School leaders: Social media threat led to John Marshall homecoming changes

School leaders: Social media threat led to John Marshall homecoming changes
Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - For the first time, Richmond school leaders are speaking about their initial decision to cancel John Marshall's homecoming game following a threat made on social media.

The decision to cancel the game and dance caused outrage in the community. After giving the matter more thought, RPS decided the game could go on if it was pushed up to start earlier in the day. That led to a huge crowd showing up Friday as John Marshall hosted Thomas Jefferson High.

Richmond Police Chief Al Durham was on hand. He says there was a need to step up security at the game that almost never happened.

Although John Marshall did not take home the victory Friday night, simply having a game is what meant so much. It's the energy of homecoming that brought the stands to life.

"It just means a lot… You get to see so many people that over the years have attended John Marshall High School," said student Jahonna Scott.

People like Angela Mitchell. She is here for her 20-year class reunion.

"Homecoming means coming back to our school and reminiscing and seeing people and friends. Some people I haven't seen since high school, 1997," Mitchell said.

But it almost didn't happen.

"There were some things that were posted on social media that raised concerns," said Interim Superintendent Thomas Kranz.

So he got in touch with police.

"As we were evaluating our team and the RPD team and whether we could provide enough security, our initial evaluation indicated that we may not be able to do it," he said.

Within hours, they reversed the decision to cancel the game, moving kickoff up by three hours to offer daylight. An increased police presence greeted spectators following a school bus being shot up in Whitcomb Court and a John Marshall student being shot in Gilpin Court this week.

"It's challenging, especially...I always say if these types of incidents happen, such as the school bus shooting, and you have those involved and witnesses and they're not coming forward. That's where our challenges come from," Chief Durham said.

"I was like, 'oh my gosh. They cannot take away homecoming,'" Scott said.

"We should not let our students, especially at their homecoming, be punished for the acts of other students, these incidents that we're experiencing across the city," Durham added.

Especially since so many were counting to be right here, right now.

"We're blessed to be alive. We're blessed to be here, and so we're celebrating that with each other," Mitchell said.

Saturday night's homecoming dance will not happen, but school leaders say they're working on pinning down a date so that it can be rescheduled. An announcement is expected next week.

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