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Richmond school board signs off on outside review of June graduation shooting

Board member Harris-Muhammed raises their hand
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
School Board member Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed raises her hand during a Richmond Public School Board meeting on Monday, July 10, 2023 at Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia.

Superintendent Jason Kamras and RPS have until Oct. 1 to submit possible candidates.

Monday night, Richmond City's school board approved a third-party investigation into the June 6 Huguenot High School graduation shooting that killed a graduating student and his stepfather.

Last month, the school board received a 7-page internal review of the shooting — including districtwide recommendations to implement. Those included adopting enhanced security protocol for all graduations and large events, as well as more robust mental health and communication plans in the event of future crises.

VPM News obtained a copy of the review through a public records request, but multiple sections were heavily redacted. That report wasn’t enough for board members like Shonda Harris-Muhammed, who has lingering questions about Richmond Public Schools' responsibility in keeping students and staff safe — and preventing another incident in the future.

“We cannot police ourselves,” Harris-Muhammed said. “We need to see where the breakdown was, if there were breakdowns. And based on the information that we have received thus far, there have been breakdowns.”

She made the motion to initiate an outside review, with a proposed completion date of mid-October. The motion tasks Superintendent Jason Kamras and his administration with proposing two companies by Oct. 1 to carry it out.

Board members like Jonathan Young supported the motion because he said the district hasn’t always been forthcoming with information related to the incident.

“From what has been revealed in court documents, I think it’s likely that RPS has some culpability relevant to what happened,” Young said. “I’m not talking about what happened, per se, the day of the shooting, though that’s important. I’m referring to what manifested in the weeks and months leading up to it.”

Cheryl Burke was one of two board members to vote against the third-party investigation, citing concerns about cost.

“I really would like us to put our energy towards the state government and the federal government, in terms of addressing why it's so easy for our children — anyone — to get guns,” Burke said. “That's the main problem right there.”

During the meeting, Kamras insisted that the district isn’t hiding anything. He also said RPS would fully comply with sharing all information pertinent to the third-party review.

The board also approved a 15-point school safety plan on Monday. That outlined plans to apply for more funding for mental health and security staff, as well as technology and equipment.

Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.
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