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'It was just total chaos': Student arrested for stabbing of Corcoran teacher

Zhuantina Hayes/ Syracuse Police

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says a 17-year-old student has been arrested for stabbing a Corcoran High School substitute teacher.

The teacher, a 24-year-old male, was attempting to break up a fight between two female students in a hallway on the school's third floor when the stabbing occurred, Fowler said. The teacher suffered stab wounds to the upper chest and forearm by an object that Fowler described as a "cutting instrument."

The victim is currently in stable condition at Upstate University Hospital and is expected to be treated and released by the end of the day, according to Fowler.

A 17-year-old female student, identified by police as Zhuantina Hayes, was arrested by responding officers on charges of second-degree Assault and fourth-degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon and sent to the Onondaga County Justice Center.

As for the other student involved in the fight, Chief Fowler said they have not been arrested, but said that remains a possibility depending on the outcome of the investigation.

During a news conference Thursday, Fowler praised the actions of the victim. "The teacher certainly deserves to be commended," Fowler said. "Had he not stepped in when he did, this incident could have been a lot more tragic than what it is right now."

Chief Fowler said investigators have spoken to the victim of the stabbing and are continuing to interview witnesses.

Police said nobody else was injured, but students were put under a "stay in place status" while the stabbing was investigated. The school returned to normal operations shortly thereafter, police said.

Norma Nieves, who has one child attending Corcoran and another who works at the school, described the situation at the school as "total chaos" when she arrived to check on her children. She also expressed frustration over the confusion in the minutes that passed after her arrival. "They told us to wait five minutes, we ended up waiting at least 15 or 20 minutes for our kids just to know where are they, what are they doing. I waited an extra ten minutes because they couldn't find my daughter."

Breayle Williams, a student who witnessed the altercation, said violent outbursts at the school aren't uncommon, but said the stabbing of the teacher was "outrageous."

"The next thing you know the girl whipped out the knife and tried to stabbed the other girl, but then she missed," Williams recalled. She said it had been a "crazy, crazy day" and says she believes the student didn't intend to stab the teacher.

Nieves said Thursday's incident did not surprise her. She recalled conversations with her daughter, a freshman at the school, about students bringing weapons into the building in the past. She added, "We need to do something in our school."

Superintendent Jamie Alicea noted that metal detectors are in use at the school and said school officials would be meeting in the afternoon to review the screening process.

According to the New York Department of Education, 216 weapons were confiscated at Syracuse City Schools in the 2015-2016 school year; 20 were seized at Corcoran. Only Henninger and Nottingham High Schools, with 36 and 24 weapons seized respectively, had more weapons confiscated than Corcoran.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says the substitute teacher stabbed at Corcoran High also works as a process server for his office. Fitzpatrick also said Thursday's violence “points out the misdirection of the ‘Raise the Age' movement.”

The law, signed recently by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is a major change in how the justice system handles cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds. The law diverts most of those cases to Family Court with the goal of rehabilitating young criminal defendants.

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