Mother: Cancer survivor son who has Tourette syndrome dealing with bullying from teammates

Anne Petraro says she has raised red flags about the issue months but has not gotten a clear answer from the diocese or CYO officials.

Jon Dowding

Dec 15, 2023, 1:43 AM

Updated 218 days ago


An East Rockaway mom turns to News 12 after she says her 10-year-old continues to face bullies on his basketball team, and her calls for help have fallen on deaf ears.
Joe Petraro is a cancer survivor and is battling not only Tourette Syndrome, but bullies. His mom Anne says he’s unfortunately no stranger to bullies, but says the bullying took a turn last Friday.
She says he received threatening text messages from an unknown member of his St. Raymond’s CYO basketball team.
The messages go on to tell the cancer survivor to “go back to the cancer ward,” “we don't need you,” and “no one f****** likes you.”
Joe, an active member of Be Strong and #ICANHELP, says he knew how to respond to the messages.
"The first thing in my mind was to just do it the easy way and just kindly ask them, 'Why did you send all that mean stuff to me,’” he said.
Anne said she’s obviously concerned about her son, but she’s more concerned about the next victim of bullying. She wants the team to be more transparent and present specific anti-bullying plans.
"What is the policy on bullying? What are you doing about it? How are you addressing the team? I never once pointed fingers to anyone. I just said, ‘Can we address the situation so that it doesn't happen to anyone else,’” she said.
She said she has reached out to the coaches, the St. Raymond’s CYO, CYO Long Island, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre over the last few months.
"It went from like, ‘No, you have to speak to CYO,’ ‘You have to speak to the St. Raymond's CYO,’ ‘No, you have to speak to the pastor.’ Circles. No one once said like, ‘Let's address this,’” she said.
After no clear-cut answers for months, she came to News 12.
The Diocese Of Rockville Centre sent a statement to News 12 about the incident.
“The Diocese of Rockville Centre and CYO Long Island take all allegations very seriously. This matter is under review,” said Sean Dolan, director of communications for the diocese.
Digital4Good Executive Director Kim Karr says prevention is key when it comes to protecting your child from cyberbullying.
"Usually hurt people usually hurt others and that's what's happening,” said Karr. “It is that kind of reminder and having that conversation with your child ahead of time and just empower them, educate them on how to handle these situations."
As for Joe, he wants other bullying victims to know one thing.
"You matter,” he said. "You should never fight someone if they talk bad about you. Two wrongs don't make a right."
Be Strong CEO Ashleigh Cromer said the organization has been working to help Joe and his mom at this time. She sent a statement about the situation.
“Joe is a tremendous young person that in the face of challenges continues to stand up for himself. But what really drives him is helping others! Be Strong is honored that Joe works with our organization and we are able to support him in this season. It’s been humbling to see how the Be Strong community has rallied from celebrities to influencers to help Joe and his family reach the goal of the CYO instituting training, programs and resources for all students. Be Strong is here to help and has offered!”
#ICANHELP has more resources for families dealing with cyberbullying and tips on how to recognize it.

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