HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Henrico County Public Schools addressed youth violence occurring in the community and school systems at a town hall meeting Monday night.
The roundtable included community members such as Henrico County Police Chief Eric English; Dallas Gardner, a student at Henrico County High School; and several HCPS Family and Community Engagement staff.
Sterling Royal was the cousin of a 20-year-old man who was killed on June 3. He attended last night’s meeting with the central question: what are we going to do as a community to stop this?
“Children are completing a cycle in their life and enjoying the moment before starting the next chapter of their life,” Royal said. “They go to their parties to have a good time and don’t know their parents might get a phone call saying… ‘your kid isn’t coming home.’ It’s sad.”
Although youth violence occurs in the community, it also gradually seeps into children’s daily activities. Activities as simple as going to school. Dallas Gardner, a student at Henrico County High School, spoke about his experiences this school year and his familiarity with these kinds of situations.
“To some degree, we’re desensitized to the fact that this happens over and over and over again,” Gardner said. “We talked about change, but there must be a process of change. There needs to be a real change system, not just all bark and no bite.
Since January, eight Henrico students have been charged with possessing firearms on school property, either in their car or with them in the building. Henrico County Police Chief Eric English thinks he may have an idea of where to start with the problem of youth violence in school systems.
“We need to square up our child’s social media. They might tell you one thing, but I’m telling you that a lot of these incidents start because of social media, and we need to get more involved in that aspect,” says Chief English.
Chief English also asked the community to take action if they saw anything suspicious and it could save someone’s life.
“We have minors in some communities who carry guns,” English said. “Nobody says anything until gunshots ring out, then they call 911.”
As the school year draws to a close, parents still have questions about what changes will be made for the next school year to keep students safe and youth violence out of the system.
“If children are killed, is the school there? Do counselors help grief with children? Are the police coming and also helping families deal with their grief? said Royal. “Because the children still have to go to school and the parents still have to go to work. What are we doing to support these people during these tragic events?