School board, parents say violence at MLK Middle School is an ongoing problem

Richmond, Va. (WRIC) — Parents and school board members are reacting to the violence they say is plaguing Richmond’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

Tawana Biggins said her 13-year-old son stayed home from school last week because he was scared of getting jumped and the violence that happens daily at his school.

“You know that sixth graders get jumped when they first come in, that type of thing, that they were doing every Friday when it first started,” Biggins said.

Biggins said the violence is getting out of control. She feels that teachers and staff need to take immediate action and get their classes under control.

“The bullying has to stop because a lot of kids are getting hurt,” Biggins said. “I don’t want to see not just mine, but anybody’s child get hurt over violence that doesn’t have to be.”

“The bullying has to stop because a lot of kids are getting hurt.” –Tawana Biggins, MLK Middle School parent

School board member Kim Gray said violence in schools is an ongoing issue in many Richmond middle and high schools. She said specifically at Martin Luther King Middle School they have added security, staff, and work closely with Richmond police, but the school is overwhelmed.

“We are pouring resources into those schools,” Gray said, “and I think that the violence that’s taking place within the walls of the schools is reflective of what’s happening in the community.”

“I think that the violence that’s taking place within the walls of the schools is reflective of what’s happening in the community.” –RPS board member Kim Gray

In response to Shonda Harris-Muhammed calling out members of the school board in their meeting on Monday, Gray said as a parent and school board member she is equally concerned. However, Gray said it’s important for board members to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

“We’re doing everything we can, and I think we need families to step forward and stand with us to help their students,” Gray said.

Richmond Public School Superintendent Doctor Dana Bedden responded to 8News questions regarding the violence overpowering MLK Jr. Middle School Tuesday afternoon, saying quote:

Officers, teachers, and staff have witnessed the use of inappropriate language toward adults and other students, fighting, direct defiance of rules and expectations and, disregard for adult supervision/authority from some of the students.

Adding more security is only a temporary measure in an attempt to provide a safe learning environment for all students. Many other socio-behavior and socio-economic needs are not being met for our families, which schools are not equipped to address. The assistance of additional service providers with expertise in healthcare, workforce, readiness, family counseling, social emotional support — to name a few, are widely beneficial in working alongside our teachers and staff in an extended day and year model (so as not to take away from instructional time).

Schools are a microcosm of their community and society as a whole. As previously stated, many other socio-behavior and socio-economic needs are not being met for our families which schools are not designed to provide and/or meet. These factors have a direct impact on the school environment.

Richmond Public Schools is committed to providing a safe, supportive learning environment for all students but the school district cannot do it alone. In order to move forward, schools need the collaborative efforts of parental support, wrap around services, trauma services, and community intervention.

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