Handling Threats in Schools is Hampered by Progressive Cultures and Lack of Individual Initiative

Bice House at UVa

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s school threat assessment and mitigation processes are broken, putting entire school communities in danger.

The University of Virginia shootings and the rapes at two Loudoun County high schools were each preventable had the focus been on intervention by authorities responsible to do so. It was clearly not.

School cultures are an issue, but not an excuse.

One signal in progressive jurisdictions is the creation of committees and teams to define and enforce progressive cultural orthodoxy. At the extremes, leaders will even assign cultural enforcers to teams that have serious threat deliberation and action responsibilities.

Like threat assessment teams.

But that is insufficient excuse here. I see four factors at play in all three tragedies.

  1. Special situation policies and plans — like those that failed in Virginia’s pandemic response and more recently in school threat responses — usually fail without executive interest, oversight, and the training, exercise, accountability and inspection of action agencies prior to need.
  2. The chief executives of the Loudoun County Public Schools and the University of Virginia failed to set a clear tone and show by their actions that school safety took precedence over extraneous considerations and values.
  3. Second-tier executives with specific responsibilities for safety at UVa and in the Loudoun school system (at least one principal) failed to do their duties.
  4. The individual members of threat teams do not shed their personal executive authorities and responsibilities upon meeting as a group. They remain personally responsible and have to carry out their duties against cultural headwinds and enforcers. They failed in the UVa case. It is nowhere clear they were even used in the Loudoun cases.

There was a price paid for those failures. But only a single member of that hierarchy has been fired, and that happened yesterday in Loudoun county.

Five UVa students and two Loudoun County girls paid very high prices indeed. Continue reading

RVA 5X5: Enrichmond and the City’s Radio Silence

Photo credit: Flickr

by Jon Baliles

I won’t do a “Top Stories of 2022” list for this newsletter, but if I did, one of them would surely be the collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation and the radio silence on all fronts concerning its finances, the groups that depended on it, their assets, and the two historic black cemeteries in its portfolio — Evergreen and East End Cemetery.

The important question is not so much what happened in 2022 (although that is important), the critical next steps — should anyone decide to take them — are what will happen in 2023?

A brief recap from the October 14 newsletter: “The Enrichmond Foundation was founded in the early 1990s and had grown to support more than 80 small, local, all-volunteer groups that worked to help Richmond in various ways, many of which focused on keeping the City green and clean. Enrichmond allowed the groups to use their insurance coverage and raise tax-free donations, served as a fiduciary for the funds each group raised, and distributed those funds as directed by the groups.

Suddenly in June, they announced a cessation of operations, left no transition plan, the Board voted to dissolve the Foundation but left no accounting of the funds it had in its accounts, and then within weeks the lawyer representing the Board stepped away from their role as counsel.”

None of the “leaders” at City Hall has said anything about this. Not. A. Word.

The City’s Parks & Recreation Department has been able to assist some of the organizations, but there are so many they can’t do it all themselves. That’s why the Foundation existed. It is known that the amount of money held in trust for the various “Friends Of’ groups is anywhere from $300,000 to $3 million, though I have been told recently that it is closer to the lower estimate.

While the City dawdles, how are these small “Friends Of” groups to do the important work they do (much of it is environmental) if they can’t access their donations? How can they raise money if they have no place to put it? The more this drags out, it is a safe bet those groups will lose volunteers who put their time toward other causes. Continue reading

Richmond’s Metzger Bar and Butchery Denies Service to Christian Non-Profit

by The Republican Standard Staff

On Wednesday evening, an hour and a half before a reserved Family Foundation gathering in a private room, Metzger Bar and Butchery denied entry and service to the pro-family group, solely based on their political opinions and religious beliefs.

“It is alarming and disgraceful that this restaurant has a political litmus test to get in the front door,” said Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation. “All Virginians should be concerned about this extreme bigotry and intolerance of people of faith, irrespective of their own political or religious beliefs. Everyone should be concerned that Virginians are being denied access in the marketplace, solely based on their beliefs.”

Cobb continued, “We live in a free market and people have many choices of where to dine, so we took our business elsewhere. Metzger’s has now isolated a wide base of customers who would rather go elsewhere than patron a bigoted restaurant. Most Virginians are charitable and would not only serve people with differing political or religious viewpoints but would share a meal with them and enjoy the exchange of different viewpoints.” Continue reading

A Powerful Defense of Thomas Jefferson

In this interview with Jean Yarbrough, author of American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People, Douglas Murray explores Thomas Jefferson’s life and legacy, and dissects the modern-day assault on Jefferson’s reputation.

