Joel was reportedly a very intelligent boy, one of the things his tormentors "mercilessly" teased him about. The bullying was so intense, says his mother, that she had to file a police report and get an order of protection taken out against his bullies. She transferred him to another school to get him away from the boys who were taunting him. That wasn't good enough since they lived in the same neighborhood. She went to the New York Housing Authority in an effort to move her family to another housing project to get him away. Her request was denied. Joel's distraught mother tried everything a parent could try in order to protect her child.
Angelica Babilonia, Joel's aunt, said that around December or January her nephew switched to PS 57 after four boys knocked on Joel’s door and threw sticks and a pipe at him when he opened it. She added, "he said that a bunch of kids from his old school jumped him and chased him. He would ignore them, but there were too many to fight back."