Fatal stabbing at Harding High leaves students, staff ‘heartbroken,’ ‘helpless’

Candlelight vigil set for Monday night to memorialize student killed last week

A person holds a balloon bouquet in front of a building
People arrive with balloons during a vigil at Harding High School in St. Paul on Monday. Last week a 15-year-old boy died after being stabbed by a 16-year-old student at the high school.
Stephen Maturen for MPR News

Updated: 6 p.m.

Classes at St. Paul’s Harding High School are canceled Monday and Tuesday this week following Friday’s fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student inside the school. District leaders have also asked police to increase their presence at five city high schools in response.

“Our kids are not OK,” Joe Gothard, the St. Paul schools superintendent, said in a video message. “Our staff are struggling to support them and know what to do.”

Authorities on Monday identified Devin Scott as the student stabbed at Harding High late Friday morning. He received first aid from school staff and emergency responders but was later pronounced dead at Regions Hospital.

Police took a 16-year-old Harding student into custody after the incident. The high school went into lockdown from late morning until about 1:20 p.m. It was the city’s first homicide of 2023.

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St. Paul made its crisis support team available to students and families over the weekend and said meals would be available for students to pick up, with libraries and recreation centers open for students who needed a place to go.

School leaders urged students to express their feelings by reaching out to social workers or counselors or contacting the Children’s Mental Health Crisis line at (651) 266-7878. 

the outside of Harding high school
Police vehicles are parked outside Harding Senior High School in St. Paul following a fatal stabbing on Friday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The school district on Monday said city police will assign two officers to Central, Como Park, Harding, Humboldt and Washington high schools to "remain on-site outside" the buildings as an immediate resource.

The district removed police from its buildings following George Floyd's murder in May 2020 and has since hired school support liaisons to provide security. They do not carry guns, but do have handcuffs and pepper spray. Harding has added a third full-time support liaison.

The killing at Harding High comes on the heels of a string of violence affecting St. Paul students and staff.

In January a woman who worked at St. Paul’s Washington Technology Magnet School was shot during an altercation between two groups of teenagers at the school. 

Days before that, a shooting near Central High School left a teenager in critical condition. An employee of the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center has been charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.

Teachers and students are planning a candlelight vigil Monday evening at Harding High School in memory of Devin Scott. The vigil is organized by the St. Paul Federation of Educators, the district’s teacher union.

Union president Leah VanDassor told media outlets she’s enraged and sad about the stabbing and that this, on top of other recent incidents, has left her and many others in St. Paul feeling “heartbroken and hopeless.”

A recent statewide survey indicated that nearly one-third of Minnesota students are struggling with long-term mental health problems.

The number of students dealing with depression and anxiety is higher than it’s ever been at any other time in the history of the survey, which began in 1989. The Minnesota Department of Health calls it a “crisis.”

MPR News reporter Matt Sepic contributed to this report.