RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Schools (RPS) parents, guardians, educators and community members shared their concerns on school safety during Monday night’s School Board meeting, following recent violence in the city.

Among the public speakers was Westover Hills Elementary School Principal Allison El Koubi, whose school was on lockdown Friday, after a deadly shooting took place nearby the campus.

“One of my worst nightmares came true. There was a shooting at my school; literally, on the front doorstep,” El Koubi said. “This horrific incident resulted in the death of Imani Hill, a 26-year-old woman. I had to put my school in lockdown, and am beyond grateful for the immediate response from our Westover Hills team to follow our safety protocols.”

Among the agenda items for Monday’s meeting were presentations on satisfaction and teacher retention, which included questions about the feeling of safety among those in the RPS community. For the 2021-22 academic year, 62% of students surveyed said they felt safe at their school, while 56% of teachers indicated the same sentiment.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our students are safe,” School Board Vice Chair and 3rd District Representative Kenya Gibson said. “We’ve had incidents in our communities that are horrific.”

Some community members called for expanded key card access in all buildings throughout the school division, noting the need for teachers who are outside with their students to return to safety inside, in the event of a shooting nearby, such as that at Westover Hills on Friday. Meanwhile, board members considered technology restrictions, in an effort to curb the consumption of violent content online, particularly by secondary students.

“There has to be a way where we can do what I believe to be at least the bare minimum to ensure that our students are able to safely navigate the web using a school-provided device,” Gibson said. “Other districts are doing it. So what the motion on the table is saying is, ‘Hey, let’s see how other people are doing it, and let’s have a conversation about those options.'”

Gibson’s comments came amid recommendations that were presented to the board regarding daily digital use by students during the school day. The recommendations came from Digital Working Group, a committee comprised of students, parents, teachers and staff.

According to Monday night’s presentation, the group found that YouTube was the top site used by RPS students for an average of 4.6 hours per day. Google Docs was the second most-used site, for an average of 4.2 hours per day.

The Digital Working Group also found that, since the start of the academic year, there had been approximately 3,500 alerts regarding potentially harmful content, messages, documents and images accessed by student accounts, with the majority happening at the middle and high school levels.

The group recommended that the School Board consider purchasing student management software, limiting Google Chat and restricting cell phone usage, among other suggestions to improve school safety.

“What I’m asking for today is that we look at options, that we begin this conversation,” Gibson said.

The School Board ultimately approved a proposal to further research restrictions on cellphone and Chromebook usage for secondary students — especially regarding access to violent content.

At this time, the board has not decided on any specific measures for restrictions but suggestions were made by Ashley Bland — Chair of the Digital Working Group — including management software to restrict students’ access to sites during instruction.

“To be clear, the motion on the table is not restricting and taking away cellphones tomorrow,” Gibson said. “This is a step to get information. This is the board doing its homework to see what levers we have to take control of a problem that is beyond out of hand.”