How UVa Addresses Student Loneliness, Depression

A federal survey shows a 63% increase in depressive symptoms in teens and young adults in the 10 years prior to COVID. Source: “Hoos Connected: Enhancing Social belonging & Support Among UVa Students

by James A. Bacon

A new preoccupation of college administrators across the United States is how to give students a sense of “belonging.” The concern is understandable. There is increasing awareness that America is experiencing a “loneliness” epidemic, as reflected by a 40% rate nationally of anxiety, depression and other diagnosed mental illnesses among college students. If students fail to connect with classes, professors, or other students — to feel part of a community — they are more likely to fall into a state of anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior.

The University of Virginia is trying to address the problem of loneliness and isolation with a program called Hoos Connected. Psychology Professor Joseph P. Allen, executive director, will brief the Board of Visitors tomorrow about the program.

Hoos Connected organizes weekly small-group discussions and activities for first-year and transfer students. In a pilot program, according to a PowerPoint presentation posted on the Board website, Hoos Connected participants and a control group of non-participating students started out roughly equivalent in a measure of student loneliness. Among the goals was to get students to make inter-personal connections and recognize “how much we all have in common beneath the surface.” By the end of the semester, the Hoos Connected cohort showed a decline in loneliness, while the control group exhibited an increase, according to Allen. Continue reading

Anti-Religious Satanic Group Demands Equal Treatment in Chesapeake

by Shaun Kenney

There are certain political groups that we rightly exclude from the political commons. Not because in doing so they are antithetical to our ideas of liberalism (lowercase-L) or democracy (lowercase-D), but because they are antithetical to the moral tradition from which both liberalism and democracy spring.

Of course, our Founders were wise enough to give classical liberalism and the democratic spirit the guidelines required to thrive. Through constitutional limitations on the power of federal overreach, the various factions as defined by Madison are balanced by the traditions and processes which guarantee our liberties and basic rights.

So, there’s a reason why Nazis are not welcome to participate in public life, even if they are tolerated in the public square as something to be mocked. There’s a reason why the Ku Klux Klan doesn’t receive a forum, even though they are mocked ruthlessly in the film and entertainment industry.

And there’s a reason why the ASS (After School Satan) Club doesn’t get to be in our public schools. From WAVY 13:

A flyer advertising the club started circulating on social media promoting the club, which is set to launch at B.M. Williams Primary School on Dec. 15.

“We are non-theistic,” said Rose Bastet, a volunteer organizing the new club. “I understand the apprehension behind the satanic name, but he is just an imaginary figure that we look to because he is the eternal rebel that fought for justice and humanity.”

Continue reading

Youngkin Reacts To Raid By An ABC Goon Squad

by Kerry Dougherty

In one of the most bizarre actions in recent memory, law enforcement on Friday raided Gourmeltz, a popular Fredericksburg restaurant, and confiscated its liquor and sales records because the owner in 2021 defied former Governor Ralph Northam’s long-defunct executive order that required liquor-selling establishments to abide by a host of nonsensical COVID-related rules.

You remember Northam’s anti-science magical regulations, don’t you?

No liquor could be sold, served or consumed after 10 p.m., no seating was allowed at bars — tables only, all patrons over the age of five had to wear a mask unless they were seated and eating or drinking, all employees had to wear face diapers and restaurants had to close by midnight.

Authoritarian insanity. All of it.

I get COVID PTSD just thinking about the Northam regime.

Gourmeltz owner, Matt Strickland, refused to comply with Northam’s idiocy and was cited for not forcing his employees to wear face masks. His liquor license was suspended. He continued to serve booze anyway.

Pity all holding Virginia ABC licenses didn’t join Strickland in ignoring the power-drunk little governor. Instead, Strickland was on his own and easy to target. Continue reading

Grand Jury Report on Loudoun Schools Raises Threat Assessment Issue – Again

Stone Bridge High School Chantilly

by James C. Sherlock

Update Dec. 7 at 7:33:  LCPS Superintendent Scott Ziegler was fired yesterday by the school board.  That does not begin to resolve the issue of threat assessment.

The University of Virginia Threat Assessment Team (TAT), with knowledge of a threat, failed to intervene before tragedy in the case of the student who is alleged to have killed three and wounded two other students on that bus a few weeks ago.

The only disagreements are whether the failure was a state policy mistake, state oversight mistake, a systemic mistake at the University of Virginia, a mistake of the persons on the TAT or some combination.

Now we have a grand jury report on another pair of incidents that question the effectiveness of threat assessment and mitigation in our public K-12 schools.

As with the colleges and universities, we have state laws and model policies in place for K-12 schools. As with the institutions of higher learning, there is no state oversight to ensure compliance.

So, as at UVa, in practice the TAT process failed — or from the evidence so far wasn’t even employed — in two different Loudoun County high schools when there was ample warning to officials of both schools that a student was an imminent threat.

He proved to be a rapist — twice.

