New safety nets

Richmond School Board discusses homebound learning, protocols for upcoming graduations

Darlene M. Johnson | 3/21/2024, 6 p.m.
Improvements are underway to clarify Richmond Public Schools’ homebound and home-based instruction protocols, along with revised procedures for certifying graduating ...
Memorials for Huguenot High School student Shawn Jackson, his stepfather, Renzo Smith, and others injured at Huguenot’s graduation ceremony for the Class of 2023 at Altria Theater following the June 6 shooting. Photo by Sandra Sellars

Improvements are underway to clarify Richmond Public Schools’ homebound and home-based instruction protocols, along with revised procedures for certifying graduating seniors.

In its March 18 meeting, RPS School Board members discussed the changes made some nine months after the June 6 shooting death of Shawn Jackson, a homebound student attending Huguenot High School.

Process and protocol

A Care and Safety update was distributed to the Richmond Public School Board during its meeting Monday. The board also discussed graduation security and procedures for this school year’s graduation ceremonies.

Graduation ceremonies will be at the Greater Richmond Convention Center (GRCC) or Virginia Union University (VUU). All graduation attendees must follow a set of protocols, including going through metal detectors, no loitering, no re-entry after exiting and only bringing clear gallon-sized zip-lock bags. Graduates cannot enter the venue in regalia and attendees must exit the premises immediately after the ceremony.

Ceremonies at VUU will have 10 Richmond Police Department officers, 10 VUU officers, 10 RMC Events security personnel, 15 RPS care and safety associates, 10 RPS administrators and two EMTs. Ceremonies at the GRCC will have 30 RPD officers, 90 RMC Events security personnel, 30 RPS care and safety associates, 30 RPS administrators and four EMTs.

To further ensure the safety and wellness of students and staff, there will be wellness areas at each ceremony. The wellness areas will allow staff and students who feel anxious at the ceremonies to speak to a mental health professional.

More information is available through the RPS BoardDocs at www.go.boarddocs.....

Mr. Jackson, 18, was homebound due to concerns regarding his mental health and threats of violence against him, according to a Sands Anderson investigation into the shooting. He was killed outside the Altria Theater a short while after he accepted his high school diploma. Also killed in the gunfire was his stepfather, Renzo Smith, 36.

RPS’s homebound instruction program, which currently serves 42 students, is designed for students who, for various reasons, are temporarily not in school. Home-based instruction, which currently serves 23 students, allows students with certain criminal charges to receive education at home or another approved location until charges can be reviewed and resolved. Additionally, 19 students who receive home instruction are court involved, and another 24 students receive home instruction due to administrative placement.

Homebound students cannot attend school-sponsored events, including graduation ceremonies, without the approval of a school principal, the superintendent or the superintendent’s designee based on a medical professional’s certification of homebound services.

Mr. Jackson was not allowed to attend school-sponsored events as part of the homebound program and he did not attend graduation rehearsal. However, Huguenot’s school counselor, Monique Harris, told Mr. Jackson’s mother, Tameeka Jackson-Smith, that Mr. Jackson could be “squeezed” into the ceremony if Mrs. Jackson-Smith believed the rehearsal would be “too dangerous,” according to the Sands Anderson report. There was no approval from the school principal, superintendent or the superintendent’s designee.

The presentation by Chief Academic Officer for Secondary Education Solomon Jefferson also focused on a revised process to certify graduates. Principals will be required to personally review transcripts and discipline records of all graduates before May 22. Principals also will determine whether:

• A student meets all requirements for graduation without reservations,

• A student meets all requirements but raise safety concerns,

• A student does not meet all requirements.

When safety concerns occur, the principal can recommend a review by the High School Principal Director Willie Bell and Mr. Jefferson.

Principals’ certification and secondary approval from the principal director and chief academic officer for secondary education are part of a set of monitoring systems put in place to ensure care and safety. Other monitoring systems include weekly graduation meetings. Dedicated staff in the Care and Safety and Climate and Culture Offices will receive updates on court-involved students.

Further, homebound and home-based seniors who want to participate in their graduation ceremony are required to follow specific protocols. Homebound students require written documentation from a medical or mental health professional.

Home-based students must receive documentation that the student is medically able to attend and court-involved students require a letter of support from the Court Services Unit that confirms the student’s full compliance of court mandates and there are no safety concerns. Principals will communicate with families who are not permitted to participate in graduation ceremonies and they will ensure that these students receive a diploma, cap and gown and are honored.