School community mourns death of 15-year-old Harding High student

Police presence increased as students say they feel unease and disconnection

Blue and white balloons float in the sky
People release balloons during a vigil at Harding High School in St. Paul on Feb. 13, 2023. 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: 7:43 a.m.

Students and staff at Harding High School in St. Paul are grieving the loss of 15-year-old Devin Scott, who police say was stabbed to death by another student at the school on Friday.

Along with many others in the Twin Cities, Vanessa Young heard the tragic news Friday about the killing, but it wasn’t until Monday that Young learned the victim was someone she knew. 

Young is a co-founder of 30,000 feet, a St. Paul nonprofit that provides art classes and technology apprenticeships for youth, and Devin was in her program.

“He was a young person who was dedicated to getting his coding certificate. So he’d come to our program on Mondays and Wednesdays and even sometimes online working diligently to get his coding certificate,” she said.

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People walk on a sidewalk with balloons
People arrive with balloons during a vigil at Harding High School in St. Paul on Feb. 13, 2023. 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

He started the program last month and had planned to stick with it into the summer. She says Devin had expressed fears about violence from other teens — those he called opps, or opponents.

“Last time I talked with him, he said he was worried about coming on this side of town,” Young said before a candlelight vigil for Devin on Monday. “I said ‘you know, is there anything we can do to make you feel more safe? Is there anything that we can do to bring you and the persons that you consider opps to come together and have a conversation and just hash it out?’ He was open to it.” 

Young said Devin was not known to have any gang affiliations, and the fears that he expressed about his safety should not imply that he was part of a gang.

She said she’s sad and angry that Devin was robbed of a promising life, and she urges parents, teachers and other adults to pay close attention to children’s concerns. 

“I would like to see folks get a little more in the young people’s business. Ask them what’s going on. If a young person says that they feel threatened, take it seriously. If we see young people who are trying to avoid others, figure out why,” Young said.

Neither police nor school officials have said what precipitated the stabbing. 

People walk with balloons
People arrive with balloons during a vigil at Harding High School in St. Paul on Feb. 13, 2023. 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

Hannah Denkargbo is a senior at Harding High. She didn’t know Devin but said there has been a feeling of unease at the school since the pandemic shutdown.

“I think for a while now, our school has been unsettled. There’s a sense of tension amongst all the students. We can all feel it. The faculty can feel it. The teachers can feel it. I think it’s just one of the effects of COVID, where nothing has really gone back to normal, and any sense of normalcy that we’ve had has been disrupted,” Denkargbo said.

Though she’s busy with schoolwork in her final year, Denkargbo said she hopes to ease this tension by organizing healing and restorative justice circles for her peers. 

“I want to feel a sense of community and a sense of togetherness,” she said. “I do think that we’re stronger in numbers and I want to see how as a community we can heal and grow from this and push forward.”

Ramsey County prosecutors are expected to reveal more about what happened in the moments leading up to Devin’s killing in a juvenile criminal complaint against the suspect. Charges could come as soon as Tuesday.

In a memo to staff on Monday, St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard announced “immediate, short-term security measures” for five high schools.

Harding is adding a third full-time school support liaison to the school’s security team, and the St. Paul Police Department has assigned two officers each to Central, Como Park, Harding, Humboldt, and Washington High Schools.

Gothard said the officers will “remain on-site outside the school[s][ as an immediate resource.”

The district removed police from its buildings following George Floyd's murder in 2020 and has since relied on support liaisons for security. They are not armed but carry handcuffs and pepper spray.