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Parent of Menchville High shooting victim speaks after terse remark by school board member

Mike Dunham said he approached the podium during the special-called meeting, in an effort to clarify why the community is demanding change in the school division.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The father of the Newport News student shot and killed at Menchville High School in 2021 spoke exclusively with 13News Now for an opportunity to make remarks following an interaction with school board member Gary Hunter at the latest special-called school board meeting.

It was a terse moment met with upset reactions in the room. Approaching the podium in the middle of Hunter's statements in support of now-terminated Superintendent Dr. George Parker III, Mike Dunham was not able to offer comments. 

An official escorted Dunham back to his seat. Hunter said this immediately following: "And we ask why our kids are bad." 

Several people in the chambers, including Chairwoman Lisa Surles-Law, expressed discontent with the remarks, noting Dunham's son was killed on school property. 


Dunham told 13News Now that with the pain his family has been through, Hunter's comments did not hurt. Dunham said all he wanted to do was clarify why the community is demanding change in the school division.

Some frustrated parents and teachers have described the January 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary a so-called "strike 3," both in person to school board members and in posters laid out at the administration building. 

A shooting inside Heritage High School in September 2021 left two students hurt.

In December of that year, a shooting at the Menchville High parking lot after a basketball claimed the life of 17-year-old Justice Dunham.

"He was a great young man. He was a kind young man. He was an athlete," said Dunham, Justice's father. 

We met Dunham by his son's gravesite Thursday night, following the school board meeting Wednesday night. 

Hunter cast the lone vote to keep Dr. Parker employed.

"Getting rid of someone is not going to fix this particular problem. This problem is not a Newport News problem, not a Newport News school board, not a Newport News city problem," said Hunter, during the meeting.

He voiced uncertainty behind the board's intention to consider parting ways with Parker. 

"I'm the at-large member, it's been [perplexing] that I haven't received the number of emails that I'm receiving recently," said Hunter. 

Dunham told 13News Now Hunter's comments did not sit well with him. 

"It was hard to listen to Mr. Hunter's 20-minute rant, filibuster and just dodge accountability," said Dunham. 

We asked for Dunham's reaction to Hunter's comment on the dais, as he was taken away from the podium. 

"It didn't surprise me, but again, it didn't hurt either. I apologize, I didn't know that you couldn't go to the podium and that you couldn't speak," said Dunham.

Hunter apologized to Dunham moments after the exchange, saying he didn't know who Dunham was. In an interview with 13News Now Thursday, the school board member doubled down on his apology.

"I do, strongly, again. My deepest apology goes out that father and that family for their loss, and again, no one wants to see any loss of life here in Newport News Public Schools," Hunter said via Zoom. 

Dunham said he wanted to relay a reasoning behind the public uproar for change in the division.

"I think it's the accumulation of all these things that kind of happened in our city. It's not just this isolated event," Dunham said, in reference to a 2019 triple shooting at Todd Stadium and the aforementioned shooting at school properties in the last 18 months. "And no changes after all these different things were happening."

Dunham expressed a "better late than never" sentiment, in response to changes announced by the Newport News School Board in wake of the shooting at Richneck Elementary. 

"And I hope, it's not just the school, it's our whole city. Our whole city needs to move in a direction away from gun violence," said Dunham.

As for his stance on the superintendent's departure, Dunham said he is for the move, citing what he described as poor and lacking communication from Parker after the shooting death of his son.

Still focused on justice for his son, Dunham hopes new division leadership can work with him on a lasting memorial for his son, something he claimed Parker did not allow him to do at Menchville.

Additionally, Dunham alleged Parker proposed a possible memorial at Woodside High, where Justice attended. However, no follow-up correspondence took place, according to Dunham's account. 

A school division spokesperson has not yet responded to 13News Now's request for comment, regarding Dunham's claims about Parker. 

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