Huguenot-Thomas Jefferson football game canceled after threat
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The season-opening football game between Huguenot High School and Thomas Jefferson High School has been canceled due to a threat, Richmond Public Schools confirmed Friday.
“Over the last 24 hours we’ve seen increasing disturbing activity online and hearing a lot of disturbing chatter in neighborhoods and I just didn’t want to put any of our students or staff at risk,” Superintendent Jason Kamras, said in a video as to why the decision was made.
The school initially announced Thursday night that the game would be played without any fans in attendance.
“Please know that this decision was not made lightly but out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our students and community – which is always our first priority,” RPS said in a statement on its website.
The original plan was to have the teams, cheerleaders, bands, and staff sponsors at the game.
The campus and parking lots would be closed with a strict ban on any visitors on school grounds.
The school community is still trying to heal from the mass shooting that happened in June after the Huguenot High School graduation ceremony.
“Our first priority is the safety and well-being of the RPS community. RPS is aware of a recent social media post regarding tomorrow’s football game at Huguenot High School. The Huguenot and Thomas Jefferson administration teams are in active communication with the RPS Safety & Security team and the Richmond Police Department,” the school said in a Facebook post late Thursday.
Richmond School Board member Johnathan Young reacted to the initial announcement on Friday morning.
“This violent threat against Huguenot is an ugly reminder of what happened on June 6 at graduation, and if anyone needed another data point that coddling bad actors is a recipe for chaos, then surely the inability to allow kids even to play a game should be it,” Young said.
The school said in its Thursday post that anyone who bought tickets will be refunded within five to 10 business days.
“I hate doing this in essence we are robbing our kids of their childhood,” Kamras said in Friday’s video.
RPS said Friday there are plans to reschedule the game.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your continued support of RPS, Huguenot High School, and Thomas Jefferson High School,” RPS said.
Families and students leaving school for the weekend felt the decision made was the right one.
“It’s crazy but I think it’s a good move to keep everyone safe,” Shamya Pettaway, a student said.
The division tried to start the year on the right foot, hosting a ‘Huguenot Strong’ event outside Huguenot High School on Friday morning to boost the morale of teachers and students. It’s a contrast to the tragic ending of Huguenot’s last school year, as a mass shooting claimed two lives just moments after graduation. Now, this social media threat is another reminder.
“It’s re-traumatizing to kids, to families, to staff. Unfortunately, this is the reality right now for many kids and families growing up in Richmond every single day, every single week,” Kamras said at Huguenot Friday morning before the game was canceled.
Earlier in the day, Kamras said the division wanted to keep the game on to find a balance for kids.
“To cancel today, who’s to say we wouldn’t then have to cancel next week and the week after? And so we’re trying very hard to strike that balance between letting our kids be kids and live and enjoy while keeping them safe,” Kamras said.
There were going to be thorough bag checks for everyone entering, which students must go through every day at Huguenot before school.
“But at the end of the day, the thing I believe is the best way to protect our kids is to make sure we have really strong relationships with our teachers, with our counselors, with our principals,” Kamras said.
This year, RPS is putting in extra effort to support both students and staff through all of its incidents and past trauma. Greeting everyone before the day started at Huguenot High School on Friday was one example of that.
Kamras also says additional mental health resources and counselors are available for students and teachers as everyone tries to get through this challenging time, and he is hoping for more funding for that, too.
“We know that our young people are hurting a little bit, starving for guidance and instruction. And what better way to encourage young people when they see someone during morning arrival,” RPS coordinator of student support services Charles Johnson said. “All of this is evidence-based all of this is best practice. We want to make sure that we make the connection with young people and show the enthusiasm and to let young people know that we care.”
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