Author Archives: Bob Rayner

Respect Art, Heal Divisions

by Donald Smith

“Our institution takes very seriously the responsibility to manage these objects in ways that ensure their origins and purpose are never forgotten: that is the glorification of those who led the fight to enslave African Americans and destroy the Union.” 

Those are the words of Marland Buckner, interim director of the city of Richmond’s Black History Museum, in a December 2021 press release.  The press release responded to plans, just announced by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and then-Governor Ralph Northam, to transfer nine statues of Confederate leaders and soldiers to the custody of the Black History Museum and the Valentine Museum.  The fate of those statues is still up in the air.  But, for those people in Richmond and Virginia who want to treat those statues with contempt and disrespect, the Congressional Naming Commission (CNC) has just offered them a wonderful gift.

The CNC was formed by the last Congress and directed to review the visible memorials to, and mentions of, Confederates on Department of Defense assets.  It did much, much more than that.  It rendered an official assessment as to how all Americans should view Confederate statues that were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – an assessment the CNC implies has Congress’ blessing. Continue reading

AG Miyares Takes Aim At Lawless Parole Board

Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia

by Kerry Dougherty

Never was the left’s affection for criminals more apparent than in the spring of 2020 when Virginia’s Parole Board, under the leadership of self-confessed “bleeding heart” Adrianne Bennett went on a madcap freeing spree.

According to an exhaustive 66-page report released this week by Attorney General Jason Miyares, Bennett’s actions during just a two-month period — March and April of that year — endangered public safety over and over with the release of scores of violent predators.

Of the 134 offenders released between March 2020 and April 2020, 130 of them were convicted of violent crimes. Only four were non-violent.

These offenders were not released due to COVID-19 and the Parole Board was not given authority to release offenders due to the pandemic. Instead, they were released due to the traceable actions of one person: then Parole Board Chair Adrianne Bennett. Bennett is now a judge for the 2nd Judicial District Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court in Virginia Beach. Miyares launched the investigation into the Northam administration’s Parole Board on his first day in office due to an executive order signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Continue reading

Three Warnings? You’re Out of a Job.

by Kerry Dougherty

Unbelievable. If what Abby Zwerner’s lawyer said yesterday in her press conference is true, it wasn’t enough to sack only the superintendent of Newport News Public Schools over the near-fatal shooting of a first-grade teacher by an armed 6-year-old. A host of other indifferent school administrators need to join him in the unemployment ranks.

Oh, and they all need to buckle up for legal proceedings that could blow the roof off that dysfunctional school system.

Here, watch for yourself. I’ll wait:

Diane Toscano is not an ambulance-chasing lawyer. She’s a well-respected, experienced Virginia Beach attorney who once worked as a prosecutor. She just notified Newport News of her intention to sue on behalf of the wounded teacher, which may be part of the reason the school board decided yesterday to fire George Parker, the city’s school superintendent.

Toscano knows the law and seems confident that the chronic apathy that infected administrators at Richneck Elementary School will be enough to take this case out of the Workman’s Compensation meager coverage and open the schools to full liability for Zwerner’s injuries. Continue reading

On the Unlawful Nature of ‘Equity’ in Virginia

by David Gordon

The Democrats wanted a fight over Critical Race Theory (CRT). The Virginia Project and our friends gave them the fight they were begging for — and spanked them so hard they’ll never forget it. When the facts were made known, the public was overwhelmingly against it, across every demographic. Fighting CRT was a clear winner and Virginia’s Republicans rode the issue to success across the state.

However, CRT is merely the root of a much broader structure, one that includes other concepts such as “equity, diversity and inclusion” and “antiracism.” While CRT itself has been purged, with leftist schools and school boards rushing to scrub it from their materials lest they get caught and become the next schools scandal, its products remain deeply embedded — not just in the schools, but all across the state, implemented at the local level.

Critical Race Theory is dead. It’s now time to kill off its hyper-racialist demon spawn, starting with “Equity.”

“Equity” is the new “Critical Race Theory,” and the war to defeat it is rapidly entering into full swing. Continue reading

Support Governor Youngkin’s RGGI Repeal 

by Colin M. Kelly

I can only laugh at the headlines and statements being made by the media and climate alarmists about Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The headline “Returning Millions to Virginia” really grates: The state takes money out of the consumer’s pocket with the RGGI tax, divides it up among cronies and supporters by issuing contracts for various studies, and then somehow claims a victory for the consumer! I guess the politicians assume you and I don’t need the money.

