Fatal Stabbing at Bronx School Sparks Debate Around Metal Detectors

Published: September 29, 2017

Metal detectors were installed at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation just one day after a student was fatally stabbed by a classmate, stirring the ongoing debate over school security and whether city schools should be mandated to have metal detectors.

On Wednesday, Abel Cedeno, 18, allegedly killed 15-year-old Matthew McCree and injured 16-year-old Ariane LaBoy, reports the NY Post. He stabbed the two victims with a three-inch switchblade, says Police Chief Robert Boyce. The three students had reportedly been having arguments for several weeks.

Cedeno was arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

Urban Assembly is a low-performing school currently serving sixth through twelfth grade and is co-located with PS 67. Some students have reportedly told the city that they do not feel safe at the school.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio says his administration is currently reviewing the incident to determine what steps need to be taken to protect students and staff.

“The department of education, and with School Safety, makes decisions as to the level of security needed, in consultation, of course, with the larger NYPD,” says de Blasio. “We’re going to continue that effort to constantly reassess.”

Two body scanners and two conveyor belt X-ray machines were installed at the school the day after the fatal stabbing.

Additional retractable-belt barriers labeled ‘NYPD School Safety’ were also installed, requiring students to line up one by one to be screen, according to the NY Post.

Out of the 1,600 city school buildings in New York City, only 88 have permanent metal detectors.

A sign was also posted, reading, “All students and visitors and their belongings subject to search prior to entry into the school facility.”

Around 10 police vehicles were seen patrolling outside of the school and several police vans were also parked nearby.

Metal Detectors Viewpoints from Opponents, Supporters

Opponents to installing metal detectors, including some parents, say the devices are not necessary and create a “prison-like” atmosphere for its schools that are predominantly black and Hispanic.

A panel of experts recommended that de Blasio remove some of the scanners, citing an 18 percent drop in major crimes in city schools over the past two years, according to NY1. de Blasio has not yet removed any metal detectors.

Parents have also expressed outrage, saying beefed-up security should have happened long before Wednesday’s stabbing.

“They should have had metal detectors in the school before. They shouldn’t have waited for someone to die,” says Trina Nimmons, whose 4-year-old daughter attends PS 67.

An additional safety concern for the school is a Bloomberg-era decision to have high schools sharing space with elementary schools. The building shared by PS 67 and the Urban Assembly School currently has students ranging from ages 3 to 19.

In an attempt to calm parents nerves regarding the co-habitation, older students will now enter from the school’s East 179th Street entrance while younger students will enter through the Mohegan Avenue entrance.

“To pose the question, in the wake of this horrific tragedy, as to whether or not you need metal detectors is to miss the point,” says Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The question is: What went wrong? What is going on in this school, with regard to the overall climate, with regard to bullying, with regard to conflict resolution, with regard to whether or not kids have an adult that they can go to for support in the school environment.”

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