NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After a brutal assault by a school bully kept a special needs student in the Bronx from returning to class for a year, his family filed a lawsuit against the city saying the attack could have been prevented.
George Cabassa Jr., now 20, still cries over the day he says a student at the Morris Academy in the Bronx sucker punched him in the face while he was at the water fountain, reports CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.
“When I came out of surgery, I couldn’t do nothing,” said Cabassa, who still gets emotional recalling the attack.
His father, George Cabassa Sr., points out the lingering mark left behind.
“A knuckle print right under his nose and under his eye cheek,” said Cabassa Sr.
George Jr., who is autistic and has a speech impediment, says he was the only special needs student at the school and other students picked on for it.
“Like, I’m not going to be able to make it to graduation from where I was before,” said Cabassa Jr.
The alleged assault was three years ago. His parents say they asked for a school transfer seven times, writing “He is not safe.”
George is now in his third year as a senior at a different high school. His lawyer says the Department of Education only transferred him after the family sued the shcool.
The complaint is still in the pre-trial phase, but attorney Avi Cohen says damages are at least $500,000.
“A lot of people fall through the crack, and George is living testament of that,” said Cohen.
Just last month the city’s Department of Education settled a class action lawsuit with the parents of 24 students who had similar allegations.
“Oftentimes the school wouldn’t respond at all, they wouldn’t even confirm that they were conducting an investigation. They didn’t take action against the bullies,” said Jim Walden, the attorney for the class action lawsuit.
The city agreed to grant safety-transfer requests for students after one bullying incident and establish an electronic reporting system for investigations of bullying.
Education policy expert David Bloomfield of the CUNY graduate center says Cabassa’s case is one of many.
“It should have seen this coming, but now we have at least some sort of Band-Aid at least. But the real problem is bullying itself,” he said.
“I don’t want that to happen to someone if they’re dealing with something like this,” said Cabassa Jr.
The Cabassas say George will graduate in June and hopes to go on to trade school.
The Department of Education declined CBS2’s request for an on-camera interview but did issue a statement about the Cabassas’ case.
“We treat any instances of bullying with the utmost seriousness, and have provided an appropriate placement for the student,” said department spokesperson Douglas Cohen.