February 5, 2001

Community Responds To Middle School Death

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Over 1,100 teachers, friends, students and community members gathered yesterday in the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School for a memorial service to remember 12-year-old Rashad Galen Richardson who died last Monday in a tragic accident at school.

Coined a “celebration of life,” the service was intended to help both students and family cope with Richardson’s death and celebrate his life in a positive manner, according to Millie Maynard, a 2nd grade teacher at the school.

Richardson was killed last Monday in the Boynton Middle School gymnasium after trying to pass through one area of the gym into another, when he was trapped by motor driven sliding doors. The teacher told the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office that she started the motor controlling the door and went to the hall to supervise students. Richardson became trapped after the teacher had left.

The ceremony lasted approximately one hour and included speeches by the Principals of both Boynton Middle School and Martin Elementary School, musical selections and poetry readings.

“The family made the decision to have a celebration of life,” said Maynard. “This is a healing process.”

The entire gymnasium was decorated with balloons, one of Richardson’s passions. Each child attending the service was encouraged to take a balloon home with him or her. In addition to balloons, there was Backstreet Boys music blaring in the background and handmade cards constructed my Richardson’s schoolmates, decorating the gymnasium.

“It was one of the most moving things I have ever been to in my life,” remarked Cheryl Trom, a community resident.

School social workers and the Suicide Prevention Society have been counseling students and helping them come to terms with Richardson’s death, according to Maynard.

The family requests that donations and gifts be made to the Rashad Richardson Memorial Scholarship Fund at Ithaca College.

Archived article by Rachel Pessah