Beronica Ruiz is a New Jersey mother beaten unconscious by a 13-year-old student who taunted her son with racial slurs, prosecutors say.
A 13-year-old Passaic Gifted and Talented Academy School No. 20 student was arrested and charged with assault after prosecutors said he attacked Ruiz as she walked with her children, The North Jersey Record reports.
The teen hit Ruiz’s 13-year-old son in the face and then hit Ruiz, knocking her unconscious, after she stepped in front of the boy, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ruiz’s attorney told The Record that the attack was in retaliation for her son alerting school officials that the teen was bullying him.
The family plans to file a lawsuit alleging that the school failed to keep her son safe.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. 13-Year-Old Bully Told Beronica Ruiz’s Son to ‘Go Beyond the Wall,’ Attorney Says
Ruiz’s attorney, Daniel Santiago, told NJ.com that her 13-year-old son had been bullied by the teen and two other students, who targeted him because his parents are Mexican.
“They were chanting, ‘Mexicans should go back behind the wall,’” Santiago said, adding that when the boy countered by saying “we all come from immigrants,” the teens threatened him with violence.
Santiago told ABC 7 News that the boy’s parents are in the US legally on work permits as they await green cards. The attacker was African-American, he said.
No one at the school told the child’s parents, Santiago said, and instead officials sequestered Ruiz’s son away from all other students for the remainder of the day.
“He pulled one of the teachers aside and said ‘I’m scared for my safety,’’ the lawyer toldThe Washington 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 boy went home and told his parents he was afraid to go back to school, Santiago said.
When Ruiz went to the school to question the vice principal about why she was not alerted, he said he had been busy with other matters, Santiago said.
“That’s a woefully inadequate response,” Santiago told NJ.com. “’My bad’ is not a good excuse for not calling (the parents), not telling them.”
Instead of immediately disciplining the attacker, officials told Ruiz the teen “had just as much right to an education as her son,” the attorney added.
It was only after the boy’s father, Alfonso Vaszquez, contacted Passaic Mayor Hector Lora that the attacker was suspended by the school, he explained.
2. Beronica Ruiz Was Attacked in Retaliation for Son Alerting School Officials, According to Attorney
Ruiz was walking with her son and 1-year-old daughter from School 20 on June 19 when the attacker confronted the family, according to Passaic prosecutors.
“[He] turned to his mother and said, ‘Mom, those are the children that were threatening me, and they’re following us,’ ” Santiago told The Washington Post.
“[The attacker] said a lot of bad words. I said, ‘Stop, don’t do that.’ And the guy said, ‘Shut up,’” Ruiz told NBC New York.
The teen hit Ruiz’s son in the face and struck Ruiz when she stepped in front of her son, “causing her to temporarily lose consciousness and fall to the sidewalk,” prosecutors said, according to The Record.
Santiago told the outlet that the attack was in retaliation for the family alerting school officials about the bullying.
3. Ruiz Suffered a Concussion & Fractured Eye Socket in the Attack
Ruiz suffered a concussion, a fractured eye socket, bruises, and a bloodied eye in the attack, NJ.com reported. She spent two days at the hospital.
“This was a horrific and brutal attack,” Santiago told the outlet. “It takes a certain level of insanity to brutally attack a mother with a stroller and leave her for dead.”
“This was a brutal hate crime, and it was committed by a 13-year-old,” he told The Post. “I don’t know what circumstances could give rise to a 13-year-old boy having such hate in his heart that he would commit this brutal attack and leave a woman essentially to die in front of her children without any remorse or any twinge of conscience.”
“She went down hard,” Mayor Lora told The Record, adding that the mother did not have health insurance.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help raise money for her medical costs.
“As both a father and a husband, I am outraged over this incident,” Lora said. “As mayor, these are things you wish would never occur in your city or anywhere.”
“This incident is being taken extremely seriously,” he said in a statement. “I have met with and spoken personally with the family. I have met with my chief of police, local officials and school administration as well as board members to make sure there is accountability and that this family receives justice as well as any help and resources we can provide. 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.”
4. The 13-Year-Old Was Charged With Assault
Lora told NJ.com that the student had been suspended from school.
The North Jersey Record reported that the teen was charged with aggravated assault and simple assault.
He was released to his parents pending an appearance in family court, prosecutors said.
5. Ruiz Plans to Sue The School For Failing to Keep Son Safe
Santiago told NJ.com he plans to file a lawsuit against the school because “lawsuits are the only thing that large institutions listen to.”
Santiago said the suit would accuse the school of negligence in not contacting the family sooner and not following proper protocols.
“We’re just talking about respect, just treat people with respect,” Santiago told ABC 7. “They deserve it. Not because of who or what they are, but because they’re human beings. And humanity has to be better.”
“The school failed. They told me that my son would be safe,” the boy’s father, Alfonso Vasquez, told The Record.