Police in Westchester County are investigating the apparent suicide of a bullied 10-year-old boy — while his family claims local school officials are to blame for ignoring warning signs.
Gianlukas “Lukas” Illescas, a student a the Hillcrest Elementary School in Peekskill, was so terrified of a relentless bully that he had begged his family to let him stay home for months before he took his own life last week, his relatives said.
“Look! Look!” Lukas’ distraught dad yelled at school board members while holding up a photo of his son on his phone during a raucous Tuesday night meeting packed with protestors, ABC-TV News reported.
“You didn’t have time? Five minutes,” he said. “I don’t know how you can sleep. I don’t know how.”
The heartbroken father, Christian Illescas, said he’d asked for help from administrators and school social workers multiple times, according to News12 Westchester.
“They say they can’t help me because they’re too busy,” Illescas said.
Peekskill police said they are now investigating.
“The Police Department, along with the entire City of Peekskill Community, is mourning the loss of the student who attended Hillcrest Elementary School,” Police Chief Leo Dylweski wrote on Facebook.
“This tragic event is still actively being investigated, and no definitive conclusions have been made,” the post said. “Please continue to support the Illescas family during this difficult time.”
Dozens of residents who packed the school board meeting, holding signs demanding justice for the boy, said educators have to answer for ignoring the parents and the warning signs.
“All these parents are here. There are witnesses,” one parent berated the board. “And we are not taking that anymore. A 10-year-old child had to suffer because of negligence? Because you didn’t take time?”
The boy’s family said he was an energetic youngster who used to enjoy school.
“He was walking up at 5:30 in the morning every day to give me a kiss before I go to work,” his father told ABC News. “When I was coming he was waiting for me at the station. He loved to swim.”
That changed when one student began to bully him mercilessly — until he took his own life.
“I have nothing to lose,” the dad said. “My son is gone. So, all I want now is justice for other kids.”
A GoFundMe page set up by the boy’s family had raised more than $14,000 by Wednesday.
“Bullying is responsible for the death of a 10-year-old child!” the page says.
“Lukas was robbed of his future. He will never get to graduate with his friends, make memories alongside his family and have a life full of choices and adventure,” it continues. “His family had friends are heartbroken and beyond devastated.”
In a statement Wednesday, Peekskill school officials said they are awaiting the results of the investigation.
“We remain deeply saddened over the loss of our Hillcrest student,” the statement said. “At this moment our focus is on sharing our condolences with the family and friends of the student, and on helping our school community.”
In a separate statement, city officials said police will share the findings of the probe when it is done.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
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