The mother of the 15-year-old Bronx student fatally stabbed by another student during history class earlier this week spoke out on Friday, insisting her son was not a bully.
Louna Dennis said her son, Matthew McCree, planned to graduate high school, attend Fordham University and play basketball, but those dreams were cut short on Wednesday when he was stabbed to death inside the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation.
“My son was wonderful,” Dennis said at a news conference on Friday, recalling how he had made her breakfast the morning before his death. “Now my son is never coming back.”
McCree and another student, Ariane Laboy, 16, were in their third-period history class with classmate Abel Cedeno, 18, when police said teasing from the two victims took a violent turn.
Cedeno told investigators the two teens were throwing papers and pencils at him when he snapped, stabbing McCree and Laboy in the chest with a 3-inch switchblade, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said on Thursday. They were rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital, where McCree was pronounced dead and Laboy underwent surgery. He was in stable condition Thursday evening.
Dennis, however, refuted the bullying claims on Friday, saying McCree didn’t “come close to being a bully.”
“Matthew loved everyone … Matthew would rather beat a bully down before he’d be the bully,” she said. “Whether it was pencil throwing, paper throwing – my son is dead. My son is dead.”
Boyce said Cedeno admitted to investigators that he had not been directly teased by Laboy or McCree before the deadly encounter, but that he had faced harassment from other students over the last two weeks.
“He said he was being harassed. He didn’t further describe other children in other classes he was having problems with,” Boyce said on Thursday.
The Legal Aid Society, which was assigned Cedeno’s case, also said he had endured bullying and intimidation at the school.
“We are currently meeting with our client and his family and reviewing the facts and circumstances of this case including the long history of bullying and intimidation Abel has endured,” defense lawyers said in a statement on Thursday.
Meanwhile, attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who is representing Dennis, is demanding to know why two teachers in the classroom reportedly “did absolutely nothing” as Cedeno attacked McCree and Laboy.
“That’s very significant,” he said at the Friday news conference with Dennis, adding that his office would be investigating whether the Department of Education followed the Dignity for All Students Act when it came to bullying in this case.
Rubenstein also called into question why there were no metal detectors at the school until after the stabbing occurred, claiming that 81 percent of the teachers there said they felt unsafe.
Chief Brian Conroy, who heads the NYPD school safety bureau, said officials saw no reason why detectors were needed at the Bronx school prior to the stabbings.
Urban Assembly School had seven serious crimes, including two assaults, in the 2016-2017 school year, according to NYPD statistics.
Of the 1,800 public schools in the city, 88 of them have metal detectors, the Department of Education said.
Only middle and high schools have scanners. If a middle or high school shares a building with an elementary school, like Urban Assembly School and PS 67, there would need to be separate entrances for the elementary school students, according to a 2016 report about scanning in public schools.
In order for a school to get metal detectors, the principal must consult teachers, students, parents and others, and submit a written request to the DOE Office of Safety and Youth Development. The principal of the Urban Assembly School had not made such a request, a DOE spokeswoman said.
Following Wednesday’s stabbing, Chief of Community Affairs Joanne Jaffe said it had been previously determined that the school didn’t need metal detectors, but she did not explain how that determination had been made.
Cedeno was ordered held without bail after he pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, manslaughter and other charges on Thursday. He is due back in court on Oct. 3.
With Anthony M. DeStefano