A Bronx high schooler who jumped to her death was relentlessly bullied at school for five months and sexually assaulted on the day of her death — and her school administrators repeatedly ignored her cries for help and never told her mom and dad about her torment, a lawsuit by her parents alleges.
School was still in session on Feb. 28, 2018, when Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios’ broken body was found on the ground 34 stories from the rooftop of the apartment building in which she lived.
The ninth-grader still had her backpack on.
Her father, Heriberto Rios, was home at the time, certain that his little girl was still in school.
Rios told the Daily News that his daughter was a happy girl who doted on her dad. He said she left for school that morning excited about a performance and teased him before she walked out the door.
Rios later learned that Mya had been sexually assaulted that day in the unsupervised auditorium of Harry S. Truman High School, where she and other students had the performance. According to the lawsuit, after the assault students in the school made fun of Mya.
Rios said the forced oral sex followed at least five months of torment by malicious students who body shamed her, pulled her hair and physically assaulted her.
A guidance counselor and the school’s principal, Keri Alfano, knew about the bullying, but her teachers and school officials didn’t think enough about her absence that day to go looking for her before she died, the lawsuit alleges. The principal did not immediately return a call for comment.
Mya didn’t just accept the abuse, her heartbroken dad said. She reported the activity to school officials, but they allegedly sent her back to class, never notifying her parents about her complaints. Mya didn’t tell her parents, either.
When Rios confronted his daughter about her mounting school absences — she had near-perfect attendance before the bullying started — she just told him she was having difficulty in a couple of classes.
“I asked what was going on,” Rios said. “She said she was having trouble, but she didn’t tell me she was being bullied. She didn’t tell me about this. I found out after she passed. The school never told me about the cutting (classes).”
The distraught dad and the girl’s mother, Nelly Vizcarrondo, are suing the city, the Education Department and school administrators.
Rios was home when cops knocked on his door at about 2 p.m. to tell him they’d found his daughter. She was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
“She was an honor roll student,” Rios said. “She had so many plans. She wanted to go to college.”
Mya’s parents were called into a meeting with her counselor about her attendance, but they say the counselor, who’s not named in the lawsuit, never told them about the bullying.
In fact, Mya told the counselor what was going on, but was sent back to class. The counselor said she needed to investigate Mya’s claims, but no investigation apparently took place, the lawsuit alleges. Mya also told Alfano she was being bullied, the lawsuit alleges.
“(Mya) was ignored and simply sent back to class without any intervention by the school,” the lawsuit said. Again, her parents were never told about what was happening to their daughter.
The day before her death, one of Mya’s friends told the counselor Mya was having problems, so the counselor visited her in gym class, and wrote down on a review card that she would tell her parents to be on the lookout for any signs of emotional distress, the lawsuit alleges.
But that notification never came, and on Feb. 28, 2018, two boys took her to the back of an unsupervised auditorium and forced her to perform sex acts on them, the lawsuit alleges.
In the January meeting about Mya’s attendance, her parents were told that she would have to sign in at every class, the lawsuit alleges. The parents now claim that was a misrepresentation — if she had to sign in, someone would have noticed she left early, and started looking for her before she died.
Shortly after the girl’s death, the one bully named in the lawsuit was transferred, and the guidance counselor was fired, the lawsuit alleges.
“The tragic circumstances surrounding my client’s death could have been prevented,” said John Scola, the family’s lawyer.
“We hope that this case will cause the Department of Education to reevaluate their policies and properly train their employees on issues related to bullying so that no student feels so hopeless they believe suicide is the answer. We hope that this case will prevent helpless students from taking their own lives in the future.”
Education Department officials said the city put $8 million into initiatives targeting bullying, including training and online resources.
“This was a tragic loss, and students deserve safe and supportive school environments,” said department spokesman Doug Cohen. “We recognize the deep impact bullying can have, and schools are required to immediately investigate and address any allegation. We’ll continue to invest in anti-bullying and safe schools initiatives.”