Details emerge in Sept. 30 assault of NFA student | #students | #parents

Norwich ― A 15-year-old boy nearly died after he was attacked more than a week ago by another student at Norwich Free Academy and underwent two emergency surgeries, according to his mother.

The freshman student, who was attacked on Friday, Sept. 30, needed two emergency surgeries Oct. 1 and 2, having suffered a skull fracture that cut an artery and caused internal bleeding on his brain.

His mother, Janet Niewiarowski, said a piece of his skull was removed and a titanium plate inserted permanently. The boy spent three days in intensive care at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. He was released Tuesday, Oct. 4, Niewiarowski said.

She asked that her son’s name and hometown not be identified.

“He’s doing much better,” Niewiarowski told The Day Tuesday. “It’s been a struggle, but he’s healing very well. We’re just taking it one day at a time right now.”

On Monday, Oct. 3, NFA Head of School Brian Kelly issued a statement that said a student was “unsuspectingly physically assaulted” by two students and the victim was “alert and talkative,” passed initial assessments and was sent home with a parent. The statement said one student was arrested and that he and another student were suspended.

Niewiarowski said the NFA statement might have been true initially, but the next morning, her son woke up at 6 a.m. in severe pain, screaming and vomiting. She called 911, and he was taken by ambulance to the Backus Hospital. An immediate CT scan showed the skull fracture and internal bleeding on his brain.

Bad weather prevented a Life Star helicopter from flying him to Hartford, so the boy was transported by ambulance to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where he underwent a three-hour emergency surgery upon arrival.

The surgeon told Niewiarowski that without surgery, in another hour, her son would have died.

Niewiarowski called the NFA statement “insulting” considering her son’s injuries. She said an NFA official called her on Sunday, Oct. 2, while she was at the hospital to ask how he was doing, so the school was aware of his injuries a day before the statement.

“It was insulting, from what my son went through,” she said. “It was made out like it was just a simple fight, and my son went home and life continued. And that’s not how it went. It was insulting to see how minimal they made it sound.”

Niewiarowski and her attorney, Jason Burdick of New London, sent the boy’s medical records to Norwich police on Tuesday.

Police Chief Patrick Daley said Tuesday he could not discuss juvenile matters, but said one student was charged with second-degree assault in the incident. Daley said it would be up to the state juvenile court to decide whether to transfer the case to adult court.

Niewiarowski also questioned NFA’s characterization that it was a surprise attack.

On Friday morning, Sept. 30, Niewiarowski said her son called to say he was being stalked by another student and he was too scared to stay in school or even to go to the bathroom.

She told her son she would be there within 10 minutes to pick him up. She hung up, called the school main office and told the staff person her son was threatened by another student and to have her son ready to be picked up.

Student video shows attack

As she was on her way, her son was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Tirrell building. A video taken by a non-participant student ― a friend of the victim, who was later suspended for taking the video, the victim’s mother said ― showed two male students approached the boy. A larger boy put a cellphone on the sidewalk and a shorter boy put down what looked like a jacket.

The shorter boy lunged at the victim, pounding him six times on the right side of his head with his fist. As the victim fell forward, the attacker appeared to shove him to the sidewalk, the victim’s head striking the concrete.

The victim got up and started walking toward the Tirrell main entrance, when the assailant struck him again. The victim fell and the second larger boy appeared to strike him in the back. The boy rose again, and the assailant continued to stand in a fight stance as the 34-second video ended.

Niewiarowski said she had called her son when she arrived at NFA, but he did not answer. He soon called her back and told her what happened. She questioned why he was not accompanied by NFA security as he waited for her to pick him up.

No NFA security staff were seen in the video, but the NFA statement said the victim was brought to the Campus Safety Department for evaluation and campus safety officers identified and detained the assailant.

NFA spokesman Michael O’Farrell said Tuesday he could not comment beyond the written statement. He said security staff patrol the campus at various locations throughout the day, and campus surveillance cameras cover the entire campus.

The boy is recovering at home and will be out of school for about two weeks, his mother said. He has a medical appointment next week.

“When I came home, the community I live in, the outreach of support was incredible,” Niewiarowski said. “It was incredible how my town came together to make this transition a little bit easier for me. He can’t really go too far outside. Friends come over and hang out in his room. There’s one kid here every day for a short amount of time each day.”

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