Laws and policies without either oversight or consequences for those who fail to execute them provide false comfort with tragic consequences that are seemingly endless here. Continue reading

Anti-Semitism in Virginia

Source: Anti-Defamation League, as republished by “Combating Antisemitism in Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Antisemitism in Virginia isn’t as severe as in some other states, but the number of incidents of harassment and vandalism has increased in recent years, according to a report by the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, “Combating Antisemitism in Virginia.”

In 2021, 411 reported antisemitic incidents impacted residents of the Commonwealth, reports the study, based on Anti-Defamation League data. These incidents showed a 71% increase over the 292 reported in 2018. Fortunately, none of these events involved the infliction of physical harm to anyone.

Antisemitism became a high-profile issue in 2017 during the Unite the Right rally of White supremacist groups, which was marked by numerous chants, and signage and sieg heils that singled out Jews for vilification. The vast majority of White Supremacists came from outside the state, but the event gave Virginia a bad name.

“Antisemitism is a wide-ranging problem that cuts across diverse segments of American society and exists on both the extreme left and extreme right sides of the political spectrum, as well as within the gradients in between,” states the report. Continue reading

Fathering While Black

by Asra Q. Nomani and Debra Tisler

STAFFORD, VA — “They are not taking my baby girl!” cries Sean Jackson, the black father of a beautiful girl, Amoria Adams, 10 months old, holding his beloved daughter.

This week, a school board member from Fairfax County, Va., Karen Keys-Gamarra, put in motion a judge’s order that tonight took a beautiful baby girl from the home of her doting father and paternal grandparents. At this moment. At 8:33 PM.

“You guys are taking my child,” says Jackson, distraught.

“No!” cries the paternal grandmother, Kimberly Jackson-Makle.

Three Stafford County sheriff’s officers moved tonight — Monday night, to seize this baby, nicknamed “Mori,” because of a judge’s order put in place by Keys-Gamarra on Monday without the father’s or paternal grandparents’ awareness.

Then, in the darkness of the night, little Amoria was strapped into a car seat in a white car and driven away by a stranger. Her father and grandparents have no clue where she is tonight.

How did this miscarriage of justice happen?

The writing on the wall was written on May 4, on the fourth floor of the Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, a bailiff held Amoria as a three-month-old baby girl and shouted, “Father? Where’s the father?”

Jackson, 28, a paramedic in nearby Stafford, Va., stepped forward and declared, “I’m the father.”

The bailiff thrust the baby into his arms.

Ever since Jackson had learned through a paternity test that he was Amoria’s father, he had been trying to win visitation. It seemed his case might have suddenly been strengthened. A few feet away, Arlington police led away the baby’s mother, 21, in handcuffs, arrested on an outstanding warrant for alleged assault and battery involving abuse of another of her daughters.

What are you? Retarded?

In the confusion, Jackson wondered what happened next.

But when he sought advice from the person who would know, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Amoria’s court-appointed attorney, he got a shocking answer – one that he says telegraphed her bias against him.

“What are you?” Keys-Gamarra snapped: “Retarded?”

While Keys-Gamarra denies using the term, it wouldn’t be the first time the lawyer, a Black activist and Fairfax County School Board member who ran as a “voice for the voiceless,” used the slur. On Thursday, Oct. 20, at a public meeting of the school board of Fairfax County Public Schools, Keys-Gamarra blurted out at one point during a dispute, “We cannot be this retarded,” in a hot-mic moment. The next day, disturbed by the use of the word, school board chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer told a local WUSA9 TV reporter, “That is actually the third time she’s used it.” Little did Sizemore Heizer know that a young father had also heard the word used to demean him. And according to someone close to Amoria’s mother, Keys-Gamarra refused to give Amoria to Jackson once when the baby was sick, saying: “He is retarded.”

For Jackson and his parents, the case illustrates the biases of a system rigged against fathers even by so-called progressives. Amoria’s mother, who is also Black, was three months pregnant with her when she was jailed in July 2021 for felony charges of possession of controlled substances and “gross, wanton or reckless care of a child.” Continue reading

Virginia Board of Education: Stay the Course

Standards and Curriculum Framework are Both Needed – Not One Without the Other

by Kathleen Smith

In November, the Board of Education put off the approval of the Virginia History and Social Science Standards again. The Board members seemed quite perplexed as they were asked to approve only the Standards without the Curriculum Framework –- or a “decoupled process” as the State Superintendent explained.  In February, the concerns over the much-disputed process and standards will be considered again.

On November 30, the Virginia Mercury published an article regarding the separation of the Virginia History Standards and the Curriculum Framework.  Three other articles have recently come to light as well.  On December 3, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an opinion column by Tom Shields entitled “Schools Have a Moral (and Legal) Obligation to Resist a ‘Divisive Concepts’ Ban.”  Children First – IRDA published a policy paper entitled “What Virginia’s Anti-Equity Executive Order 1 and Reports Mean for K-12 Schools & Students – A Guide for School Leaders.” Lastly, EducationWeek published “The Architects of the Standards Movement Say They Missed a Big Piece.”

