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'Nothing lower than this:' KCPS superintendent discusses fatal stabbing at middle school

Mark Bedell KCPS superintendent April 14, 2022
Posted at 11:25 AM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 19:26:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many in the Kansas City area are still reeling from the news that one student killed another at Northeast Middle School earlier this week.

Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell said Thursday in an interview with KSHB 41 that the incident is a low point in his career.

"It's one of the lowest feelings you can have as a superintendent," he said. "I'm completely devastated, just trying to process all of this, understand how we got to this point."

Northeast student Manuel J. Guzman, 14, was stabbed in the school bathroom on Tuesday morning. He was in the eighth grade.

Another student is now charged with his murder.

That 14-year-old faces charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. Their name was not released because they are a minor.

"There's nothing lower than this," Bedell said. "There's nothing for a superintendent lower than this. That's all I can say."

The middle school did have security and metal detectors, so the district's next step is to work with police to find out how the knife entered the building.

"KCPS will operate with full transparency as more information is allowed to be released," the superintendent said.

That information won't be made available until a full report is compiled.

"It's not fair to the family and to that school to just release bits and pieces. We need a report that can withstand scrutiny and questions," Bedell explained.

KCPS has been working on a five-year plan to overhaul security and redesign the code of conduct in the district. That plan was started before the pandemic and is funded by a $3.2 million Victims of Crime Act grant to work on trauma-informed training.

Bedell explained that staff is well trained for safety and security, including national conventions each year to refresh training. The investigation will take a look and see what happened to decide how to move forward.

The superintendent emphasized compassion and love for students moving forward.

"I was there the past two days and there's a lot of just trying to understand and process," he said. "We want to restore rather than being punitive."

Students at the middle school were back in session the next day, and Bedell said there was never any question about holding classes in order to provide for students' social and emotional needs.

Assemblies were held for each grade level and counseling services are available. Trauma-informed specialists are on site.

"We have to do better as a community," Bedell said.

He cited several other instances of violence that took place on Tuesday as well, and said most of those happened on the same area of the city as the school and within the school district's boundaries.

However, the superintendent did thank the community for supporting students and staff in the wake of the tragedy.

Bedell said the North Kansas City School District is providing lunch for staff at the school and that the Center School District sent flowers. Members of the mentoring program have also stepped up to support the students.

"It feels like there's this family atmosphere that exists here that I knew of... but now that we're in a moment of pain, I see it and I feel it," he said.

The biggest question Bedell wants to be answered is, "How did we get here?"

"And that's not just for this situation. How do we get here and how do we stop it?" he asked.