A New Jersey mother says she was walking home after picking up her son from school when she was attacked — and the 13-year-old attacker, a student who had allegedly been bullying her son, was arrested and charged with assault Tuesday.
Beronica Ruiz said she had just gotten her 7th-grader son from The Gifted and Talented Academy in Passaic on June 19 and was walking home with him and her 1-year-old daughter when a student approached them at Lexington Avenue and Monroe Street.
The student verbally accosted them, and when Ruiz told him to stop, he punched her. Ruiz was knocked unconscious, waking up on a stretcher. Her face was left bruised and fractured, and her eye is still red, days after the assault.
The juvenile also allegedly struck Ruiz's son in the face, according to officials. He was later released to his parents.
"Despite this accusation, the juvenile is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said in a statement.
The Ruiz family says the trouble actually started inside the school, with students allegedly telling their 12-year-old son to "go back to Mexico" on Tuesday before the attack. Their son is a U.S. citizen.
"They told my son Mexicans should go behind the wall," Ruiz said.
Beronica and Alfonso Ruiz were never contacted by the school about the alleged bullying, and the administrators said they talked to the students about the bullying when Alfonso confronted them about it.
The family believes if the school had handled the situation better, the attack may never have happened.
“This incident is being taken extremely seriously," the mayor of Passaic said to News 4 in a statement. "I have met with and spoken personally with the family, I have met with my Chief of Police, local officials and school administration as well as board members to make sure there is accountability and that this family receives justice.”
Alfonso Ruiz said that they forgive the child who beat Beronica, and the family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for her medical expenses. But they want their son to be able to learn in an inclusive — and more importantly, safe — environment.
"Education like I said before is very important," Alfonso said, "But their safety has to be priority."
The school refused to comment.