These references provide some insight into the concerns the Board of Education expressed at the November meeting. The public and parents are interested in what should be taught or not be taught in schools related to divisive concepts, including equity. State Board members should stay the course and approve both the Standards and the Curriculum Framework without any “decoupling” of the two documents.

When you pick up any package of food, all ingredients are listed as required by code. This lets the consumer know what is in the food you are eating. The curriculum framework is the same as the ingredient listing on food packages. It is a transparent way of making sure folks know what they are eating, or in the case of the frameworks, know what is meant by the standard and what the teacher is expected to teach. Continue reading

We Don’t Pay Virginia Beach Cops Enough

by Kerry Dougherty

On Monday, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate did something unusual: he released a video showing the fatal shooting of 28-year-old suspected car thief, Deshawn Whitaker, in a strip mall parking lot last week.

Police are usually loathe to release dash cam and body cam footage in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, no matter how justified the killing.

Neudigate broke with protocol, he explained, to dispel false reports circulating that the dead man and his female passenger were unarmed and that Whitaker didn’t receive prompt medical attention.

Typical anti-cop rhetoric that spreads through the community any time a criminal is killed. You can see spectators gathering in the video.

In fact, both the driver and passenger had guns and posed an immediate danger to the officer. Oh, and fire fighters – who are also paramedics – arrived on the scene during the five-minute video.

While the chief wanted to tamp down inflammatory anti-police rumors, the video does more. It gives the viewer an eyewitness account of the chaotic and dangerous life of a Beach police officer. Continue reading

Great Investigative Reporting of a Heartbreaking Story

Courtesy Asra Investigates

by James C. Sherlock

For a story that will simultaneously make you angry and break your heart, read Fathering While Black, by Asra Nomani and Debra Tisler.

It is the story of a guardian ad litem (GAL), Karen Keys-Gamarra, who is reported here to have systematically abused her position to pursue a Black father and his parents for the crime of loving and caring for his daughter while male.

The child’s mother was a junkie who exposed her baby to cocaine. The father is a gainfully employed paramedic in Stafford County with a clean record and clean drug tests. His own mother is a registered nurse and his father a retiree.

The GAL got an order from an Arlington J&D judge to take the child from the home of her father and grandparents last night.

The authors have practiced world-class investigative journalism in describing the case and the system — Arlington J&D judge, GAL and Child Protective Services — that worked together to seize the little girl. And put a gag order on her father and his parents.

If ethics violations were a crime, based on this reporting this case would be a Class 1 felony.

Now nobody in the system will comment.

Ms. Nomani and Ms. Tisler comment for them.  Thoroughly and compellingly.

Student Mental Health Crisis Explained – By The Washington Post

Freedom High Woodbridge

by James C. Sherlock

The Washington Post, in a lengthy article, “The crisis of student mental health is much vaster than we realize,” wrote about the mental health crisis facing our school children, especially adolescents.

Nationally, adolescent depression and anxiety — already at crisis levels before the pandemic — have surged amid the isolation, disruption and hardship of covid-19.

Now, the Post tells us. They even hint that more federal money may not help. Which must have taken an extra couple of days of meetings before publication.

The article did not identify the “we” who were cited in the headline as not realizing this was happening. Who indeed could have guessed such an outcome?

Other than anyone older than 12 not blinded by a “narrative” that never included the children’s mental health.

Some even wrote about the issues when recommending that kids go back to school in person. Before the start of the 2020-21 school year.

In the Post story, not a word about the “leaders” in state and local governments and the teachers union strike threats that kept some Virginia public schools closed up to an extra year.

Not a word about the Catholic schools that opened across the state in the fall of 2020.

Not a word of apology for being a big part of the problem that needs to be fixed. Continue reading

Back To the Patrick Henry Building

Governor Glenn Youngkin presents Derek Schmidt, candidate for Kansas governor, with a red vest. Photo credit: Kansas City Star

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Glenn Youngkin spent late summer and the fall campaigning around the country for Republican candidates for governor. He was passing out his signature red fleece vests all over the country.

His main goal was to help Republican candidates knock off Democratic incumbents, but he did appear with three incumbent Republican  governors. So, what was his record?

The three incumbents, Kemp (Georgia), Noem (South Dakota), and Stitt (Oklahoma) won, capturing from 53.4% to 62% of the votes.

In one race in which the seat was open: super-red Nebraska. Youngkin appeared in a campaign event for Jim Pillen, the Republican candidate who won with 59.9% of the vote.

In two more competitive open seats, Youngkin’s Republicans lost: Arizona, where Kari Lake got 49.7%,  and Oregon, where Christine Drazan got 43.6% in a three-way race. Continue reading