A Queens boy survived brain cancer and multiple foster homes only to enter a “living nightmare” when classmates tormented him for being gay — and school administrators blamed him for the bullying, a new lawsuit charges.
Kids at IS 126Q in Long Island City spent two years relentlessly taunting the victim as a “fa—t ass,” and “bitch,” slammed him for “acting like a girl” and “told him that he would be damned to hell by God because of his ‘lifestyle,’ ” according to a Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit filed by the boy’s dad.
School administrators accused the boy of either fabricating the harassment or bringing it on himself by being too “open” about his sexuality, even telling the child he “should learn to respect” some of the horrific comments slung at him by other kids as a “difference of opinion,” including pronouncements that LGBTQ people should “burn in hell,” the family claims.
“It was devastating to hear my child say that they wanted to kill themselves because the bullying wouldn’t stop. It’s a horrific situation to be placed in,” dad Jason Cianciotto told The Post.
Cianciotto and his husband adopted the boy in 2018, in what should have been a miracle happy ending for a child who’d already endured hell.
The boy, identified in court papers as “D.S.”, was removed from his drug addict parents and placed in foster care when he was just 7-years-old, bouncing among seven foster homes until he was 10.
That’s when D.S. was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and heartlessly abandoned by his then foster parent at a hospital, according to the lawsuit.
He had surgery to remove the tumor and his latest tests showed no signs of cancer, Cianciotto said.
Cianciotto, who lives in Astoria, said he and his husband were looking to start a family and adopt a child when he saw a profile of the boy on a foster care website.
“I immediately texted it to my husband and said ‘I think we found our son,’ ” he said.
By then, D.S. was 11-years-old, and came out as gay shortly after Cianciotto and his husband brought the boy home in 2017. They adopted him the next year.
He started sixth grade at IS 126Q, the Albert Shanker School for Visual and Performing Arts, in 2017, quickly sharing his sexual orientation with classmates who then relentlessly taunted him for two years, according to the suit filed Monday against the city Department of Education, the school principal and other staffers.
IS 126Q conducted only “half-hearted investigations,” finding many of the complaints “unfounded,” Cianciotto charged in the litigation.
The family pulled the boy out of IS 126Q near the end of seventh grade in 2019. Because he had learning disabilities, they also asked for a hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
A hearing officer determined in 2020 that “not only did the school fail to address the bullying” but a dean “went so far as to blame the student for making himself a target of the bullying,” legal papers said.
The officer wrote she was “at a loss to understand how an educational professional could possibly blame a child for being the victim of a prolonged and severe
pattern of emotional and physical bullying,” according to court papers.
Her decision directed the DOE to provide the boy with services, including tutoring and therapy.
The boy is now doing well at another nearby school that was like “night and day compared to IS 126,” Cianciotto said.
Discrimination is not tolerated on the basis of race or religion, and should not have been in this case, said Cianciotto’s lawyer, David Lebowitz.
“The fact is that LGBT kids are no less deserving of protection. The school and DOE just fell down on the job here,” he said.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, and comes after the DOE reached a 2018 settlement agreement with parents who alleged schools dropped the ball in protecting bullied kids. The agreement mandated the DOE follow protocols to handle bullying complaints.
A DOE spokeswoman said the agency “will review the complaint and immediately investigate the claims.”
“These allegations are deeply troubling and there is absolutely zero tolerance for bullying or harassment of any kind in our schools,” she said.