In the two years since former Gov. Ralph Northam implemented this tax, the state has collected over $500 million from consumers via this back-door tax embedded in our electric bills. Can you imagine the outrage if Dominion Energy had over-collected that much!

Further, the claims of reducing health costs and helping to weatherize homes are simply ridiculous. “Come on man,” I’ve been hearing these claims since the oil embargoes of the 1970’s. I would bet my dog that if you added up all the deaths supposedly avoided thanks to proposed government regulations over the last 50 years, the average John/Jane Doe’s lifespan would be 110. But sadly we are the only Western country with a declining life expectancy.

If our elected officials believe the projects to be funded by the RGGI tax have merit, then they should be funded through the state’s General Fund. However, the 5% overhead charge by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to manage RGGI is clearly outrageous. Continue reading

Newport News School Chief About To Be Sacked

by Kerry Dougherty

As I wrote this I debated whether or not to put a question mark at the end of my headline. Newport News School Chief About To Be Sacked?

I decided against it.

News reports seem certain that the Newport News School Board will vote tonight to fire School Superintendent George Parker for his cumulative failure to prevent three shootings on school property in 18 months.

The latest and most horrific, of course, was the shooting of first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner by one of her 6-year-old students on January 6.

“The Newport News School Board will vote Wednesday evening on the firing of superintendent George Parker and appointing an interim in his place,” reports The Daily Press.

“The special board meeting was announced Tuesday, and follows a series of closed meeting discussions the board has held in the past two weeks…

“Parker has faced a barrage of criticism since the Jan. 6 shooting of first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner. The shooting is the third on school property in 18 months, following the 2021 shootings at Heritage and Menchville high schools.
Teachers, parents and community members have blamed the administration for failing to properly handle “out of control” student behavior, and have called for Parker’s removal. Dozens of teachers and parents spoke at last week’s board meeting to express their anger, and others have sent letters to school board members.”

Complaints about the superintendent concentrate largely on a widespread lack of support for teachers by administrators as they try to deal with discipline problems in their classrooms. The Washington Post reported last weekend that the child accused of shooting his teacher had been the subject of numerous behavioral complaints. He allegedly terrorized his classmates by throwing furniture and had frightened another teacher by telling her he wanted to set her on fire and watch her die.

Yet there he was, still in class, in January.

What does it take to be booted from classrooms in Newport News? Continue reading

Democrats at a Town Hall: Earning a Merit Award ‘Doesn’t Matter That Much’

by Steve Spiker

The investigation into Northern Virginia schools withholding notification that some students earned Merit Recognition, based on scoring in the top 3% of the country, started with just one school, the prestigious Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology. Since this issue was first uncovered a few weeks ago, there has been a steady drip of new schools where recognition was delayed: first other high schools in Fairfax; then Loudoun;  then Prince William; and now even Stafford County has been impacted.

The response has been swift. Parents are outraged that notification of these awards was withheld, and for good reason: scoring in the top 3% of all national students can make a college application stand out, and can be the difference between receiving a scholarship or not, or in how much money they receive. For example, some universities like Liberty University offer a full scholarship to recipients.

For parents struggling with the high and rising costs of tuition, and students concerned about being saddled with crippling debt at the start of their careers, receiving a full or even partial scholarship can be a major, life-changing award. Yet systematically across Northern Virginia, some students didn’t receive notice of their Letter of Commendation until after deadlines for college applications passed.

Attorney General Jason Miyares has announced an investigation into the issue, supported by Governor Glenn Youngkin as well. This should be the minimum response: it is clear the excuse of an “administrative oversight” that has hurt hundreds of students across a dozen schools in multiple counties is not sufficient explanation.

Yet, Democrats are quick to dismiss parents’ concerns entirely.

At a Town Hall meeting with constituents, State Senator Scott Surovell (D) and Del. Mark Sickles (D) were asked about the issue, and their glib responses dismissing parents’ concerns echoes Terry McAuliffe’s infamous remarks that parents shouldn’t have a say in their kids’ education:

Surovell said: “Bottom line, I don’t see it as something we ought to investigate.” He added that he suspects many high schools across the Commonwealth don’t provide recognition to students ahead of college application deadlines, which isn’t the case against investigating he thinks it is. Continue reading

200 Years of Virginia History, Exhibited

by Jon Baliles

Chances are you have driven by The Library of Virginia at 8th and Broad Streets downtown many times. Chances also are that you have never been inside one of the great institutions in the city that holds a treasure trove of information, documents, books and knowledge that will enlighten and inspire (not to mention it is home to a great Virginia gift shop that is a go-to at Christmas).

