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On day one, safety concerns linger at middle school where student was stabbed

Parent Action Committee organizer Dinu Ahmed speaking with a parent outside I.S. 117 in the Bronx on Thursday.
Parent Action Committee organizer Dinu Ahmed speaking with a parent outside I.S. 117 in the Bronx on Thursday.
Patrick Wall

As students tore out of I.S. 117 in the Bronx after classes ended Thursday, they blew past Dinu Ahmed, an organizer with the New Settlement Parent Action Committee, an advocacy group with deep ties to the area.

Clipboard and flyers in hand, Ahmed was asking parents about their hopes and fears for the new year. Many said they felt uneasy sending their children to the middle school, where in June one 14-year-old student fatally stabbed another as he left the building, apparently in retaliation for bullying.

Zamilda Franco said her two sons had witnessed the attack as school let out that day a few months ago. She noted that the school had since beefed up security outside the building (there were two guards and several staff members with walkie talkies stationed outside one school entrance on Thursday), but said that was too little, too late.

Two days after the stabbing, school officials held a midday meeting with families that drew about 30 parents, according to Ahmed, who attended it. School administrators discussed the supports available to help students cope with the tragedy, but when parents asked about what new safety precautions would be taken, the administrators said that would be discussed at a later time, Ahmed said. She said she did not hear of any follow-up safety meeting. (The principal, Delise Jones, did not immediately respond to an email.)

Chancellor Carmen Fariña expressed concern about violence in schools after the stabbing, and has also proposed revamping the way schools deal with student misbehavior, though officials recently said there are no plans to immediately overhaul the city’s discipline code. (Most of the changes to the discipline code that advocates have proposed would only be relevant for low-level offenses.)

Outside the school on Thursday, Alexandra Cleto waited around with her daughter, Katherine, who had heard about the stabbing at I.S. 117 and was scared to begin sixth grade there.

The two had come to see if Katherine could be transferred to a different school. (So-called safety transfers for students who report an immediate threat are hard to come by; ones for students who simply feel unsafe are even rarer.) In the meantime, Katherine refused to attend classes at the school.

“Last night, I couldn’t sleep,” Cleto said. “I kept thinking about my daughter.”

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