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Grieving Dad Says School Calls to Complain That Dead Son Skips Class

By Sonja Sharp | September 26, 2013 7:25am
 Jean Fritz Pierre, 16, drowned during a school field trip. His father, Jonas Pierre, 39, wants to know what happened.
Father Of Drowned Student Speaks Out
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The father of a teen who drowned during a class trip in June has been repeatedly contacted by school administrators complaining his dead son is skipping school, he said.

Jonas Pierre said staff at Prospect Heights' International High School call to complain about 16-year-old Jean Fritz's abysmal attendance record.

Jean Fritz Pierre drowned taking a swim in Hessian Lake during a field trip to Bear Mountain on June 24.

"It makes me very sad," the grieving father said about the calls.

"They called me for a meeting. It's one of those things you have every year, and this year you don't have it — to be reminded of that hurts you," he said.

Neither the school nor the New York City Department of Education returned calls and emails for comment.

"I lost J.P. and I've never stopped crying for him," Pierre said. "I was 23 years old when he was born and I never tried to have another one, because I wanted to take care of him. I gave him everything I had."

The father said he was outraged over a report, released this week, that cleared the DOE and its employees of wrongdoing in the boy's death. The report said Pierre and a friend separated from classmates and snuck off for a dip in the lake despite repeated warning from chaperones about not going into the water.

"We gathered evidence from many sources, including the New York State Park Police, the principal at International HS, chaperones and students who attended the trip," Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District Richard Condon wrote in his report.

"The investigation did not find any misconduct or wrongdoing committed by a DOE employee." 

But the family disagrees. 

"How is it not their fault?" Pierre demanded. "Where's the teacher that was supposed to take care of the kids? The teacher didn't take responsibility — he went to play like a teenager, that's why my kid came back dead."

In September, Pierre filed a notice of claim for a $5 million lawsuit, seeking damages from the DOE and the City of New York for "negligence, including breach of their duty to adequately supervise students in their care" and "permitting a ninth grade student to swim, unsupervised, in a lake known to have a dangerous undertow," among other allegations. 

"It's like they stick their finger in my eye," Pierre said. "They blind me, and then they say sorry. That's how I feel."