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RPS principal begs admin for help addressing bloody halls, told not to go into detail

RPS Superintendent: Response to blood in school was 'complete fail,' parent demands accountability
Posted at 4:15 PM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 10:07:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Parents at Richmond Community High said unanswered questions remain following a bloody break-in at the school that wasn't cleaned up immediately and discovered by students as they arrived for class.

Emails recently obtained by CBS 6 between school leadership and Richmond Public Schools administration detailed a timeline of the events and where communication fell through the cracks.

Brooke Ullman's daughter snapped a picture Wednesday showing dried blood still covering a fire alarm at Richmond Community more than two weeks after a man broke into the facility, hurt himself by smashing windows, and bled all over the hallways.

“Looking at that photo was pretty surprising," Ullman said. "You would think that everything would be cleaned up and polished, spick and span. They told us it was cleaned and properly, thoroughly sanitized.”

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers sent the photo to RPS spokesperson, Sarah Abubaker, who said another sweep and clean was done at the school Thursday morning.

Richmond Police said the intrusion took place on Sunday, May 15 around 1 a.m. However, the blood sat there for more than 24 hours and wasn't cleared before students and staff arrived at school on Monday morning to find it smeared on the floors and walls.

“It’s absolutely crazy," Ullman said. "Human blood is not something you mess around with."

In the aftermath, RPS took responsibility, apologized, and said it would tighten protocols.

However, Ullman said the district said the same thing after Fox Elementary burned down in February.

“RPS’ idea of tightening protocols is going back, mentioning what we're going to fix, recognizing that there are errors, and then bouncing and moving on and then handling them one by one," Ullman said. "I need to know when they're going to actually take this to another level of paying attention."

RCHS parents told the Problem Solvers they felt their concerns weren't adequately addressed by leadership following the incident. CBS 6 passed those questions along to RPS to include what protocols are being addressed, whose responsibility it was to direct the blood to be cleaned up, why students had access to bloody areas, and what caused the cleanup delay.

CBS 6 didn't receive all the answers and then proceeded to submit a request for email communication under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

According to records obtained through FOIA, RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras sent a detailed timeline of the break-in and response to school board members.

It showed RPS security alerted facilities management about the break-in at 5 a.m. and RPS Chief of Staff, Michelle Hudackso, at 8 a.m. According to the timeline, the security personnel did not mention any need for cleaning.

The next bullet point on the timeline doesn't appear until Monday at 6:30 a.m. when a custodian found the blood stains and began cleaning without the proper gown required to deal with bloodborne pathogens.

Hudackso was notified of blood in the building "mid-morning" and then started connecting with the Facilities Director.

Custodians finished cleaning at 11 a.m.

Principal Kenya Massenburg sent her first alert to parents in the afternoon after parents said their students had already texted them photos and videos of the situation earlier in the day.

When questioned by a parent through email about why the school district did "so little" to notify families, Superintendent Kamras replied, "No one-- not the principal, not the principal director, not me -- knew about the blood stains until Monday morning."

In the same email, Kamras said an administrator has the authority to evacuate a school if they feel it poses an imminent danger to students. He said the bloody areas should've been completely off-limits until 100% sanitized and called the incident "a complete fail -- plain and simple."

FOIA documents showed Principal Massenburg emailed central office staff Monday before 6 p.m. asking for help to send another more-detailed message addressing the blood cleanup delay.

"I am now receiving an overwhelming number of inquiries regarding today's incident. I have sent out a generic statement, but I don't think that's enough. I need to communicate more. What do you suggest? I can't allow this incident to make my families feel like they can't trust me or feel the school isn't a safe or clean place," Massenburg wrote.

She added she was devastated, didn't want the situation to fester, and wanted to send a message Monday night because it would be "only fair to our families."

Massenburg emphasized to central office staff she wanted to address the delay in cleaning up the blood without releasing a specific breakdown of what happened.

"I don't think it's good to give the actual timeline because it looks really bad that this happened at 1 a.m. Sunday and we come into the building on Monday with blood all over the floors. Not to mention, we had to search around to find multiple areas with the blood," she wrote in an email.

The central office staff went back and forth throughout the evening, night, and early morning hours about how to word the message to families.

RPS Spokesperson, Sarah Abubaker, encouraged Massenburg "not to go into any details" about the incident.

Hudackso suggested that RPS "could perhaps say at a high level" that the "scene should've been cleaned earlier."

Massenburg immediately responded to their suggestions asking when and how the message would go out as she was still answering calls and emails from frustrated parents at 8:20 p.m.

Reworked versions of the message were drafted by a central office employee at 11 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The finalized second communication wasn't sent until Tuesday morning, despite Massenburg's plea to update the community Monday evening.

"That's appalling," Ullman said after reading the correspondence. “There should be some standard operational procedures. There should be some quick grab crisis communications 101. To leave that all on the principal is also a bit crazy. There should be different levels of responsibility that happen upon different folks within the school."

Ullman said the RCHS PTA asked School Board Representative, Kenya Gibson, to facilitate a discussion between the PTA and Kamras for a debrief of the incident and to address concerns. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday night.

"The fact that parents had to ask for a debriefing is a little shocking and sad," Ullman said. "It really makes me question if the school is taking it pretty seriously."

Moving forward, Ullman said she wants bloodborne pathogens protocols to be addressed, communication procedures with the RPS community to be strengthened, and a clearer indication of the responsibilities of staff, leadership, and the administration in emergency situations.

“Thinking about the big picture and thinking about how these things are trigger warnings for something bigger," she said.

CBS 6 sent a request for an interview with Superintendent Kamras on Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson said he was unavailable before the time this story was published Thursday afternoon.

A state investigation by Virginia's Occupational Safety and Health program into potential workplace violations is currently underway. Superintendent Kamras said in an email that RPS is responding to questions from state officials.

Here is a full timeline provided by Kamras and obtained through FOIA:

Full timeline from RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras