Twenty-six Richmond Public Schools students were shot this past school year, NBC12 reports, and two lost their lives. That’s more than one shooting victim for every 1,000 students in Richmond schools.
For survivors like 11-year-old Jacquez Monez, the bullets don’t just tear through flesh and bone — they rip through their psyche, too.
“He’s doing good,” Raquan Moses, Jaquez’s father, told NBC12. “Physical pain, he’s not feeling none. It’s the mental thing that’s going on with him.”
Jaquez was shot in the arm and chest during a community picnic over Memorial Day Weekend. Nine-year-old Markiya Dickson was also caught in the spray of gunfire, which police believe originated from a nearby park, and lost her life.
Racquan is making Jacquez’s emotional recovery his top priority. He has taken weeks off work to help his son recover from the shock, and he rides the city bus with him to counseling meetings, according to NBC12.
“I want his mind to be back where it was at,” Raquan said, “he don’t want to go to the park any more … he’s scared it’s going to happen again.”
RPS is also investing more in helping student victims of gun violence work through the fear, anxiety and depression endured after gun-related trauma. Next year, the district will spend an additional $250,000 on its Crisis Response Team, which helps students, classmates and families recover from trauma.
Angela Jones, who oversees RPS’ crisis response program, told NBC12 that RPS is working on training all staff (including teachers and bus drivers) to understand better the mental and emotional experienced by child victims of gun violence.
“There really are chemical changes that happen to (a victim),” Jones said, which can manifest in strong emotional responses like anger.
To help victims recover, Jones said it’s important for school staff to understand what happened to them rather than what’s wrong with them.
Across Virginia, more than 620 children were fatally shot from 1999 through 2018, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Firearms are the second leading cause of pediatric death in the United States. A recent paper published in the research journal Pediatrics found that stronger gun laws could save children’s lives.
Lawmakers reconvened at the state capitol in Richmond earlier this month to consider a range of policies aimed at curbing gun violence. But after just 90 minutes the Republican-controlled legislature ended the special session without considering a single bill.
“For every problem there is a solution,” said Mark Whitfield, Mariyka’s father, at a roundtable on gun violence hosted by Sen. Tim Kaine in Richmond before the special session. “We’ve just got to figure out what the solution is going to be.”