Antoinette Essa at CBS6 has her story about the library’s upcoming 200th Anniversary and a major new (free) exhibition that opens this Tuesday. “200 Years, 200 Stories, an exhibition,” will focus on all of the “incredible stories in the collections, so we’ve really focused this on the stories. It’s people from every walk of life, every race, every religion,” according to Gregg Kimball, the director of public services and outreach for the library.

The library was founded by the General Assembly on January 24, 1823. Its mission was to care for, organize and manage the state’s growing collections of official records and books.

There are stories based on people who first arrived here in the 17th century and those who first showed up in recent decades. Beyond the stories are artifacts from the whimsical to the most serious. There will be events and programs accompanying the exhibit, which will remain open through October. Continue reading

Symphonic Tribute

by Jon Baliles

The Richmond Symphony has a long and great history of collaboration and performances that you would not normally think of when you think of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. But next weekend, get ready to experience two performances that will continue that tradition of unusual marriages of sound that produce magic.

The Richmond Symphony is honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message with two shows that will honor him and inspire you. You can catch the symphony with local musician Butcher Brown on Saturday night at the Carpenter Theatre.

Locally famous and internationally talented, Butcher Brown hears the history of jazz and fuses it with funk, hip-hop, rap, rock, soul…and now with the entire orchestra of the Richmond Symphony. This concert represents a truly innovative venture that adds a new dimension of quality, inclusive music and artistic development for audiences of all ages to enjoy.

This show is going to be an unforgettable and oft-talked-about collaboration.

If you can’t make that show, the Symphony will also be at the Perkinson Center for the Arts in Chester next Sunday, performing with Brown Ballerinas for Change. Their “diverse repertoire features spirituals, hymns and other stirring compositions by black musicians of the past and present.”

If you have not seen the Symphony in a while (or ever), this is a great opportunity to check them out as they expand their boundaries and your mind through your ears.

This piece first appeared on RVA 5×5 and is republished with permission. 

Virginia Dems Loathe No-Parole Laws

by Kerry Dougherty

What do you do if you’re a soft-on-crime Democrat legislator in a no-parole commonwealth?

You get creative.

You find ways around the no-parole law that took effect back in the mid-1990s when Virginia was experiencing a crime wave similar to the one sweeping parts of the commonwealth now.

Democrats in the State Senate are once again trying to circumvent Virginia’s “Truth in Sentencing ” law. You see, it makes them sad to know that violent criminals now serve almost every day of their sentences.

“No fair,” they cry.

First, they elected Democrat governors who appointed self-described “bleeding heart” parole boards that found loopholes in the law that allowed them to spring murderers.

Then, when voters struck back by electing Republicans to top state offices, they began to introduce bills that circumvent the current law.

Meet SB842. The brainchild of Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax County. Continue reading

6-Year-Old Shooter

by Kerry Dougherty

We’re not in the business of making predictions in this space. But with the police releasing precious few details about the near-fatal shooting of a Newport News first-grade school teacher on Friday, BY A SIX-YEAR-OLD BOY, we have a few guesses about what we will learn eventually:

This is complete speculation, but chances that this first-grade boy is the product of a stable two-parent family are slim.

Chances are he has witnessed violence, either through video games or in person, that have sadly turned him into a menace to society.

Given the tender age of the alleged perpetrator, cops are being stingy with details. Understandable. Yet the entire student body of 550 at Richneck Elementary School was terrified Friday afternoon when shots rang out. They, and the rest of the community, deserve some answers.

For instance: Where is the boy now?

Six-year-olds reportedly cannot be charged with crimes in Virginia, but they can be removed from their homes by authorities. Hopefully that happened immediately.

The question remains: What sort of home produces a 6-year-old child capable of taking a loaded gun to school and shooting his teacher?

At the very least his parent/parents/guardian should be charged with child endangerment for giving him access to a loaded firearm. And let’s hope prosecutors spent every waking minute since the shooting exploring ways to charge the adults with attempted murder and a host of gun charges. Continue reading

After Arrest at Loudoun School Board Meeting, Court Finds Man Not Guilty

by The Republican Standard staff

After a two-day trial, Judge Fleming of the Loudoun County Circuit Court acquitted Jon Tigges of a criminal misdemeanor charge of trespassing when he was arrested at the June 22, 2021 Loudoun School Board meeting for remaining in the meeting room to exercise his First Amendment rights after the former Superintendent, Scott Ziegler, demanded that a packed room of parents leave the building. The Founding Freedoms Law Center (FFLC), the legal arm of The Family Foundation, represented Mr. Tigges, along with Chris Kachouroff of McSweeney, Cynkar & Kachouroff.

