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‘This Is a Tragedy’: 12-Year-Old New York Boy Dies After Another Student Punches Him Over an Alleged $1 Dare, Investigation Underway

A fifth grade Black boy died in New York last week, a day after he said he was punched in the back of the head by classmate.

On the early afternoon of Friday, May 7, New York police and paramedics responded to a call from an apartment in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. When responders got to the scene, they spoke with an individual who claimed that his cousin had a headache and was throwing up, local station ABC 7 reported.

Romy Vilsaint, a 12-year-old native of Haiti, had previously told his family that two students at his school, P.S. 361, had jumped him on Wednesday as school was letting out, and the following day a classmate punched him in the back of the head on a dare for $1. The boy lost consciousness as paramedics were working on him at his home and was pronounced dead after being transported to Kings County Hospital.

Romy Vilsaint, a 12-year-old fifth grader from Brooklyn, New York, died May 7 after reporting to his family that he was jumped by two students and then punched in the back of the head by another student on successive days at school. (Photo: screengrab / CBS2

“He stated that he got jumped by two kids on Wednesday, and on Thursday, he got hit in the back of the head real hard,” the young boy’s cousin, 28-year-old Roodwiny Exantus, told CBS2‘s Dave Carlin. “The principal asked the kid why he did that. The kids were like, he got a paid a dollar to do it. … He had a severe headache, and he had to spend the rest of the day in the nurse’s office in the school.”

The family is concerned about whether the school’s nurse was aware of Vilsaint’s injuries. Exantus told the news outlet that the school called the father, but he was at work and unable to answer the phone. He added, “To me, they did something wrong. Like, if the kid got hit in the head and he couldn’t come back to class, and you’re told it’s severe … you don’t need to wait for his dad’s permission, just take him out to the hospital.”

The New York Post interviewed the father, 59-year-old Romain Vilsaint, who played a voicemail left by his son while at the school nurse’s office last Thursday. “Hello, Daddy,” Romy said in English. He continued in Creole, telling his dad he had “a huge headache” and that there was a guy who “hit me real hard” in the back of his head.

Authorities are now investigating the boy’s sudden death. Vilsaint’s mother is still in Haiti. He had only been in New York for a few years.

Press secretary for NYC schools Danielle Filson released a statement stating: “This is a horrible tragedy and our thoughts are with the family during this incredibly difficult time. The safety of our young people is our absolute priority and this incident will be thoroughly investigated, and we are providing supports to both the family and school community.”

Farah Louis, NYC Councilmember, delivered a statement following the news that an investigation was being launched into the young boy’s death. “Romy was only 12 years old, and his life was invaluable, worth far more than the $1 dare that cut his life short and left his family searching for answers,” she stated. “This Mother’s Day weekend will be different for the Vilsaint family and his mother miles away in Haiti trying to cope with the loss of her son. This is a tragedy for a family who dreamed of a better life and brighter future for Romy now overwhelmed by grief and anguish.” 

She added, “No parent should ever have to wonder whether their child will return safe and sound after school. We need to know more about what happened and how to prevent another family from this unimaginable experience. I am heartbroken by this news and extend my deepest sympathies to the Vilsaint family and the P.S. 361 community.”

No arrests have been made, and the medical examiner’s report is expected next week. The family believes he had no pre-existing conditions. The investigation remains ongoing.

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