A New Jersey mother said she was beaten into unconsciousness by a 13-year-old boy who had been bullying her son at school with ethnic slurs, including “Go back to Mexico” and “Go behind the wall.”
Beronica Ruiz, 35, said she was walking her 12-year-old son home from school with her 1-year-old daughter on June 19 when the assailant stalked them and attacked.
“He said a lot of bad words. I said, ‘Stop, don’t do that.’ And the guy said, ‘Shut up,’” Ruiz said, recounting the incident to NBC New York.
Ruiz said the boy, a seventh grader at Passaic Gifted and Talented Academy School No. 20, where her son attends, punched her and knocked her out. The teen also struck her son in the face, she said.
Ruiz said she woke up on a stretcher, terrified about her kids’ whereabouts, while being transported to a hospital with fractures to her face, a bruised and bloodshot eye, and a concussion. She spent two days in the hospital.
On Monday, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office said the 13-year-old had been charged with aggravated and simple assault. He was released to his parents pending a court appearance.
The arrest came after days of inaction by school officials, according to Ruiz, and followed her husband’s call to Passaic City Mayor Hector C. Lora, who said what happened was “unaccceptable” and promised it was “being taken extremely seriously.”
Lora, in a statement to the NJ Advance, said he met with the family, police chief and school officials.
“As both a father and a husband I am outraged over this incident,” Lora said. “The details regarding what led up to this incident remain under investigation. However, one thing is very clear: what occurred to this mother is unacceptable and whatever we need to do as a city, as a community, to do better by our families and our children, we will do.”
Ruiz said she and her husband reported the attack to the school after her release from the hospital. They were told not to worry about it, that it had been taken care of, she said. The boy she accused remained in school, though he has since been suspended.
“They spoke to the vice principal again and the response they received was, ‘Well, he has the right to an education just as much as your son does,’” the family’s attorney, Daniel Santiago, told The Washington Post.
Santiago, who called the attack a hate crime, said Ruiz’s son told a teacher earlier that day he was being bullied and asked for help.
“He pulled one of the teachers aside and said ‘I’m scared for my safety,’’ the lawyer told the Post. “The teacher grabbed the attention of a security guard and they essentially sequestered my client’s son in a room for his own safety.”
The plea came after the boy said he was taunted and ridiculed about his ethnicity by the 13-year-old and other children in the school cafeteria.
“They said that all Mexicans should be behind the wall,” Alfonso Ruiz told ABC 7 News. “And my son’s answer was, ‘What are you talking about? We are (all) immigrants.’ He’s American. He was born here.”
Both parents are Mexican nationals in the U.S. legally with work permits as they await green cards, said Santiago. The accused assailant, the lawyer said, is African American.
As both a father and a husband I am outraged over this incident. As mayor, these are things you wish would never occur in your city or anywhere. This incident is being taken extremely seriously.
Passaic County spokesman Keith Furlong declined to comment on the situation.
“The Passaic schools cannot make comment with regard to student matters involving a juvenile,” Furlong said in an email to HuffPost. “I also understand that details are under investigation and that this incident, according to the family’s attorney, will be the subject of litigation.”