NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Three track team members have been charged with the violent sexual abuse of a younger student at the Bronx High School of Science.
As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the boys have been charged as adults with forcible touching, assault, hazing in the second degree, and harassment in connection with the attacks at the Bedford Park school.
The suspects are identified as Thomas Brady, 16; Boubacar Diallo, 16; and Pier Berkmans, 17. The victim said all three boys were fellow members of the track team.
The assaults started in late December, when one of the assailants told the victim, “You need a good fingering, you freshman” before penetrating him through his clothing, the complaint said.
Later in January, one of the teens demanded that the victim touch him sexually and threatened to rape him if he did not, according to the complaint. When the victim refused, he was pinned down and sexually assaulted, police said.
The older boys also allegedly struck the victim’s genitals with a water bottle.
The most recent attack happened just last week, when one of the assailants held the boy down on the ground as another sexually assaulted him, the complaint said. When the boy told the attackers they were hurting him, one of them responded, “Don’t resist, we won’t hurt you,” according to the complaint.
In response to the alleged hazing incidents, Bronx High School of Science Principal Valerie J. Reidy issued a letter to parents ensuring that the attacks were being “fully investigated.”
“All track team events have been suspended until the investigation is completed,” Reidy wrote. “Understand that the decision was not an easy decision to make, and was not meant to be punitive to any of our students. We understand that not all members of the team were involved in the hazing; however, at this time, we do not know the magnitude or severity of the incident(s) and who specifically is involved.”
Reidy also advised parents to watch their children’s behavior, as such incidents may be a trigger for others who have dealt with similar abuse.
Students at Bronx Science were stunned by the allegations, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“You don’t really expect that from people,” Rafael Rios said. “This school is supposed to be one of the top schools in New York, so it’s kind of crazy that such smart kids are doing such ridiculous actions.”
Another student at the school said the incident leaves a black mark.
“Especially after Stuyvesant cheated, now Bronx Science is hazing kids, supposedly. That’s really bad for specialized schools in general,” student Virginia Pollock told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Another student at the school said the alleged hazing does not surprise him.
“Most likely, these three that have been charged had it done to them by other seniors and it just goes on,” a junior at the prestigious school told Diamond.
And a student who did not want to be identified said he knows hazing goes on as part of track team activities.
“Maybe not a ritual, but it’s just a norm. It’s just something that they do, and it’s always been like that,” he said.
Not all the students believed the hazing even happened.
“I don’t really believe it,” said student Olivia Toronto. “I don’t really think it’s true.”
Meanwhile, the mother of one of the accused students insisted to Sanchez that her son did nothing wrong.
“He’s a good kid, and we are sure as his parents,” said Yekaterina Berkmans, mother of Pier Berkmans. “He is someone incapable of doing the dirty things he is accused of.”
“I’m confident he’s going to be cleared up, because he didn’t do that,” added Pier Berkmans’ father, Jan Berkmans.
Jan Berkmans went on to call the charges “just allegations. He cannot understand why this kid will say so.”
According to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the defendants pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on Feb. 28 and were all released to their parents on personal recognizance bonds. They are due back in court on Friday.
They will have to meet with the superintendent of schools on Thursday to find out if or when they can return to school.
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