Mother Holds School Responsible for Daughter’s Death by MS-13 Members
MS-13 is an international criminal gang that established first in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s. The gang since spread and is active in many areas, mostly suburban and urban communities, across the United States. The gang is known for its violent tendencies and its members have been targeted for deportation by President Donald Trump.
The mother of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Brentwood School District in Long Island, claiming the high school ignored warning signs that MS-13 members were threatening her daughter and another student, 15-year-old Nisa Mickens, found beaten and stabbed to death in September 2016. Authorities have made several arrests of alleged MS-13 members who have been involved in at least 25 killings on Long Island since January of last year.
Cuevas’ mother claims in her lawsuit that educators failed to act when they were told the girl was being threatened despite the fact that the threats went on for an extended two-year period before she was murdered. Rodriguez said she and her daughter made repeated complaints to the dean, who said he would address the problem but apparently never did.
In the days leading to Kayla’s murder, a student began making throat-slicing gestures to Cuevas, meaning she was being marked for death. This was promptly reported, yet Brentwood School District officials “refused to take action to rectify the problem of bullying,” according to the filing. The filing also indicates Cuevas was assaulted by a student during summer school in 2015 and was threatened with a knife by a student at the school “who was known to be a member of the MS-13 gang.” School employees including teachers repeatedly assured Cuevas that the unnamed student with the knife would not be on school grounds. However, on the first day of the 2016-17 school year, Cuevas encountered the same student at Brentwood High School’s Ross Center.
“They lied to me. They lied to my daughter,” Rodriguez said. “My daughter was bullied for two years at the hands of MS-13 at the Brentwood High School, and the administration failed to protect my daughter. It is time that they be held accountable for their neglect.”
Robert Mickens, Nisa Mickens’ father, disagrees with Rodriguez’s decision to hold the school accountable and has said he has no plans to pursue litigation. “A school can only do so much while a child is in school, on school grounds,” he said. “The incident happened two hours after…It’s not the school’s fault.”
Earlier this month, Suffolk County officers arrested five people linked to MS-13 in connection with an attempted kidnapping. Four of those suspects were Brentwood High School students. Rodriguez claimed this “proves once again that the school is not taking the measures necessary to protect its students, they are in denial that they have a gang problem.”
“Hopefully, the district will do the right thing and take responsibility for its actions or lack thereof,” Marjorie Coello, one of Rodriguez’s attorneys, said.
Directing her sentiments to administrators, Rodriguez said, “You let her go into that environment knowing there was a serious threat and you did nothing and they still continue to do nothing.”