Courtesy of student protesters at Metropolitan Business Academy

After a Metropolitan Business Academy student brought a weapon to school last Monday, the school faced a tumultuous week, including an initially peaceful protest which quickly became unruly.  

Last Monday, a student smuggled a knife into Metro by bypassing the school’s regular metal detector and bag search screening. It is unclear exactly how the student smuggled the weapon past security, and the investigation is ongoing. The student cut another, but the victim has returned to school without any serious injuries. Following last Monday’s events, the school saw an increase in security officers which was accompanied by a preplanned reshuffling of security personnel in the district. The move included the reassignment of Craig Holmes, who has served as a security officer at Metro for 11 years. Students at the school were unhappy with the reassignment of Holmes and staged a protest Friday morning, which quickly became unruly with students writing on walls and staging a walkout. Both New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Iline Tracey and Mayor Justin Elicker were at the scene to hear students’ concerns.  

“There were a large number of shifts made in terms of the deployment of security officers around the district,” said New Haven Public Schools spokesperson Justin Harmon. “My understanding is that students believe that the individual that had been stationed at Metro was being moved because of an incident a week or so earlier, where a student smuggled a knife into the school. [Students] made a decision to have a protest, which for some reason got a little bit unruly on Friday morning.”

According to a first-year student who has been granted anonymity due to safety concerns, the student who brought a knife to the school had been bullied and picked on by students at Metro. 

The student brought a knife to school for a preplanned fight in one of Metro’s bathrooms. The News could not independently confirm these facts. 

“Fast forward to Monday,” said the same anonymous student. “I told her, no weapons, no, nothing. Although she kept saying she was going to bring a weapon. She pulled out the knife, and I backed up and announced, she got a weapon. Everybody started getting scared, so I backed up out of the bathroom.”

The student with the knife cut one of her peers who was attempting to restrain the student with a weapon. According to the student who was cut, the school did not inform their parents that they had been hurt in a school fight. 

According to NHPD spokesperson Officer Scott Shumway, NHPD has made an arrest in the case. But Shumway would not provide any additional comment since the investigation was still ongoing. 

Since last Monday’s events, NHPS announced that they were reshuffling security personnel within the district, which included the reassignment of Holmes, Metro’s security officer. However, according to Justin Harmon, NHPS spokesperson, this reshuffling had been planned long before last Monday. 

“What happened was that the director of security made an assessment of the schools that have the most calls for public safety support,” said Harmon. “He made an assessment about how to redeploy resources in a way that would be most effective … And, you know, it’s hard for people to embrace that. But that’s the case.”

Harmon acknowledged that the district could have better communicated the personnel change with members of the community. 

Students organize protest for Holmes to keep job

Friday morning, shortly after Metro’s breakfast period, students congregated in the high school’s cafeteria to protest the district’s decision and bid farewell to Holmes. The protest was originally planned to be a cafeteria sit-in, but quickly devolved into unruly behavior and a walkout. 

Students at the school have also started a petition on calling for the reinstatement of Holmes to Metro. The petition has been signed by 521 individuals. 

“Holmes has been a part of the Metro family for 11 years,” said one of the leaders of the student protest who has been granted anonymity due to safety concerns. “He is not only our security guard, he is everyone’s friend. Everyone knows if you need someone you can always count on Holmes. There is a better way to get change in the school.” 

According to protesters interviewed by the News, most of the school, which is roughly 450 students, participated in the protest. However, administrators pushed back against this characterization. In an email to the school community, Magnet School Recruitment Coordinator Lauren Chicoski said that “most students are participating in a normal school day.” 

According to the same anonymous first-year student who was involved in the original incident with the weapon, Metro’s principal Sequella H. Coleman told students on Friday morning that she was going to “shut down” the protests, after which students shouted slogans for the reinstatement of Holmes while he was still in the building preparing to leave for his new assignment. 

Holmes then left the building and students walked with him outside. According to the same first-year student, additional security was at the scene already and some of the security laughed in the faces of students who were saying goodbye to Holmes. After Holmes left, the protest became unruly, with students writing on walls and vandalizing the school. 

 “It was a very stressful event for a lot of students,” said a student who has been granted anonymity for safety concerns. “The students here at Metro feel that they are not being heard and a lot of the issues within the school and within the community in which we have had to protest have not been truly heard by administration.” 

According to Harmon, additional school security was called in to contain the situation. NHPD personnel were also at the scene, according to Shumway; However, he told the News that they were “not involved with” the protest. The same protestor told the News that the school security was trying to get students to move away from the cafeteria and made students feel unsafe. 

“Students started to get anxious and felt uneasy at the sight of all the security guards,” said an educator at Metro who has been granted anonymity due to fears of losing their job. “Students were having panic attacks and making efforts to leave school early to be at ease. What happened today was insane and I’m at a loss of words for how the day played out … it should not have gotten that out of hand.”   

Harmon told the News that students at Metro have had discussions with school administrators on how to move forward and that the district is treating the protest as a learning opportunity. 

According to Elicker, who came to Metro on Friday after the situation was contained, this incident fits into the larger national trends surrounding an increase in violence in schools as well as a deterioration of student mental health.

He emphasized the importance of ensuring that schools should be physically safe and the importance of having a security presence as well as easily accessible mental health resources. 

“I think it’s important to continue to work to build trust between the community and the police,” said Elicker. “That includes students that may feel uncomfortable with police around having police on site, which also improves the security and reduces the likelihood of a violent incident occurring.” 

Metropolitan Business Academy is located at 115 Waters St. 

Yash Roy covered City Hall and State Politics for the News. He also served as a Production & Design editor, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion chair for the News. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a '25 in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.