A New York City man was fired this month after a video appeared on social media showing him standing by as boys fought at a Queens middle school, the NY Daily News reported exclusively Thursday. Marcus Cruz, who works for a community-run afterschool program at Brian Piccolo Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway, was accused of overseeing a brawl there Jan. 14. Education Department press secretary Devora Kaye told the News Cruz had been "swiftly removed from his position" as a result.
The incident came to light recently after one of the fight participants' fathers saw a video on Facebook of the fight. Kevin Jones told the News his son, 12-year-old Keshon, had been tagged in the clip. The grainy video shows two boys swiping at and punching each other as a man in gray — identified by the News as Cruz — stands nearby. At the end of the recording, one boy throws another to the ground, and the man separates the duo.
An investigation into what happened was ongoing, and Jones has hired attorney Sanford Rubenstein. “It is deplorable that a member of the afterschool staff is acting like a referee in a boxing ring while two boys slug it out,” Rubenstein told the News.
Fight videos like the one Keshon reportedly starred in have become popular to film and post on social media over the past year. Several school communities have dedicated, underground Instagram accounts where students can submit their recordings to thousands of followers. Alarmed school authorities in Atlanta and Richmond instituted new Internet and cell phone rules last year to try to curb the spread of such clips.
The safety of students in New York City schools has also proven to be a controversial topic recently. A 2015 review of certain schools' violence uncovered more than 400 cases administrators chose not to report to the Education Department. Before that, in 2012, the New York Post reported that assaults resulting in serious injury had doubled since 2009.
“The amount of incidents indicate that we have a serious problem in our schools as far as serious injuries with weapons, and intimidation and bullying,” then-city councilman Robert Jackson told the Post at the time. “We have a lot of work to do — not only the DOE [Department of Education], but parents, guardians, after-school-program people. Collectively, we have a lot to do.”