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Biracial Bullying Results In Concussion For Cresskill 5th Grader

Principal Paul Diverio at the Merritt Memorial School in Cresskill.
Principal Paul Diverio at the Merritt Memorial School in Cresskill. Photo Credit:

CRESSKILL, N.J. — School officials in Cresskill have dismissed a father's claim that his son was bullied for his skin color and are doing little to help, Ken Bailey told Daily Voice.

The years of racism and bullying culminated on Friday afternoon for Bailey's fifth grade son, Lawrence, when another Merritt Memorial School student punched him so hard in the spine that he lost consciousness and fell to the ground -- and suffered a concussion, Bailey said.

"My son is a terrific little bi-racial child who wants to only be accepted," said Bailey, a lifelong Cresskill resident.

"He has a heart of gold but now has drastically changed. He is suffering and he's scared."

Cresskill Superintendent Michael Burke did not return Daily Voice's email or phone call, placed on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, respectively.

"It seems as if there is a conflict between the boys, but not at the level of what the school would deem bullying," Burke said in an email to Bailey this week.

"There is not an imbalance of power and the incidents have been initiated by both parties equally."

Lawrence's peers have been calling him racial slurs, stabbing him with pencils and even telling him that he doesn't belong in this town since he was in first grade, his father told Daily Voice.

Last week alone, Lawrence was kicked and punched one day after school, and another day had a football thrown hard into his stomach, by the same student, according to the elder Bailey.

Bailey says Lawrence's friends were pressured by Merritt School Principal Paul Diverio to tell him if Lawrence said anything to the boys on the playground before he was punched.

Diverio did not return Daily Voice's call or email, placed Thursday morning.

Aside from a trip to the principal's office -- often together with Lawrnece -- no student has been punished, Bailey said.

"No one, no matter what should be subject to this type of psychological abuse by another individual, especially one with authority as the principal," the upset father said.

"And no one deserves to be assaulted no matter what."

Along with the outcome of a concussion, Lawrence's pediatrician has recommended therapy in site of the traumatic issues he has suffered -- both physically and mentally -- throughout his schooling, Bailey said.

Lawrence returned to school Thursday for the first time since Friday, as his father was stuck worrying about him at his desk at work.

"With all of this being said, there has been no assurance of my son's safety in the Cresskill school district," Bailey said. "We're in shock and utter dismay."

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