Tuckahoe Schools Face $50M Suit
The Journal News, March 31, 2004
Girl alleges district ignored boy’s strife before his suicide
WHITE PLAINS – The former girlfriend of a Tuckahoe High School baseball star who says he attacked her before throwing himself to his death in front of a train has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Tuckahoe school district, claiming school officials ignored the 17-year-old athlete’s history of violence and threats.
White Plains lawyer David Worby filed the suit Monday in state Supreme Court in White Plains on behalf of Bridgette Maldonado , now an 18-year-old Tuckahoe High School senior, and her mother, Yvette Maldonado. Bridgette Maldonado says that on the night of May 8, she was attacked in her apartment by Brian Morris and choked until she was unconscious. Morris then went to the nearby Tuckahoe railroad station, where witnesses said he jumped in front of a speeding train.
“Every single person in that school system was aware of Brian Morris’ five-year history of threats, violence and intimidation toward students, teachers and coaches,” Worby said yesterday. He said the Maldonados met with school officials after Morris allegedly threatened to kill her because she wanted to break off their relationship.
“They knew that he had threatened to kill Bridgette and her brother, but they did nothing to stop it,” Worby said. “In fact, they assured her that there was nothing to be concerned about, and guaranteed her safety.”
Patrick Fitzgerald, a lawyer for the district, noted that Morris’ attack on Bridgette Maldonado did not occur at school, but at her home, and it occurred while Morris was suspended from school.
“The school district acted appropriately in all aspects of this,” he said. “I’m confident that any action being pursued (by the Maldonados) will be dismissed in court.”
By failing to discipline Morris or require him to get counseling, Worby said, “the school district did nothing. I can’t say he was a bad kid – I don’t know. But he had bad problems.”
Earlier this month Morris’ family dropped a lawsuit against the school district. The suit claimed that he had been unjustly suspended and that the district failed to punish a teacher they said attacked Morris two weeks before his death. Morris and gym teacher Bart Dapolito accused each other of assault after an April 24 fight that started in the high school lunchroom and spilled into the principal’s office. Morris was suspended in the incident, and forced to finish his senior year at home.
Yvette Maldonado said yesterday that, since the events of last year, her daughter has been depressed, had nightmares and is afraid to be alone. Bridgette Maldonado returned to school in September and was recently accepted at St. John’s University, where she hopes to study business.
“She’ll go for days and seem fine and then, out of nowhere, she talks about hurting herself,” her mother said. “I didn’t know what my daughter was going through with Brian. I hope that by filing this lawsuit maybe the lives of some other kids can be saved. Schools should not be allowed to ignore the signs of a student in trouble.”
After the lawsuit is served, the school district has 30 days to formally respond.