A Bronx assistant principal who failed to fully investigate a tip that student Abel Cedeno was carrying a knife years before he fatally stabbed a classmate should be fired, city officials said Thursday.
Caridad Caro, an assistant principal and founder of the now-shuttered Urban Assembly School for Wildlife and Conservation, got a tip from Cedeno’s mother more than two years before the horrific stabbing that the boy was carrying a knife in his backpack. Caro searched the bag but found nothing, so she didn’t report the incident to the principal.
Cedeno, 20, was convicted in July of fatally stabbing classmate Matthew McCree, 15, and almost killing a second student, Ariane Laboy, 16, leaving him in a coma.
After the gruesome 2017 attacks, Cedeno told officials he’d been the victim of terrible bullying and his violence grew out of his desperation when school officials failed to help him — although his argument failed to convince the judge at his bench trial who sentenced him to 14 years behind bars this week.
Cedeno’s mother called the school in 2014 to alert a teacher that she’d found a knife in her son’s backpack and was worried he’d bring it to school, investigators said. Teacher Justin Keating told assistant principal Caro of the warning and entered a note about the call into an online student-tracking system, according to the report.
“It is imperative that all staff members follow protocol and promptly report any and all threats that may jeopardize the safety of our school communities,” said Anastasia Coleman, the Special Commissioner of Investigation.
Caro told investigators she searched Cedeno’s backpack under the supervision of school safety officers and decided the call didn’t merit an entry in a city-mandated disciplinary report system because the mother had seen the weapon at her home, not inside school walls.
Investigators found no evidence Caro conducted the search in front of a school safety officer – the only people allowed to conduct weapons searches – and found she should have reported the incident under Education Department policy.
After the fatal incident, Caro was reassigned to a central office when the mother’s warning first came to light.
The Dept. of Education said Thursday it’s started termination proceedings for Caro, who’s listed as an instructional lead on the website of Brooklyn North Borough Superintendent Karen Watts.
Louna Dennis, mother of Matthew McCree, said it was right that Caro be fired.
“I hope that they change their system so no one else will have to suffer what I’m suffering. You shouldn’t be concerned or scared sending your child to public school,” the still-grieving mother said.
“I wasn’t aware of the safety problems at the school until after my son was killed .... It’s terrifying. If I had known my son would be out of that school.”