RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Five months after a deadly shooting at a graduation ceremony claimed the lives of a Huguenot High School student and his stepfather, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) leaders are revising the language in some of the school district’s policies.
Seven people were shot on the night of June 6 as people cleared out of the Altria Theater at the end of Huguenot High School’s graduation ceremony. 18-year-old Huguenot student Shawn Jackson and his stepfather, Lorenzo Smith, were killed. 19-year-old Amari Pollard was later charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection the shooting.
Later that month, RPS confirmed that Jackson was learning virtually through a program called “Homebound.” In emails obtained by 8News, the reason behind this appeared to be for safety reasons. Sources close to the program questioned his attendance at graduation due to the safety concern; however, RPS confirmed Jackson was not in the program due to disciplinary reasons.
Now, school leaders are adding more complex language to the Homebound program rules. According to board documents: “Any student who is receiving homebound services will not be allowed to attend RPS school-related activities, including but not limited to commencement ceremonies, without the direct approval of the School Principal, Superintendent, or Superintendent’s designee based upon the recommendation of the licensed medical provider who certified the homebound services.”
Previously, the policy stated Homebound students only needed permission from a principal or a designee to attend school-related activities.
RPS School Board member Jonathan Young called the events that led up to the shooting a “total collapse by RPS on every level,” citing inconsistent policies and communication breakdowns.
“This policy change is but a very, very small element or piece of what broke down and went wrong,” said Young. “We’re going to fix that this evening, but it’s only a small part of what went wrong.”
In October, the school board voted to have Richmond-based law firm Sands Anderson conduct a third-party investigation to “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.”
Young believes the findings of the investigation will be “telling.”
“I have seen the emails and I have read them and I am still processing how we could have been so reckless,” Young said. “What I have read can only be described as the most reckless, callous behavior by the school district and it’s all in writing.”
The board will address the policy revision and hear the results of the investigation at its meeting on Monday evening. It’s unclear if the results of the investigation will be made public.
For more information about the policy changes, click here.