PETERSBURG, Va. -- A Central Virginia mother found a way to bring awareness to the recent violence in schools across Virginia in an effort to prevent students from getting hurt.
Shanda Gaston is the organizer of the Diamonds of Essence dance team. Her team performed Saturday night during a semi-pro football game in Petersburg. The performance highlighted the violence happening at schools.
"So much violent crimes have been taking place within the last six months," Gaston. "When is it going to stop, you know, and it's back-to-back to back-to-back."
In August, police said two teens were shot outside of a Northern Virginia high school, following a football game.
On September 18, Henrico Police reported that shots were fired near Hermitage High School as a football game was ending.
On Friday night, shots were also fired in Essex, during a high school football game as well.
“The kids should have a safe haven, that should be their safe place," Gaston said. "They shouldn't have to worry about if somebody is bringing weapons to the football games, or to class or whatever the situation may be. So, it's really heartbreaking."
Miles Turner, with Law Enforcement Consulting, believes that there are numerous factors that are playing a role in what has been happening.
“We’re seeing an uptick in school violence in general," Turner said. “People are under more stress right now than they’ve been through their lives, we got the pandemic, we’ve got what going on with the economy, the social unrest that we’ve been having. That and kids don’t have the coping skills like when I was growing up.”
Virginia also recently saw a school shooting last week in Newport News, that left two students injured.
Turner believes having more officers present in and around schools could be key.
“I think it speaks to the need to have those resource officers in the school, not just here everywhere," Turner said.
For Gaston, she’s just going to keep doing the best she can to make an impact and hope other parents can get involved too.
“We have to be more assertive; you know, we have to pay more attention and get more involved," Gaston said.
If you would like to learn more about Gaston's organization or get involved, click here.