Sunday, June 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NYC to Pay $55K to Settle Safety Officer Abuse Case

(CN) - New York City agreed to pay $55,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by a Queens high school student who claimed a school safety agent injured him in the school bathroom and left him to bleed, saying, "That's life, it will stop bleeding."

Daniel O'Connell, a school safety agent known as "Robocop" by the students at Robert F. Kennedy High School, allegedly kicked in the door to a bathroom stall while Stephen Cruz was in it. Cruz said the blow cut him below the hairline, drawing blood.

O'Connell told him, "That's life, it will stop bleeding" and left the bathroom without helping him, the lawsuit states.

Cruz's father, Carlos Cruz, said he tried to find out what happened, but school officials offered no explanation. They insisted O'Connell wasn't required to submit a report to the school, because he was governed by the New York Police Department's 107th Precinct, according to the complaint.

On his son's behalf, Carlos sued New York City, O'Connell, NYPD's police commissioner, the commissioner of the New York Department of Education and the supervisor of the 107th precinct for constitutional violations and supervisory liability.

The defendants agreed to settle the suit for $55,500, including about $19,000 in attorney fees and expenses.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger ordered the remaining $36,577 to be held in a savings account until Stephen Cruz turns 18.

"This outrageous incident underscores the glaring need to bring transparency and accountability to the NYPD's presence in our city's public schools," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Jeffrey Rothman, the family's attorney, said the settlement wasn't enough.

"The settlement does not change the fact that Stephen was recklessly and pointlessly assaulted at school by an adult assigned to protect him," Rothman said. "The city council must take action to ensure other students don't experience similar abuse."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.