GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The parents of a Long Island boy said their son was so badly bullied in school that he ended hospitalized with an eating disorder and depression.
In a Facebook post, Deidre O’ Brien revealed her 13-year-old son, Liam, had been bullied since joining the Garden City Middle School soccer team last fall.
“Two kids told him he sucked and shouldn’t have made the team. There were unnecessary pushes and kicks. He was told he was weird, he was fat, his freckles were weird, his eyebrows were weird. They used horrible language and called him nasty words,” she wrote on Facebook. “I asked him how often it happened. He looked at me crying and said, ‘Everyday Mom.’”
The bullying was so severe that Liam developed an eating disorder and has been hospitalized for the past five weeks.
Liam gave up his phone, stopped seeing friends, and lost interest in soccer. O’Brien said he started eating less and lost 10 pounds in about a month over the summer. Last month after he came home with a bruised face on his birthday he stopped eating and lost five pounds in the first week of school.
“He loved to eat deli sandwiches, Dunkin Donuts, and then it just stopped,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said they asked the school for help on multiple occasions, but the bullying continued, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.
Liam went from loving soccer to suddenly refusing to play, before refusing to eat.
“He just stopped eating, I didn’t see him eat,” Keith said.
In one incident at the end of the school year she said her son told her he had been punched on his way to the school bus.
“I reported the incident but no cameras were in that particular area of the building and no monitors saw anything,” she wrote.
O’ Brien said she only learned of the bullying months after it started because “he didn’t want to make a big deal or for anyone to get in trouble.”
School superintendent Dr. Alan Groveman said there’s a problem identifying certain kinds of bullying and the school is working to improve that.
“I think the system worked as it was supposed to but the situation failed,” Groveman said. “I don’t think the system failed, I think we have a problem identifying certain kinds of bullying and that’s something we’re working through.”
Groveman said he can’t discuss specifics of the case and that the school has zero tolerance for bullying.
“I can tell you we do a thorough investigation, but can only have a finding when someone comes forward to verify something actually happened. That’s not to say nothing actually happened, it’s just difficult when there is no verification,” Groveman said.
Some parents think the school should’ve done more.
“I think he should have been shadowed, I think maybe there should have been a faculty meeting where the faculty was put on high alert,” one mother said.
Another mother at the school said the situation has prompted her to have a long talk with her seventh grade son.
“If you witness something you either have to go help or get help, I said you really have two options because if bullies aren’t stopped they’re just going to keep doing what they’re doing,” she said.
“You hate to hear of that happening to any kid and you wish that people would be more aware and in tune,” another parent at the school said.
“I was completely distraught and very upset and I hope the child is OK,” another parent said.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the bullying prompted orange ribbons to pop up across Garden City, along with t-shirts bearing the message ‘We Stand With Liam.’
The school said it will add a feature to its website where parents and residents can anonymously report rumors they have heard and the school will respond within two days.