Bronx teen, Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios, endured incessant bullying and even a sexual assault by two boys as a freshman on the honor roll at Harry S.Truman High School in New York City.
The 16-year old was subjected to abuse for months before committed suicide by jumping 34 stories to her death in February of last year. Mya was still wearing her backpack when her body was found on the sidewalk the afternoon of her death.
Her parents, Heriberto Rios and Nelly Vizcarrondo, filed a lawsuit this month against the New York City Department of Education in the Bronx Supreme Court. The suit alleges that school administrators failed to act when they were informed about the constant bullying and abuse Mya endured.
The lawsuit can be read below.
Mya was a bright student with perfect attendance when she started at Harry S. Truman High School. But as the school year progressed, she began to cut class as a result of the torment she faced daily. Mya had also been body-shamed by a classmate who was identified only as “Viviana.”
The family’s attorney, John Scola, detailed in the lawsuit that the teen was an open target for roughly five months and the ongoing harassment and sexual assault caused her “severe emotional distress.”
Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios had complained to a school guidance counselor and to the school principal, Keri Alfano at Harry S.Truman High School. She was sent back to class after being told that the harassment and bullying would be investigated by administrators. According to Heriberto Rios and Nelly Vizcarrondo, the investigation never happened.
What makes this tragedy even more egregious is that the high school never notified the young Latina’s parents that she was absent from school or that her grades began to suffer. These signs are typically the first indicators of trouble for students who are being bullied.
Her father said the teen appeared to be happy the day she committed suicide. They had talked about an upcoming performance at the school later that day. It would be the last time he saw his beloved child alive.
Heriberto Rios and Nelly Vizcarrondo knew that the Bronx teen had begun to have trouble in school. Rios stated he had no idea of the abuse his daughter endured.
“She said she was having trouble, but she didn’t tell me she was being bullied,” he said. “She didn’t tell me about this. I found out after she passed.”
Weeks prior to her suicide, her parents met with a school counselor because of her absences but the bullying and harassment were not disclosed. They signed an agreement that Mya would sign into all of her classes on a daily basis. Rios and Vizcarrondo now feel like they were purposely misled.
The family’s attorney spoke about the school’s alleged misrepresentation of Mya’s absences saying, “The tragic circumstances surrounding my client’s death could have been prevented.”
Scola also reiterated that the sign-in plan should have included a plan for teachers to see if Mya was suffering from signs of distress.
New York City Department of Education Doug Cohen said in a statement, “This was a tragic loss, and students deserve safe and supportive school environments. We recognize the deep impact bullying can have, and schools are required to immediately investigate and address any allegation.”
Sadly, a statement wasn’t enough to save Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios’ life.