A family still mourning the death of 13-year-old Danny Fitzpatrick, who hanged himself this past August, has announced that it is suing Holy Angels Catholic Academy, which the boy attended, for his wrongful death. In addition, the grief-stricken family is calling on the state legislature to remove the exclusion of private and parochial schools from the requirements of the New York State Anti-bullying act, “The Dignity For All Students Act.”
“A lawsuit has been filed today for damages against the Holy Angels Catholic Academy, the Archdiocese and other defendants for the wrongful death of Danny Fitzpatrick,” said attorney Sanford Rubenstein in his office at 16 Court Street on Thursday, January 26. “They’ve also brought this lawsuit because they believe strongly that they don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
According to Rubenstein, this lawsuit alleges that ‘’The Holy Angels Catholic Academy had notice of the bullying problem Danny was suffering and didn’t take the action that they even required in their own handbook that would’ve been appropriate under the circumstances.”
Danny’s mother, Maureen, claims that her son was bullied by students at the Bay Ridge school, yet the faculty did little to stop it. “He was taunted daily in class and they would constantly call him names,” she said. “After school, they would follow him and they even physically attacked him on more than one occasion.”
Despite several attempts at communicating with faculty, Maureen said that Danny’s troubles at the school continued. “My husband and I went to the school on several occasions and we had meetings and phone calls with the principal (Rosemarie McGoldrick),” she added. “I wrote letters to the teachers and the principal about bullying and my son’s declining grades and saying that he was depressed and I didn’t get any response. There was no positive reinforcement for Danny whatsoever. It was ignored and they just basically said that he was lazy. That wasn’t the case at all.”
Danny’s sister Kristen, recalled the day she found her brother dead, August 11.
“I got up that morning and I just made him tie dye pancakes with marshmallow filling and he was so happy about it,” she said.
Kristen said Danny went on the computer later, but she asked him to get off so she could finish her work. “Right before he got off, he gave me a hug and a kiss and said, ‘I love you Kristen.’ I didn’t think much of it because that’s how he is,” she said. “He went upstairs and said he was going to watch some videos in my parents’ room.”
At around 5 p.m. Kristen said that she called his name for dinner, but he didn’t answer. After calling his phone, and checking several rooms in the home, she opened the door to the attic, and discovered that Danny had hanged himself “I just saw his legs and I just thought he was standing there and I said ‘Come on, Danny. Let’s go.’ And he didn’t move.”
When she realized he wasn’t responding, she called 911 and her parents.
The boy’s father, also Danny, was in tears as he discussed his memories of his son. “Danny was what every father wants in his son — loving affectionate, happy. I could never stay mad at him,” he said. “I work long hours at times and he would sit up sometimes on the weekends and wait for me to get home and, as tired as I was or as bad as my day may have been, if I was grumpy or tired, once I laid eyes on him, it was all gone. He made everybody happy. He said, ‘I just want people to like me and for them to be happy.’ You couldn’t ask for a kinder or more gentle soul.”
“This is about justice for Danny,” added Maureen, who along with her husband and daughters Kristen and Eileen, wore bracelets in Danny’s honor. “This is what this lawsuit is about.”
In addition, Maureen said, the family is committed to tackling bullying. “I met with Congressman Dan Donovan and asked him in his office formally if they would allow a meeting with Melania Trump,” she said. “Since she has a platform on bullying, I’d like the opportunity to tell her my son’s story.”
Rubenstein discussed what the lawsuit could potentially mean more generally. “Most important from a state level,” he said, would be eliminating the exception to the Dignity for All Students Act, “so that all children in this state are protected by the requirements of the anti-bullying statute that exists today in the state.” In addition, he said, the hope is for the statute to “become a federal law to cover all of the children in this country, so that what happened to Danny will not happen to any of them.”
Contacted for comment, Diocese Spokesperson Vito Formica noted, “Due to the pending lawsuit, the Diocese of Brooklyn cannot respond specifically to the case at this time. However, the diocese is looking forward to the full disclosure of events in court that led to the tragic and heartbreaking loss of Daniel Fitzpatrick. Our prayers continue to be with his family during this difficult time.”