RICHMOND, Va. -- Parents, teachers, police officers, and community leaders gathered Monday night for a “Conversation for Peace” panel discussion at Henrico High School.
The discussion followed a rash of violence among young people across Central Virginia, including a shooting at a graduation party in Chester on Friday night that led to seven injuries and one death.
A former Henrico coach, who choked back tears while speaking, told the panel that he’s witnessed too many young people die because they weren’t getting the support they needed.
“I’m sorry for being emotional,” he said. “We have a problem where people don’t want to coach anymore. Most people my age or older, a coach impacted their life. A coach saved my life.”
In a panel discussion led by a Henrico student, counselors, a police chief, and other leaders, the audience asked questions regarding mental health services, social media and bullying, troubled youth, and increased access to guns. School security was also a topic of discussion.
Earlier on Monday, two students were arrested at John Rolfe Middle School in Henrico after police were alerted about a gun being on school grounds.
In Richmond on Monday night, school leaders discussed increased safety protocols and mental health services that will be reviewed by a policy committee, focused on adding improvements.
At Richmond City Hall, City Council members discussed a proposal for a Gun Buy-Back program to get more weapons off the streets. The initiative was introduced by Mayor Levar Stoney and co-sponsored by Reva Trammell. The proposal would pay $250 for assault weapons, $200 for handguns, and $150 for rifles.
“We’re not going to take your gun away from you,” Trammell said. “It’s a buy-back. It’s up to you to give up the gun you don’t want. We don’t want it in the hands of somebody else.”
While Monday’s panel discussion at Henrico High School was just a start to the conversation, leaders say there must be more connections, resources, and protocols in place to prevent violence and foster healthy relationships among children and teens.
Parent Shaniqua Washington said she was grateful for the meeting and hopes community leaders continue to push for solutions.
However, she said leadership must begin at home with parents.
“These are our kids, this is my community,” Washington said. “It’s affecting all of us and I had something to say as a parent. I want every room I go into to bring God into the room and that’s someone we’ve taken out of the room.”