A Northeast D.C. school canceled classes one day after a teenage student was fatally stabbed outside the building, leaving the community “heartbroken,” officials say.
KIPP DC College Preparatory closed Thursday, but counselors were available to meet with students virtually, Principal Stephanie Renee Young said in a letter to families.
A 15-year-old boy identified as Kemon Payne was stabbed near a Metrobus stop in front of the school building after dismissal on Wednesday, authorities and school officials said.
Police said the victim appeared to have been involved in a fight. School staff responded immediately, along with police and medical professionals, Young said.
An off-duty D.C. police officer was working inside the public charter school and called for more officers, police said.
The teen was stabbed in the chest and transported to a hospital, according to police.
“We have been in touch with the student’s family and will continue to provide support to them,” Young said. “The sudden passing of a student is devastating for all of us.”
A 16-year-old who also goes to KIPP DC College Preparatory is in custody charged with second-degree murder.
He told investigators he always feels in danger and had hidden a knife outside the school for his protection. A law enforcement source said when he left the building, he retrieved the knife and swung it to protect himself after an altercation inside the school. He then ran from the school but dropped the knife after being stopped by an officer.
“We’re in a climate in the community where youth in our community don’t feel safe,” D.C. Council member Trayon White said. “It’s all across the United States, especially in black communities. It’s a culture of violence right now, and so we have to do any and everything we can to make our kids feel safe.”
Kemon’s grandmother said his father had gone to school to pick him up and had just spoken to him on the phone. “You can imagine for a mom who is consistent and present, caring and loving, and she is not doing very well,” White said. “You can expect that from any mother who has lost a child.”
Extra police and private security will be positioned at the school. Social workers and counselors will continue to have a presence, Young said.
"I'm sure that whatever the underlying issue is, it's not going to be something that a kid, a 15-year-old kid, should've lost his life over," D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said.
KIPP DC College Preparatory serves grades nine through 12.
Jay Brown runs a nonprofit organization in the District called Community Shoulders. He said he was worried that something like this might happen when schools reopened.
“During the pandemic, a lot of these young people have experienced loss of caretakers, domestic violence. They have also had inter-community violence that they had to deal with,” Brown said.
Contee said he believes the focus should be on helping "young people in the city resolve conflict peacefully without resulting to the use of a knife, a gun or violence."
The stabbing occurred on the third day of school.
"My deepest condolences to both families involved in this situation because whether you are the perpetrator of the crime or the deceased person in this case, it's sad. Period. Because this is something that did not have to happen," Contee said.