The Richmond, Virginia school board has voted to keep details of a mass shooting at a graduation secret from the public, much to the chagrin of the community.
A mass shooting at a Richmond high school graduation June 6 resulted in the death of student Shawn Jackson and his stepfather, as well as the wounding of several others.
The school board commissioned a third-party investigation of the tragedy but voted Nov. 20 to keep the report secret.
“My family deserves to have this information,” said Lucretia Anderson, whose daughter went through the same Huguenot High School graduation. “I believe all the families who were impacted by this event deserve to have this information, and I think it is devastating to have an entity that seeks to prevent us from having that.”
“The report should be released to the public, because the public was affected,” added Latisha Carson, who attended the graduation to support her niece. “Everyone who is responsible, that played a position in this, needs to be accountable.”
The board was advised by its legal counsel not to release the report, as it could make the district liable to litigation and impact the ongoing criminal case, CBS 6 reported.
CBS 6 tried to acquire the report through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request but was denied due to “attorney-client privilege.” Megan Rhyne, a FOIA expert with the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, didn’t think hiding the report was a good idea.
“Because you have commissioned this report, this external investigation … people are going to expect something to come out of it,” Rhyne said. “As soon as you start saying, ‘No, you can’t see any of it,’ suspicions are going to be raised.”
Jonathan Young, a Richmond school board member, advocated for releasing the report to the public. Even though his colleagues voted against him, Young thinks the details will come to light in court.
“I don’t fully have words to describe how damning a report this is,” Young said, according to local media. “My jaw hit the floor. I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn’t know how bad.”
“The missteps that happened here are alarming,” said Kenya Gibson, a board member who also voted to publicize the report. “At best, there is some negligence that needs to be addressed. At worst, we were misled.”
No trial date has been set for Amari Pollard, the main suspect in the shooting.