Parents demand accountability after multiple sexual assaults reported in Richmond Schools: 'We are angry'

Posted at 6:29 PM, Mar 01, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond parent Karma Morrison said she and other parents have felt left in the dark after a serious allegation regarding an incident at her child's school went public.

"It's been silent," Morrison said. “There hasn't been really any communication to the parents from Richmond Public Schools or even Blackwell preschool.”

As CBS 6 previously reported, a mother alleged that her 5-year-old daughter was assaulted in her private area inside a bathroom at Blackwell Preschool on January 23, which prompted an investigation by police.

Richmond Police said it has now finished its investigation into the alleged assault, and the findings were turned over to the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin said her office declined to prosecute due to the ages of the children involved.

Morrison said the school community has questioned why they were not notified when the alleged incident initially happened, if the proper Title IX guidelines were followed, and what the school administration has done to improve safety and supervision.

“They could have said, 'these are the new procedures, these are the new measures we have taken we are putting in place to protect your daughter and all of the other children,' but they did not do that," Morrison said.

Morrison, along with activists in the community advocacy group New Era Richmond, are calling for accountability.

“There is a message that needs to be sent that there is going to be swift action taken when there is a sexual assault or any type of assault that happens on school grounds," Morrison said. "They need to send the message that they're taking parents seriously."

Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young, who receives notifications of all reported school incidents, said he has noticed a rise in Title IX reports within RPS over the past school year.

Other recent reported incidents include:

  • A known adult possibly sexually assaulted a child at Blackwell Elementary School in January, according to a police report.
  • An alleged sexual assault involving two first graders at Ginter Park Elementary in February. Police said it investigated the matter and provided appropriate assistance.

Richmond Public Schools spokesperson Matthew Stanley said internal investigations into the alleged assaults are all ongoing, and appropriate agencies such as Child Protective Services are involved.

Stanley provided the following protocols that are supposed to be followed when sexual assaults occur:

  • All RPS employees are required to report any incidents of sexual assault to the appropriate authorities including the Richmond Police Department, Child Protective Services, and RPS Employee Relations (Title IX). All reports will be taken seriously and investigated promptly.
  • RPS will take immediate action to respond to a Title IX report and/or a sexual assault incident that took place within an RPS School or on RPS School grounds, including but not limited to: providing care to the victim, notifying the appropriate authorities, communicating with the school community, providing support to the victim, maintaining confidentiality, and following up with the school community.
  • All parties involved in a sexual assault incident are required to maintain confidentiality in accordance with the law. All documents collected as a part of the investigation should be kept secured and only shared with appropriate team members.
  • RPS Department of Culture and Climate will lead follow-up support and provide resources/referrals to the victim that may be inclusive of counseling services and support groups, as well as assistance with securing safe housing and medical care.

Morrison said last month, parents intended to attend a planned community conversation at Blackwell Preschool to discuss their concerns. However, she said the event was abruptly canceled and has not yet been rescheduled.

“We were told it was going to be rescheduled and we haven't gotten any information about whether or not it is going to be rescheduled," she said.

A message on the school's marquee showed an in-person town hall is scheduled for March 14. Stanley confirmed parent engagement opportunities will be coming up.

In the meantime, Morrison, who pulled her child from Blackwell after the alleged assault, said she'll continue advocating for safety.

“We are angry because our children are not being protected," she said. "We know that changes need to be made, and we won't stop till they're made."