School board chair on security in Richmond schools in wake of shootings: 'We're dealing with silos of support'

Rizzi: 'What I'd like to see are parents who are concerned about all the children in the entire city and not just about the specific issues that affect their children'
George Wythe High School
Posted at 11:43 AM, May 10, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Rizzi sat down Tuesday for a conversation about security in Richmond Schools, just days after a shooting at George Wythe High school injured two students.

She was careful to say she was speaking as an individual and not as a member of the board.

While the Wythe students are recovering, the incident came months after Rizzi sent a warning about security at Wythe, listing her concerns about unmonitored doors there and students congregating in the parking lot and in the nearby woods.

The students were shot April 27 in the parking lot in the middle of the day.

The subject line of her Oct. 19 email was “Grave concerns.”

“That happened to be a day where I visited and I observed these things,” Rizzi said. “I just wanted to let someone know because we’d had some concerns about safety and security at the school before. There was a photo that showed up [on social media] with the two kids, with a gun. I just wanted to make sure that they’re as safe as possible. I was really just trying to get attention, to that issue. I had brought attention to the woods before, and very few people responded to me. I was just really nervous about what could happen back there.”

Grave Concern -- George Wythe High School

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But more than six months would go by and those same issues persisted at Wythe. As far as what could be done in the short term, Rizzi said to start with the doors.

“A few people had asked me to request that alarms be put on the doors, and so I did, and they are on the doors,” said Rizzi. “There are quite a few doors in that building. I would definitely agree that they’re hard to monitor at all times. But we could put 20 of them in that building and if students are determined to leave, they will. So we probably have to address some of the issues the kids are dealing with. Those issues may not have anything to do with school. They may be detached from even believing that education is important.”

Even more dispiriting for Rizzi was the next school board meeting after the shooting, where the public was apparently not interested in discussing the injured students.

“I was surprised that I didn’t see more parents,” Rizzi said. “I don’t think there were any parents at that particular school board meeting who were there to talk about the shooting or speak on behalf of the injured students. I do think that maybe we’re dealing with silos of advocacy, or silos of support. What I’d like to see are parents who are concerned about all the children in the entire city and not just about the specific issues that affect their children.”

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