RPS school board member Jonathan Young responds to student allegations

Darlene M. Johnson | 4/11/2024, 6 p.m.
The Richmond School Board plans to revise its standards of conduct policy following an independent attorney’s investigation into School Board ...
Mr. Young

The Richmond School Board plans to revise its standards of conduct policy following an independent attorney’s investigation into School Board Member Jonathan Young’s behavior toward a 15-year-old student, according to a WTVR-CBS 6 news report.

Modifying its procedures regarding board member conduct was discussed during Monday night’s meeting, although the exact cause for concern was not mentioned.

The WTVR report details a December 2023 incident with Mr. Young in which the RPS student complained that Mr. Young made her feel uncomfortable during a field trip.

Mr. Young, who represents Richmond’s 4th District, was not found to have broken harassment policies after an independent attorney’s investigation.

The probe found that Mr. Young did not violate the board’s harassment policy but noted his actions were perceived as “weird,” “odd” and “awkward.” An example cited in the WTVR report noted that a teacher who chaperoned the event reported that Mr. Young “also invaded the personal space of other young ladies” and “would stand too close to the girls when he spoke to them and had a tendency to rub backs, arms, shoulders and hands.”

A portion of RPS’ board procedures and standards of conduct dated 2018, states:

Recognizing that persons holding a position of public trust are under constant observation by the media and interested city residents, and recognizing that maintaining the integrity and dignity of the public office is essential for maintaining high levels of public confidence in institutions of government, every member of the School Board shall adhere to the following procedures and standards of conduct.

  1. While attending meetings and otherwise conducting the business of the School Board, every member shall conduct himself/herself in a professional and courteous manner and encourage community involvement, to include:

a. Working to create a positive environment in public meetings where citizens feel comfortable in their roles as observers or participants;

b. Avoiding, during public meetings and during the performance of public duties, the use of abusive, threatening or intimidating language or gestures directed at colleagues, citizens or personnel.

Second District Representative Mariah White, 8th District Representative Dawn Page and 9th District Representative Shavonda Dixon pushed for urgent action to revise the policies on school board member conduct. Board members will send feedback to the board’s attorney to help make the revisions that will be discussed in the April 22 meeting.

Regarding the investigation, Mr. Young said “I’m really, really grateful to Richmond Public Schools and to my colleagues for being responsible and doing the right thing and requesting this third-party objective investigation that, thank God, absolved me of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” Mr. Young told WTVR in a four-minute interview. “If someone else is viewing me in a way that’s contrary to what I aim to achieve, then that’s a problem,” he added. And of course, I have to hold myself accountable.”

In other board business, members received information from the Richmond Alternative School, presented by Chief Academic Officer of Secondary Education Solomon Jefferson and Chief of Student Wellness Renesha Parks.

The presentation covered additions to the school to motivate students and create a positive environment, such as establishing a school mascot, and having pep rallies and spirit days. School administration also will establish criteria for students to earn off-campus field experience, including college tours, job shadowing and service learning.

There are also plans for more staffing, staff support and recruitment. Proposed staffing for the 2024-25 school year includes nine core teachers, three behavioral specialists, four special education teachers and three additional care and safety associates, making a total of six associates.

New hires will receive a sign-on bonus and new teachers will have mentors provided through the RPS mentoring program.

Teachers will also receive the same professional learning opportunities that are provided to RPS staff. These opportunities will help teachers meet the unique needs of students attending RAS. Topics covered will be incident reporting, crisis intervention, threat assessment and family communication and engagement. The professional learning opportunities will be throughout the 2024-25 school year.

To further support RAS students, RPS is partnering with Art 180, a nonprofit located in Jackson Ward, to engage students through music and art. Students will be able to explore digital design, beat making, fashion design and digital animation, among other concepts.

Other wellness opportunities will include Positive Pathways Wellness Coaching referrals for select students, access to mental health services for group and one-on-one support, and Wellness Essentials for hygiene products, non-perishable food and uniforms.

In addition to these changes, the RAS campus will undergo “beautification” over the summer that includes new painting and repair projects, along with a potential new name for RAS.