Student, 15, fatally stabbed inside Harding High School; suspect in custody

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A 15-year-old student was fatally stabbed Friday morning inside Harding High School in St. Paul, and another student is in custody, officials said.

St. Paul Police Sgt. Mike Ernster said officers were called to the school on the city’s East Side at 11:46 a.m. on a report of a stabbing. Staff members gave the student first aid until medics could take him to Regions Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

A 16-year-old suspect was taken into custody, Ernster said. He added that investigators are still piecing together what led up to the attack.

A weapon was recovered at the scene, but Ernster did not say what type of implement was used to harm the student.

This was the city’s first homicide of 2023.

The school went into lockdown shortly after the incident, and all evening and weekend events at Harding High School were canceled, St. Paul Public Schools said.

Ernster said SPPD had a presence at schools across the city as “an extra layer to provide calm” in light of the stabbing.

A woman at the scene told a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS photojournalist that she received an email from the district saying students would be let out at 1:20 p.m. Friday.

In a statement, St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard said that school is cancelled on Monday for all Harding High School students. He also shared that activities Friday evening and over the weekend are also cancelled.

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Community reacts

Sentiments poured in from all around the city and state following the tragedy.

Friday night, candles could be seen burning inside the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center — it was a space for community members, and students, to gather and heal.

“I think it’s really important to bring joy,” Satara Strong-Allen, with Love First Community Engagement said about the students. “They lack hope, so joy counteracts that — it restores that hope.”

Strong-Allen helped organize and lead Friday night’s healing session — adding that now more than ever do youth need support.

“Love on your babies, love on your babies tonight,” Strong-Allen said. “Have conversations with them, be real and honest with them, ask them how they’re feeling.”

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called the stabbing “sad and infuriating” and extended his sympathies to the victim’s loved ones and the Harding community.

“My heart is with the family and friends of the victim, as well as the entire school community who is grieving the loss of another youth to senseless violence. There are no words to describe or ease this pain,” Carter wrote on social media.

He also alluded to other recent violence near schools in the past month that resulted in injuries to a Central High School student and a staff member at Washington Technology Magnet School.

In a statement, St. Paul Federation of Educators President Leah VanDassor said the victim was in the 10th grade.

“Our union siblings and other staff are understandably grieving and in shock. This is a tragedy that will be felt by every member within SPFE and beyond,” VanDassor wrote. “A union means that we are interconnected and a family. We will support and be there for one another, especially when it is sad and difficult.”

VanDassor encouraged staff members across the school district to wear maroon and gold — Harding High’s school colors — next week in solidarity.

Gov. Tim Walz, who has a child enrolled in St. Paul Public Schools, called the events “heartbreaking.”

“We have offered our full support and have been assured that the area is now secure,” he said in a tweet.

The Minnesota Department of Education also released a statement consoling the students, staff and families of Harding High.

“Schools should be safe places for all to learn, teach and grow. Violence of any kind has no place in our communities, much less in our schools,” MDE said. “We join in solidarity with the Harding and Saint Paul Public Schools communities and offer our full support as they deal with this tragedy.”