NEWARK, NJ — The Newark Board of Education took a moment of silence for slain student Elijah Alverez at last night’s business meeting, reflecting on the ramifications of violence and vowing to carry forward a commitment to trauma-informed care in the district.
Alvarez, 15, and his 11-year-old brother were stabbed Tuesday morning at their home near Barringer High School between Park Avenue and Lake Street. The 11-year-old survived, but Alvarez died at the scene.
The Essex County Prosecutor announced Wednesday that a 16-year-old boy was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, burglary, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose after allegedly breaking into Alvarez’s home. The 16-year-old’s name was not released by authorities because he is a juvenile. Prosecutors are looking to try the teen as an adult.
“As a city, we mourn the loss of Elijah Alvarez, and we pray for the physical and emotional recovery of his 11-year-old brother injured in the attack on Tuesday morning. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ family and the community, and for a speedy recovery of the younger brother,” Mayor Rask Baraka said in a statement.
The tragedy falls in conjunction with a recent $4.6 million grant awarded in November for Project Prevent Newark, an initiative that aims to create a more culturally responsive learning environment by providing trauma-informed care training to staff and increasing student mental health services. A separate $1.9 million grant was awarded to the district by the U.S. Department of Education for Supportive Schools Newark, a partnership between NBOE and Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metro Campus to create a pipeline of school psychologists for high needs schools to increase capacity to effectively address the mental health needs of youth who have experienced trauma.
Newark Public Schools is preparing to award a three-year contract for social and emotional learning and mental health counseling to provide a pool of three qualified professional development service providers. The providers will support educators and school leaders to foster healthy student behaviors and academic gains, according to board member Asia Norton.
The Office of Student Life, which oversees school social workers and related district programs, will also be working with a Chicago-based organization in two high schools and two elementary schools in every ward to provide grief support and grief curriculum. The board praised Executive Director Maria Ortiz, who is leading the increased efforts to confront the trauma and mental health in classrooms, for her response to student emergencies.
“There’s not a day that goes by that our young people aren’t affected by trauma, but I think it’s particularly striking that we would be talking about trauma-informed care and intervention in our schools considering the loss that’s happened today, so I commend everyone on that team for that work,” said board member A’Dorian Murray-Thomas.