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‘I no longer feel safe.’ Fatal stabbing at Southeast Raleigh High prompts calls for change

The family of a 15-year-old student killed at Southeast Raleigh High School last week demanded answers from Wake County school leaders on Monday night.

On Nov. 27, Delvin Ferrell, 15, was fatally stabbed during a fight in the school gym. At a community forum Monday night hosted by the school, several of Ferrell’s family members questioned the response to the stabbing.

Jeremaine Cotton, Ferrell’s older brother and a student at Southeast Raleigh High, told the audience that packed Southeast Raleigh High’s audience that he witnessed his brother’s stabbing.

“I no longer feel safe in this school,” Cotton said. “I don’t think people care about us like they say they do.”

Wake County school leaders and Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson said Monday there’s a limit to what they can say about the incident due to the ongoing investigation. The district has promised to review its security protocols.

Delvin Ferrell’s older brother Jeremaine Cotton, left, speaks as Ferrell’s uncle Teddie Martinez olds a portrait of Ferrell during a community forum at Southeast Raleigh High School Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, one week after a brawl resulted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student and the wounding of a 16-year-old.
Delvin Ferrell’s older brother Jeremaine Cotton, left, speaks as Ferrell’s uncle Teddie Martinez olds a portrait of Ferrell during a community forum at Southeast Raleigh High School Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, one week after a brawl resulted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student and the wounding of a 16-year-old.

Did the school get advance warning?

Laura Grimes, Ferrell’s grandmother, attended Monday’s forum and said she heard that the school received a call ahead of time that a fight was going to happen.

“When that call was made, something should have put in place,” Grimes said.

The mother of the 14-year-old suspect has said that she warned the school on the day of the stabbing that her son was going to be attacked.

Video posted on social media by multiple students show a fight breaking out in a hallway before 11 a.m. on Nov. 27. In the melee that spilled into the gymnasium, Ferrell and a 16-year-old were both stabbed. The 16-year-old suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The fight led to the school being placed on a Code Red lockdown for most of Nov. 27. Audio of 911 calls released by police show students and staff in a state of fear as they waited for more officers to arrive on campus.

Classes were canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday before resuming on Thursday with extra security on campus.

Police filed a murder charge against a 14-year-old student. In addition, Principal Eddie Harden told parents that several other students involved in the brawl were disciplined.

Elizabeth Gary, a longtime teacher at Southeast Raleigh High, said the school board needs to support Harden’s efforts to bring discipline to the school.

“I’m going to ask you to untie his hands and let him do what he needs to do for our kids,” Gary told school leaders.

Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson, third from left, speaks during a community forum Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 at Southeast Raleigh High School, one week after a brawl resulted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student and the wounding of a 16-year-old.
Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson, third from left, speaks during a community forum Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 at Southeast Raleigh High School, one week after a brawl resulted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student and the wounding of a 16-year-old.

Defending Southeast Raleigh High’s image

Harden told the crowd at Monday’s forum that additional staff are now at the school to help supervise the students. He said the school will focus on lessons on conflict resolution and getting students to report problems. Students can anonymously report tips at 919-856-1911.

“We have to move beyond being silent due to past norms,” Harden said.

Harden was among among multiple people who said the school is being unfairly painted with negative stereotypes. News reports have pointed to the crime rate at Southeast Raleigh High compared to other Wake County schools.

“You’re not going to talk about my students, you’re not going to talk about certain neighborhoods,” Harden said.n “We can’t accept that.”

But Teddie Martinez, Ferrell’s uncle, told the crowd that the only statistics that matter are that his nephew’s body is in a funeral home and another young man is in jail.

Martinez urged the school system to spend more money on restorative justice and students’ social and emotional learning.

Martinez said the school’s students are still traumatized that a fellow student was killed at the school. He said more needs to happen to help the students, or “the next bloodshed will be on your guys’ hands.”

Should the school have reopened so soon?

The forum was expected to end at 8:30 p.m. but a long line of speakers prompted Wake County Superintendent Robert Taylor to extend the forum another hour. It ended around 9:50 p.m.

Community members fill the auditorium at Southeast Raleigh High School during a community forum Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, one week after a brawl resulted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student and the wounding of a 16-year-old.
Community members fill the auditorium at Southeast Raleigh High School during a community forum Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, one week after a brawl resulted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student and the wounding of a 16-year-old.

Parents voiced other concerns, including that the school shouldn’t have reopened so soon after the stabbing. They said the school could have offered online classes, which became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They should have shut the school down,” said Melanie Harris, a Southeast Raleigh High parent and Wake County school bus driver. “They have Chromebooks.”

Harris said the school wouldn’t have reopened so soon if the stabbing had happened at Panther Creek High School in Cary. Panther Creek has a largely white student enrollment. Southeast Raleigh High has a largely Black and Hispanic enrollment.

Taylor took responsibility for the decision to reopen Thursday.

“That was my decision and I take the ownership and the criticism that goes with it,” Taylor said at the end of the forum.

Calls for more volunteers at school

Harris drew applause when she said parents should be more involved in their children’s education. Harris said the adults in the Southeast Raleigh community need to step up and serve at the school.

Multiple speakers met the challenge on Monday by offering themselves and their groups to become mentors and volunteers.

Kimberly McGee said she was willing to come back and get involved after stepping away when her son graduated.

“I am heartbroken,” McGee said. “I need to be re-educated. I’m sure a lot of us need to be re-educated about what we need to do.”