Richmond School Board members 'frustrated' with 'lack of answers' about Graduation Day shooting

Graduation Day Shooting Outside Altria Theater
Vigil Richmond Public Schools Graduation Day Shooting
Posted at 5:41 PM, Jun 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-21 17:43:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some members of the Richmond School Board are calling for transparency and answers in the investigation into a mass shooting outside of Huguenot High School's graduation on June 6.

“In this particular incident, I’ve been incredibly frustrated, because there simply has been just a lack of answers," said school board representative Kenya Gibson.

"Why did it happen, and who will be held accountable for what happened? But we first have to be brave enough to understand why did the events occur on June the sixth?" said representative Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed.

The school board and Superintendent Jason Kamras were supposed to have a conversation in closed session during Tuesday night's board meeting about student records related to the Huguenot graduation.

However, sources told CBS 6 that Kamras and board leadership were "unprepared" to share that information, causing board members to receive no answers to their questions.

Richmond Police charged 19-year-old Amari Pollard with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Huguenot graduate Shawn Jackson and his stepfather Renzo Smith. In the graduation day shooting, there were five other victims who were shot and injured and twelve more people who were hurt in the chaos.

Renzo Smith and Shawn Jackson
Renzo Smith and Shawn Jackson

Police revealed that Pollard and Jackson had an ongoing feud that went on for more than a year and that there were "blinking red lights" on social media that an incident was going to occur.

Richmond Public Schools confirmed Pollard was a former RPS student and that Jackson was on homebound services leading up to graduation not due to disciplinary reasons. RPS has not publicly disclosed why Jackson was learning virtually but said that he was approved to attend graduation in person.

However, some school board members have questioned the approval process and whether a threat assessment was involved in that decision.

"What I'm most interested in as a duly elected representative of Richmond Public Schools, a member of the school board, is what did we know, and when did we know it?" said board member Jonathan Young.

Harris-Muhammed said she would like to discuss all "student matters and personnel matters related to June 6 during our next school board meeting," and she is requesting a "completed investigation by the Division Superintendent to include several questions school board members have provided to him for review and to have a follow up."

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Members of the public, including Huguenot parent Kellisha Cox who was trampled at the graduation, are also demanding answers.

“Accountability needs to be taken, and we need the truth," Cox said. "The public deserves to know everything."

Superintendent Kamras was not available for an interview Wednesday, but in an email, RPS spokesperson Matthew Stanley said the district cannot legally disclose student-specific matters.

"That's not limited transparency, that's the law, and further information cannot be disclosed to the public," Stanley said.

Meanwhile, the Richmond Police Department is expected to give an update in the criminal investigation Friday.

Graduation Day Shooting Outside Altria Theater


During Tuesday night's school board meeting, members discussed possible solutions to gun violence and addressing safety protocols.

While some board members said they'd like to receive more information about the June 6 incident before making policy decisions, others said there's no time to wait.

“What goes on in the neighborhood, the community spills over into school, so I do not want to make a hasty decision," said board member Dawn Page.

“We must make a hasty decision. We had a student die," Gibson responded.

Gibson introduced a motion, seconded by Young, to hire an auditor focused on ensuring safety protocols. However, the rest of the board voted down the measure, at least for now, because they'd like to wait to hear recommendations from the administration's safety team.

School board representative Kenya Gibson
School board representative Kenya Gibson

Board members including Liz Doerr and Nicole Jones said addressing gun violence cannot be the responsibility of the school board alone.

“This is a multi-faceted issue, and yet once again, schools are being blamed for all the problems in the world and being asked to fix all the problems in the world," Doerr said.

Richmond School Board Meeting

"We also have to be mindful that this should not be a reactive conversation. This is a conversation that should be happening on a regular basis because these are the situations that our young people are dealing with every day," Jones said.

But Gibson disagreed and said she was "dumfounded" by the responses from her colleagues.

“The notion that this problem is too big for us, that these are society’s problems, that is absurd. And if you believe that, you should not be in office," Gibson said.

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