School Didn't Act on Reports of Student Bullying Before Fatal Fight: Report
THE BRONX — Family members of the boy who stabbed his classmate to death outside their Mount Hope school last month told officials that the suspect was being harassed but the school took no action, according to an investigation.
A report from the Special Commissioner of Investigation, released Wednesday, found that there was no evidence of bullying at I.S. 117, the school that Noel Estevez and Timothy Crump, both 14, attended. But the report also found it was possible that the bullying happened elsewhere.
"Most of the 20 staff members interviewed had little or no contact with Noel and he did not tell any of them that he was a victim of bullying," the report states.
No workers were reassigned as a result of the investigation, which paints a portrait of both boys having "absence issues."
Estevez stabbed Crump several times during a fight outside the school about 3 p.m. on June 18, officials said.
He was initially charged with murder as an adult, but a grand jury voted to indict him on a lesser charge, Bronx prosecutors said. His defense attorney had been arguing that the boy acted in self defense after Crump started beating him.
The eight-page report details three instances in April and May during which Estevez's family members told workers at I.S. 117 and the Administration for Children's Services about harassment and bullying against Estevez.
But the SCI investigation, which involved interviews with 20 staffers, did not find that Crump bullied Estevez on school grounds. Administrators who were interviewed said they weren't aware that Estevez was suffering any kind of harassment, investigators said.
And police investigators said that "there was no bullying at all" involved in the fight between the former friends, which was over a stolen cellphone.
"That is not to say that no bullying took place elsewhere," the report added.
Crump was suspended on Jan. 2 until April 23 and "rarely came to school thereafter" and Estevez's own attendance tapered off at the same time, Wednesday's report stated.
In the months before the stabbing, a group of boys, including Crump, repeatedly urinated on Estevez's door while shouting, "You are f---ing dead!" according to neighbors and Estevez's lawyer.
Estevez told an ACS worker that "he was being harassed by several children who followed him to and from school," according to Wednesday's report.
The harassment drove Estevez to the point where he tried to kill himself in late May and he wound up going to a psychiatric hospital, according to family friends.
Three workers — two from the school and one from ACS — were told about bullying against Estevez and reported it to the I.S. 117 guidance counselor Diane Jean Pierre, according to the report. Crump's name was not mentioned.
A family assistant with the school, Parbatty Singh, received a call on April 30 from Estevez's aunt who said that "he is being harassed in the school by some students," the report said. The family assistant said she told Jean Pierre about the conversation and documented it in an internal student information system that same day that all staffers can access.
But in subsequent meetings with Estevez and his father, neither mentioned bullying or a safety transfer, the report said.
On May 2, another school guidance counselor, who briefly took over Jean Pierre's responsibilities during her maternity leave in 2013, spoke with Estevez's aunt about him being absent.
She said the boy was "being bullied and is very upset," investigators said, but no one from the family came to the school to provide documentation, the report said.
That conversation was also reported to Jean Pierre.
At some point, ACS worker Irma Brown spoke with Estevez and his mother, who said that both "an older Hispanic kid from the neighborhood was bothering [Estevez]" and that "he was being harassed by several children who followed him to and from school," the report said.
Brown recounted this conversation to Jean Pierre on May 13, investigators said. The ACS worker asked Jean Pierre if Estevez qualified for home schooling, but she said he was "physically able" to attend school.
Jean Pierre disputed the assertion that the concept of home schooling was broached with her, according to the document.
She told investigators she thought Estevez's tormentors were neighbors and too old to even attend I.S. 117, the report said.
According to Brown, Estevez's mother had tried to get a safety transfer from school, but wasn't able to get the proper paperwork because no one had physically injured her son, the report said.
Jean Pierre also denied that she had been asked about a safety transfer. "I don't know of any member of the family who called the school" about Noel being bullied or harassed, she said, according to the investigation.
The principal, Noel Jones, said that "neither his parents nor anyone else ever asked for a safety transfer for Noel" and that no one advised her of any harassment. Several other staffers echoed that sentiment.
In the days after meeting with Brown, Estevez tried to kill himself and was admitted to psychiatric care on May 28, family friends said.
He was released on June 11 and was returning to school for the first time on June 18 when he and Crump got into their fatal fight outside school.
The DOE, UFT and Estevez's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.