Richmond City School Board approves third-party investigation into Graduation Day shooting

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Posted at 11:21 PM, Aug 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-14 23:21:27-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Just a week out from the beginning of the school year for Richmond City Public Schools, a multitude of things were spoken about in Monday's school board meeting, with school safety being the biggest topic.

While just outside Huguenot High School the marching band moved in harmony to prepare for the upcoming school year, inside the Richmond City School board indulged in heated discord.

"I think upon not receiving this investigation, Mr. Kamras should be suspended from his duties if we do not receive this investigation," said school board member Mariah White.

It was a suggestion made by White that visibly shocked the auditorium but was ultimately not included in a motion made by school board member Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed. The motion Harris Muhammed made was to have a third party investigate RPS' actions leading up to the mass shooting outside the Huguenot High School June 6 graduation.

"I move that the Richmond school board authorizes the superintendent to present for review and for approval two options of companies that can complete a third-party investigation of the June 6, 2023 school mass shooting by October the 1st, 2023," Harris Muhammed said.

She made the motion for the investigation after an internal one was submitted to the school board by Superintendent Kamras.

"We cannot nor can the superintendent police ourselves when such tragedies such as this occur. This is not a simple testing irregularity," she said.

Harris-Muhammed said she questions some of the statements made in the report, including that all students were wanded prior to entering the atria. She says she visibly saw some students not wanded by security. She said while she understands the Richmond Police Department are investigating, the school district needs to go further in its own investigation.

"It is not about RPD and the Commonwealth Attorney it is about how we run the operations in our school divisions, we have the funds," Harris-Muhammed said.

While some of the board members agreed with this motion, others did not. "I certainly agree with my colleagues in terms we could have received more detailed reporting on the Altria incident," said school board member Stephanie Rizzi. "It seems to me that this board owes it to all the persons that incurred real harm on June 6, owes it to all those persons and all of our teachers and students and family to ask the hard questions," said Jonathan Young, also in agreeance.

Members Elizabeth Doerr and Cheryl Burke said they did not agree with the third-party investigation for numerous reasons. "The RPD investigation is still ongoing and I’d like to understand the findings of that investigation, with the start of the school year, I think it will be potentially traumatizing for our staff and teachers specifically at Huguenot," said Doerr.

"We could not hire 24 mental health persons because we didn't have the funds so where are we going to get the money to cover this investigation," said Burke. "Also to put our energy towards the state government and the federal government in terms of addressing why it's so easy for our children and anyone to get guns… that's the main problem right there."

Harris-Muhammed stated the report would include findings that include Graduation Day operations, statements from RPS staff involved that day, and a third-party review of homebound procedures that directly impact grading.

Ultimately the board voted to pass the motion in a 5-2 vote with one abstaining. This means Kamras will need to have those company options by October 1, 2023.

In addition to the investigation motion being approved tonight, the board also approved Kamras' care and safety 15-point plan.

It includes things like updating protocols, more support for mental health, and a pilot program that would limit student cell phone use in school.

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