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Tommy Valva's death demands answers

A community member displays a photo of Thomas

A community member displays a photo of Thomas Valva during the March for Change in honor of his life on Feb. 8 at Heckscher State Park.   Credit: Shelby Knowles

My head is still spinning after reading “How the system failed Tommy” [News, Feb. 16], a story about the tragic death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva.

The harrowing story has a Rashomon quality of contradictory interpretations of events by many individuals charged with protecting Thomas.

I did find a few constants in the story. Although unstated, Thomas likely experienced traumatic stress from being maltreated and then subjected to a long line of presumably well-meaning strangers, charged with determining how to best keep him safe. The other constant was his mother’s repeated warnings to the authorities that “his life is in danger.”

The system did indeed fail Thomas, yet no one individual was reported to have stated that they made any missteps.

For the sake of Thomas’ legacy, some degree of individual responsibility will have to be taken to advance systemic change.

Andrew Malekoff,

Long Beach

Editor’s note: The writer is executive director of the nonprofit children’s mental health center, North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center in Roslyn Heights.  

How upsetting and heartbreaking to read Sunday’s cover story in bold capital letters, “How the system failed Tommy.” Tommy paid the price for their incompetence. Rest in peace, Tommy, and know many people will never forget you!

Kathleen Teleglow,




Thank you for the extensive work on how the system failed Tommy Valva. The first failure was his father’s, whose sole purpose in life should have been to keep his children healthy and happy. The second failure is detailed in your report. The third failure will be that no one is held accountable in the government for what happened.

Your report paints a picture of finger-pointers. Government jobs are too cushy and too easily kept by poor performers. Please continue to follow up this story and relentlessly point out that no one is being held accountable.

Chris Klein,

North Massapequa


Regarding “How system failed 8-year-old Tommy,” when will the judge in this case, Bernard Cheng, be held accountable for allowing the father of Thomas Valva to gain custody and be taken away from the caring parent, his mother?

Robert Damat,

Floral Park


For all of the adults involved in Thomas’ everyday life, nothing screamed out to you, “Something’s wrong here?” Did his father’s position in the New York Police Department trump a seemingly abused family and ultimately a dead frozen bluish boy on the cement floor? What could have been more urgent than the signs of an abused child and his siblings to the faculty members? What did Child Protective Services do? Why didn’t the school board bombard the CPS offices and demand an unannounced visit take place immediately which could have resulted in the confiscation of the children and arrests of the “parents.”

I’m sick, and quite honestly, disheartened by those people who didn’t make this a top priority. Oblivion lead to death. Albert Einstein said: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people that are evil, but because of the people who won’t do anything about it.”

Lois Bernzott Boccio,



Editorial has it right on Hicksville

I applaud the editorial “Hicksville progress can’t derail” [Feb. 16]. There is an imperative need for additional parking at the Hicksville LIRR station, especially in view of the third-track project.

The Town of Oyster Bay and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with the state’s assistance, need to reach a compromise on the garages. Somehow, new LIRR garages in Westbury and Mineola are under construction. Yet, in Hicksville, more of a major LIRR hub, there is an impasse. The town and the MTA should iron out their differences for the good of commuters and the future of Nassau County.

Seymour Spiegel,



Here’s how I handle robobcalls

I am writing to disagree with the editorial “Hanging up on robocalls” [Feb. 14].

Almost all the robocalls I receive begin with an electronic recorded message. Hanging up on these is a waste of time. The machines call again.

The trick is to speak to a live person. And most important, I believe, keep them on the line as long as possible.

If enough people did this, they would certainly feel the pinch and, hopefully, stop these senseless, wasteful calls.

As long as you don’t give them any key information (credit card or Social Security numbers or bank information), they can do you no harm. But by keeping them on the line you certainly frustrate them.

Tom Focone,

Stony Brook