Jonathan Young resigns from RPS School Board

Darlene M. Johnson | 4/18/2024, 6 p.m.
Jonathan Young resigned from the Richmond Public School Board April 12 after it was revealed that a December 2023 incident ...
Mr. Young

Jonathan Young resigned from the Richmond Public School Board April 12 after it was revealed that a December 2023 incident between him and a 15-year-old female student resulted in the student filing a harassment complaint against him.

“Few experiences have been as rewarding as for eight years, fighting for Richmond’s teachers and students and though I can brag on some success, it’s no secret that at Richmond Public Schools, we are coming up short,” said Mr. Young, who joined the School Board in 2016 and represented the 4th District.

“What our stakeholders need to know is why and whom to blame. In three words, the School Board.”

After Mr. Young’s resignation, the Free Press requested statements from all remaining School Board officials, including Superintendent Jason Kamras. No one responded.

In a statement to WRIC, 3rd District RPS school board member Kenya Gibson said, “My heart goes out to this student and their family. Coming forward with a complaint against a board member is not easy. I hope this resignation provides some closure.”

On a field trip for the Girls Mean Business Summit, an event sponsored by the Metro Business League, Mr. Young interacted with the student in a way that made her uncomfortable, according to a report by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

During the event, Mr. Young approached the student multiple times and at some point, took a selfie with her that he posted online. Mr. Young has often taken selfies with students and posted them to his social media. This includes students from Virginia State University, where he is the director for corporate relations.

Mr. Young was not found to have broken harassment policies after an independent attorney’s investigation. The attorney, Jim Guynn Jr., interviewed staff and students who described Mr. Young’s behavior “weird” and “odd.” However, those interviewed did not refer to this behavior as sexual.

The RPS School Board discussed modifying policies regarding School Board member conduct following the investigation and further discussion will take place during a School Board meeting on April 22.

Attorney Guynn suggested there may have been a misunderstanding between the student and Mr. Young.

“If (the student) were older than 15, I might be inclined to find that she was overly sensitive to the situation. But it’s clear that she did not understand why this gentleman was trying so hard to engage her in a conversation,” the attorney said.

“At the time of his interview, Mr. Young appeared to have recognized the discomfort (the student) felt and indicated that he would change his style of interaction depending upon the age of the students.”

Prior to Mr. Young’s resignation, he issued a statement to the Free Press about the incident.

“To be transparent, I really appreciate the feedback that was recently shared with me regarding how I greet faculty, staff and students and how my enthusiasm could be viewed as something else,” Mr. Young said in the statement. “For my duration on the School Board, my motive has always been to create an inclusive and welcoming environment, to introduce myself just as Jonathan; someone genuinely motivated to treat every conversation and every person like who they are, but I have learned that at times, some may not be comfortable. My desire remains always to protect our teachers and students. I welcome the feedback and I have learned from it.”

Also before Mr. Young’s resignation, 5th District representative and School Board chair Stephanie Rizzi provided a statement as an individual, not representing the School Board.

“Because this is a sensitive matter involving a student record that should not have been made public, out of respect for all parties involved, I can offer no further commentary,” Ms. Rizzi said.

The Free Press also reached out to RPS’ media relations team before and after Mr. Young’s resignation. Alyssa Schwenk, director of communications for RPS said, “RPS as a Division does not comment on personnel or student matters.”

The RPS School Board is now seeking candidates to serve in the interim for the 4th District until voters fill the vacancy at the general election in November.

The deadline for applications is April 30 and selected candidates will be interviewed during the May 6 School Board meeting.

The School Board will vote on the interim candidates during the May 20 School Board