Child Murdered in School: Reflections

Sep 19, 2019 by

When the Department of Education is asleep at the wheel, it is more by policy than accident. If a tragedy results, they will jump into action to avoid veering off the road of public opinion.

They will cover their tracks if they can.

Sometimes the tragedy is at least indirectly caused by the inevitable consequence of the breakdown in law and order in the schools which was enabled by the school’s compliance, not defiance, of official regulations.

When the tragedy hits the media, then the DOE flexes its muscle.  

Caridad Caro, was the assistant principal at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, in the Bronx, where a student named Abel Cedeno, stabbed another student to death two years ago. 

Cedeno’s defense was that he had been mercilessly bullied for being gay and lashed out at his victim without premeditation. Last week he was convicted and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.  

According to newspaper accounts, Caro is now in the process of being fired, two years after the death, which might have been avoided had she done her job at the time.

Abel Cedeno’s mother had conscientiously and courageously alerted the school by phone, stating that she believed her son was bringing a knife to school and that he was capable of violence.The boy had even pulled a knife on his family and his mother told the school that she had found a weapon in her son’s book bag.  

That was prior to the crime, though not on the same day. 

Cedeno’s teacher had correctly logged the details of the parent’s communication and notified Ms. Caro, her superior in the chain of command. Caro, who was in charge of student discipline, neither entered the information into the DOE’s reporting site nor informed the staff.

When did the principal become aware?  It is unclear when and how, but according to Chalkbeat, the Special Commissioner of Education found that the administrative staff must have known, because it was raised at a cabinet meeting at which the principal was allegedly present.

As the school leader, the principal is ultimately responsible for all that happens in the school.  Had teachers behaved as it seems did at least part of the school’s administration, they would have faced dire consequences very fast.

Ms. Caro’s union, the Council of Supervisors at Administrators (CSA), pledged to “vigorously defend the due process rights” of their member, which is proper.

This tragedy is more of institutions than of personalities.  Is there something in the culture of the DOE that takes a harder line against the disclosure of trouble than on the trouble itself?

Th is Bronx school had a history of being an operational disaster. In the wake of the violent death of a student inside the school, the building has itself been closed.   

Was it shut as a public relations gesture in the aftermath of the death?  If not, then it would be a very improbable coincidence. If it deserved to be shut, why wasn’t it shuttered sooner?  And what is accomplished by disciplining a building?

It’s not the building that should be closed; it’s the careers of those whose foundering may have been a prime mover of bloodshed.

The CSI report does not blame Ms. Caro for the student’s death. It does not suggest there was ” a direct effect”.

But had the school memorialized the mother’s frantic prophetic message about the potential acting-out of her son, perhaps New York wouldn’t have had to memorialize a murdered child by candlelight!

Ron Isaac

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