RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC ) — An internal investigation by Richmond Schools reveals several areas of improvement after a deadly graduation shooting outside the Altria Theatre.
18-year-old Shawn Jackson and his step father, Renzo Smith, were shot and killed in Monroe Park shortly after the graduation ended on June 6. Another teenager, Amari Pollard, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the two deaths. Now, he faces one first-degree murder charge for Jackson.
After the shootings, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) launched an internal investigation into the circumstances leading up to the situation. In documents obtained by 8News, the investigation identified six recommendations for substantial policy changes dealing with safety and response.
The investigation is something that school board member Jonathan Young supports, but also says, is overdue.
“What transpired surely did not have to. Richmond Schools should have known better,” said Young. “My proposition is that Richmond schools is consistently putting persons in harm’s way, and I always want to wait until the facts are revealed to be objective, but my gut told me from the moment I learned what had happened that Richmond had some culpability into what materialized.”
According to documents in the investigation, the administration cited inconsistencies regarding the district’s Homebound program.
In June, 8News reported that Shawn Jackson had not been attending Huguenot in person, and instead, was learning from home. Sources close to the Homebound program shared concerns with 8News about Jackson’s attendance and questioned if he should have attended, due to safety reasons.
In an emailed response, RPS said that Jackson was not in the program due to disciplinary reasons and therefore was allowed to attend.
However, the internal investigation states: “RPS does not currently have a consistent approach to assessing whether students should attend graduation in person.”
It continues: “We need a clearer and more rigorous protocol to make these decisions going forward.”
The administration is also recommending that principals personally review and sign off on all graduation participants and that this become a permanent policy by ‘enshrining the requirement in the Board Policy.’
“We seem to, in a recurring way, err on the side of not keeping people safe. This is in no way an anomaly,” said Young. “On every occasion, it seems when provided an opportunity to do what’s right and keep people safe, Richmond does the opposite.”
Another recommendation is changing the location of graduation and adopting “new, enhanced security protocol for all graduations,” similar to the protocol that was adopted for the remainder of the 2023 graduations.
This would include increasing the number of officers from Richmond Police Department and security, banning all bags and all signs, balloons, or other items that could obstruct the view of security personnel, limiting the number of attendees, and encouraging families not to congregate following the graduation ceremony.
Documents show this could also apply to other large events and sporting events.
“As awful as that incident was, as awful as it was, week in and week out, we’re incurring real threats in our buildings that neither students nor teachers should be subjected to,” Young said. “Until people can speak with moral clarity, it’ll continue to happen.”
The investigation goes on to recommend developing a mental health plan in the event of a crisis and an immediate communication plan.
While these are recommendations, many have a targeted completion date of Oct. 2023.