Board members voted to have Sands Anderson law firm lead the charge in uncovering the events that led up to the deadly shooting.
On June 6, graduating senior Shawn Jackson, 18, and his stepfather Renzo Smith, 36, were shot to death outside of the Altria Theater in Monroe Park following Huguenot High School’s graduation ceremony.
The shooting received national attention in the weeks that followed. Richmond Public Schools decided to launch its own internal investigation into the circumstances that led up to the shooting. That investigation identified six recommendations for substantial policy changes dealing with safety and response.
However, it was later decided that a separate third-party investigation would be necessary.
Members of the Richmond School Board heard proposals from two groups — the Sands Anderson law firm and Michie Hamlett Attorneys at Law at Monday’s board meeting.
According to the proposal, Sands Anderson will now lead the investigation and will “report all findings to the school board that include graduation day operations from set up, to break down, and to include process and procedures for entrance of all students and guests.”
“We cannot police ourselves in matters such as this. This is another situation where we need outside direction,” board member Dr. Shonda Matia Harris-Muhammed said.
But not everyone was in favor of the motion on the table.
During public comment in the meeting, community advocate Charles Willis spoke on behalf of Tameeka Jackson, the mother of Shawn Jackson. Willis said Tameeka is not in support of the investigation because she does not want the school board using her son’s death as a reason to look into Superindent Jason Kamras.
“She says, ‘We need to investigate all. I know the work, mines put in, don’t use my son’s death for someone else that you’re trying to get out of office. Let my child rest. And let us grieve in peace,’” Willis relayed on her behalf.
Harris-Mohammed responded to those claims and said that’s not the goal of the third-party investigation.
“This is about Richmond Public Schools operations. Not anything outside of that. But our operations. The third-party investigations are not used by whatever someone has shared to evaluate any superintendent,” Harris-Mohammed said.
The board ultimately voted to move forward with Sands Anderson leading the charge in looking into what led up to that tragic day. The firm will report its findings about the graduation day operations, along with written statements from RPS staff, and provide a breakdown of the district’s homebound program — of which Shawn Jackson was enrolled in.
According to the meeting minutes, the complete review is estimated to take about 50 hours, at a cost of about $20,000 dollars. However, some board members believe the cost is a necessary sacrifice.
“We don’t want this to happen again,” board member Mariah White said. “And we have to stop somewhere. We have to start and stop somewhere.”