Members of a parent action committee are planning a forum in the aftermath of a fatal stabbing at the Urban Assembly School of Wildlife Conservation.
Helen Guzman, an organizer with the New Settlement Parent Action Committee, said a meeting on Tuesday, October 10, will prepare the committee for the forum, set to be held on Wednesday, October 25.
Parents and principals from the school district will be invited.
The forum will take place at Comprehensive Model Project School M.S. 327, 1501 Jerome Avenue, and focus on requesting more school social workers for the emotional and social support of the students, according to Guzman.
Following the stabbing on Wednesday, September 27, by slaying suspect Abel Cedeno, 18, of the victim, Matthew McCree, 15, both students at the school, NSPAC organized a ‘healing circle’ in front of the school.
Parents, restorative justice practitioners, and Parent Action Committee organizers participated in the healing circle to offer parents and community members a space to process their thoughts and feelings in the wake of the tragedy, and to model the kind of healing circles the group wishes to see inside the school.
At the time, Eliana Machefsky, school safety organizer for NSPAC, said, “The New Settlement Parent Action Committee is deeply saddened to learn of (the) tragic stabbing at the Urban Assembly School of Wildlife Conservation. As parents, what we want first and foremost - for our own children and for the children in our community - is safety. It is in anguish and sadness that we send our prayers to the grieving families of the Urban Assembly School of Wildlife Conservation.”
Machefsky said that while many are calling for increased police presence and metal detectors in the school in response to this tragedy, the NSPAC maintains that these measures are merely temporary and superficial solutions to a deep and complex problem.
“In order for our schools to be truly safe, we need restorative practices and support staff,” Machefsky said. “We must invest in social workers and counselors, not police and metal detectors. We must implement restorative practices, such as community-building circles to prevent bullying and violence, and healing circles to support students in processing their trauma in moments of tragedy.”
Machefsky said that metal detectors will not prevent violent fights in schools, and that anything can be made into a weapon if a student is feeling trapped and desperate.
But if schools are safe, affirming, and supportive environments for young people, then violence can be eliminated.
In response to the fatal stabbing, Urban Youth Collaborative released a statement from Bryan Aju and Aaron Acevedo, Bronx high school students and youth leaders with the Urban Youth Collaborative, and Roberto Cabanas, Urban Youth Collaborative Coordinator.
“We are saddened to our core by (the) tragedy at a Bronx high school,” the statement read. “A young person has tragically lost (his) life, another has been seriously harmed, and another young life will be forever altered.”
The statement also stated that the default response following tragic incidents involving young people in communities of color has been to prioritize policing and incarceration.
“We can’t return to the default responses,” the statement read. “Research shows the most promising strategies for sustaining safe and supportive school communities is building strong relationships between students and staff through the use of restorative practices and increasing the number of guidance counselors, social workers, and trained mental health support staff.”