The Post. “The teacher grabbed the attention of a security guard and they essentially sequestered my client’s son in a room for his own safety.”Ruiz’s son told his mother about the bullying and said he was afraid to go back to school, according to the publication. When Ruiz confronted the vice principal about the bullying, he admitted that he should have called the parents but was busy with other school matters, the publication reported.“That’s a woefully inadequate response,” Santiago told NJ Advance Media. “'My bad’ is not a good excuse for not calling (the parents), not telling them.”The 13-year-old student who attacked Ruiz and her son was suspended from the school after the boy’s father, Alfonso Vasquez, called Passaic mayor Hector Lora, according to NJ Advance Media.

Santiago told the publication that he will file a notice to sue the school district. The North Star has reached out to Santiago for comment about the notice but did not hear back in time for publication.Lora told NJ Advance Media that he is “outraged over this incident,” and has reached out to the family.“This incident is being taken extremely seriously. I have met with and spoken personally with the family. I have met with my chief of police, local officials and school administration as well as board members to make sure there is accountability and that this family receives justice as well as any help and resources we can provide,” the statement read.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to help raise money for medical expenses. The fundraiser, which was started by Kelly Ashton Santiago, was created on June 26 and has already raised $4,728 out of its $10,000 goal as of July 3.“Beronica suffered a fractured eye socket, a concussion and other injuries. Right now she needs our help covering mounting medical expenses. Please help anyway you can! Any support you can give her is greatly appreciated!” the description of the fundraiser read.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 2017 Hate Crime statistics report found that 59.6 percent of the victims were targeted because of their race, ethnicity, ancestry. The report also found that 10.9 percent of victims who were assaulted in 2017 were targeted because their attackers had anti-Hispanic or Latino biases’.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.