Dumont police conclude investigation of boy’s fatal jump from Grant School window
By NICHOLAS PUGLIESE April 1, 2015
DUMONT — The fifth-grade student who jumped to his death from a second-floor window at the Grant Elementary School last month did so “headfirst, unforced, unassisted and of his own accord,” Police Chief Joseph Faulborn Jr. said Wednesday.
A police report released at the same time as the chief’s statement said the 10-year-old boy — whose name was redacted — jumped from a classroom window after getting into a dispute with a classmate over a chess game during a 30-minute morning recess period.
The lunch aide in the room at the time told police that the boy became upset after his opponent captured his king without saying “checkmate,” the report said.
“Do you want me to do something drastic?” the lunch aide reported hearing the boy say to his opponent, the report said.
After the chess game was cleaned up and the students were about to leave the room for lunch, the aide saw the boy standing by himself in the corner of the room writing a note, the report said. The aide saw the boy hand the note to his opponent and ask him not to open it until he got to the cafeteria.
The boy was crying, according to the report.
The lunch aide told investigators that she confiscated the note and put it in her pocket, and that she turned around to see the boy jump from the window.
The boy had lifted himself onto a shelving unit and crawled along the top of it to the window, which was cracked open about a foot, according to witnesses statements included in the report.
The boy went through the window headfirst and had “serious facial injuries,” the report said.
The report did not disclose the contents of the note.
“There was no criminal activity on the part of any individual that would warrant further investigation or criminal charges,” Faulborn said in his statement. “The Dumont Police Department investigation of this incident is concluded and the case closed.”
The boy’s parents declined to comment Wednesday through a relative who answered the door at their home.
According to the report, the boy was in his first year at Grant School. Classmates who offered witness statements said that he enjoyed video and computer games, specifically Minecraft, and often spoke with his friends on Skype. However, a classmate told investigators that the boy sometimes ate lunch by himself.
One classmate said that, on at least four occasions earlier this school year, the boy had alluded to jumping out the window after having become angry about something, the report said.
One such occasion, in December, also followed a chess game. The boy became angry after losing to a classmate and said, “I’m this close to jumping out the window!” while holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart, according to a classmate quoted in the report.
The classmate said he had never told anyone about the boy’s statements because he thought the boy was “messing around,” the report said.
The report adds that earlier in the week of the incident, the boy had told the lunch aide that other children were not letting him play chess with them. The aide then demanded that the other students include the boy in their games.
Dumont school officials and the attorney representing the school board have been largely silent in the month since the incident and declined to comment on the police report Wednesday.
Superintendent Emanuele Triggiano said on the day of the incident that counselors would be made available to students, parents and staff members for as long as was necessary.
But when asked last week what policy changes, if any, the district had made or was planning to make in response to the incident, Triggiano referred inquiries to Francis Leddy III, an insurance defense attorney representing the school board.
Leddy declined to comment Wednesday on the police report or on policy changes in the district, but several Dumont High School students said this week that their school has imposed a new policy that prohibits windows from being opened more than 6 inches. Some windows have been outfitted with screws that prevent them from being opened all the way, the students said. The double-hung sash windows at the high school are similar to those at the Grant school.
State statute requires public schoolteachers to complete two hours of suicide prevention training every two years. Teaching assistants like lunch aides and sports coaches are typically included in such training courses, said Debra Keeney, President of the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists.
But even with such training, faculty and staff members cannot anticipate every troubling incident, Keeney said. “You think you plan for all the possibilities, but somehow, no matter how much you have planned for, things change,” she said.
Referring to the policy surrounding window safety in the Dumont school district, she added, “I’m sure the school looked at it, but now it will have a different perspective.”
The Uniform Construction Code, which sets the rules for construction projects in the state, does not require guards on windows at public schools, said Tammori Petty, director of communications for the Department of Community Affairs.
But parents in Dumont are still wondering if anything is going to change.
More than a half-dozen parents who were waiting outside the Grant School to pick up their children on Tuesday said they had received no communication from the district about its response to the incident.
“Nothing’s been coming home,” said one parent of a third-grader who declined to give her name. “Nothing.”