BY JAMES FARRELL
Three incidents during the past two weeks at Flushing’s John Bowne High School—a stabbing, a separate incident of knife possession and an assault on a safety officer—have raised questions about the school’s safety.
On April 4, a student was stabbed in the hallway after an altercation involving three other students. According to the NYPD, the altercation stemmed from a verbal dispute among the students—and the three students responsible were taken into custody. The victim was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital with no serious injuries.
Later that week, on April 7, two more incidents occurred.
A 16-year-old was caught with a knife early in the morning during an unannounced scanning, the NYPD said. The student, who has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon, was carrying a butterfly knife, according to the Daily News, which first reported the incident. Following the earlier stabbing, Department of Education (DOE) Deputy Chancellor of Operations Elizabeth Rose explained that the school carries out random scannings and that the DOE would assess whether there would be an increase or decrease in the level of scanning.
Later that same day, 19-year-old Jayquan Shields was arrested for allegedly punching a school safety agent in the eye, causing a serious injury, according to the NYPD. The altercation reportedly started after the officer attempted to arrest Shields for allegedly possessing marijuana. Additionally, Shields has been charged with assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.
Following the incidents, the Daily News published a report alleging that the school had seen an increase in violent incidents in recent years.
According to the New York State Education Department’s statistics on Violent and Disruptive Incident Reports (VADIR), there were 24 incidents at the school of weapons possession, compared to six the prior year. There were 19 such incidents in the 2013-2014 school year and only four in 2012-2013.
There were also 16 assaults with physical injuries, steadily rising since 2012-2013, when there were four.
The DOE did not respond to a request from the Queens Tribune for comment, but spokeswoman Toya Holness told the Daily News that the state numbers are flawed due to problems with the violence reporting system and that the system is being overhauled.
“The data is flat out misleading,” she told the Daily News. “The incidents that took place last week were swiftly addressed and we are providing the school with ongoing support.”
In addition to an increase in violence at the school, the school’s principal, Howard Kwait, was also in the news earlier this month. Kwait is facing a fourth sexual harassment lawsuit, according to published reports, and has now been hit with a new lawsuit accusing him of trying to take retaliatory action against an employee who accused him of encouraging staff to change grades.
The DOE did not reply to questions sent by the Queens Tribune regarding Kwait.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.