Mr. Tigges was one of over 700 citizens who showed up to the June 22 School Board meeting to express their concerns on a variety of issues including transgender policy 8040, COVID mandates, critical race theory, and the recent firing of teacher Tanner Cross. Around 250 people signed up to speak, but the Board ended public comment abruptly after just 50 speakers and exited the room for a temporary recess.

During the recess, Mr. Tigges encouraged those who were denied their opportunity to speak to come to the front of the seating area to continue providing their comments for everyone to hear. Soon after and without any prior warnings, then-Superintendent Scott Ziegler announced that the gathering was an “unlawful assembly” and anyone who did not leave the room immediately would be subject to arrest. When Mr. Tigges insisted that he had a right to be in the room and explained that he would not leave, he was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Mr. Tigges was the second person arrested in the room while the Board had recessed. The other was Scott Smith, whose daughter was sexually assaulted in the school bathroom by a male.

Last week, Judge Fleming held that the Commonwealth had not shown that anyone other than the School Board had authority to remove people from the public meeting room. He also found that Mr. Tigges had successfully pled an affirmative defense of acting in good faith in believing he was in the room lawfully. Because of this, the judge did not address the First Amendment Constitutional claims of free speech, protest, and assembly. Continue reading

RVA’ s Chronic Absenteeism (Formerly Known As Truancy)

by Jon Baliles 

It’s hard for young students to learn if they are not in class, and Richmond Public Schools revealed some “unacceptably high” numbers regarding “chronic absenteeism” (aka truancy) at their meeting this week. Tannock Blair and Rolynn Wilson at WRIC filed a report in which Shadae Harris, RPS’ Chief Engagement Officer, presented the latest data showing truancy dropped from 27.7% in 2021 to 25.9% in 2022.

Harris explained to board members that certain steps could be taken in the first 15 days of the school year to increase the likelihood of student attendance. These suggestions include engagement offices, social workers and family liaisons.

Holly Rodriguez at the Richmond Free Press also filed a report on this in which Harris said the pandemic and online learning had increased truancy to 37% but the numbers had trended back down since then.

But Rodriguez notes, “In December of 2021, 27.7 percent of RPS students were chronically absent, the highest number during Superintendent Jason Kamras’s administration. The number barely budged a year later, dropping only 1.8 percentage points to 25.9 percent in December of 2022.”

When the superintendent put forth his strategic plan in 2018, the pandemic was unanticipated. But, the goal was to bring chronic absenteeism down from 19 percent to 9 percent by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. However, during Mr. Kamras’s tenure, chronic absenteeism was increasing before the pandemic. In the 2018-2019 school year, his first year, the division was at 15.7 percent; in 2019-2020, the number jumped to 19 percent and in 2020-2021, to 19.5 percent. Continue reading

Richmond Cold Weather Shelter Finally Finalized

by Jon Baliles

The inability of the City to open warm weather shelters for the homeless during the big freeze on Christmas weekend was enough to draw the ire of most of City Council and many others. The recent thawing of temperatures has made it less of a pressing issue, but the cold is coming back. Thankfully, however, it seems the City has now reached an agreement to open a third shelter with 60 more beds through Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) and a  fourth shelter should open next week, according to Tyler Layne at CBS6.

“Praise God,” said 5th District Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, who for months has been the foremost voice at City Hall trying to get the shelters open. “I think that the stakeholders, community members, the city, and certainly city council have put a lot of work and a lot of time into standing up a continuum of shelters,” she said. “I feel like we have arrived at a much better place than where we were even several weeks ago.”


CCC has been bounced around like a yo-yo by the City since late summer and even raised $30,000 in private funds so they could open temporarily to help the homeless survive the Christmas deep freeze.

“The outpouring of financial support from individuals and community partners has been truly remarkable,” said Jay Brown, CEO of Commonwealth Catholic Charities. “Their generosity and compassion enabled us to open the shelter when freezing temperatures threatened lives.”

The shelter on Chamberlayne Avenue will remain open through April 14, and the contract with the City will provide 60 beds, meals, restroom facilities, case management, and other resources. The fourth shelter at 5th Street Baptist Church, also in Northside, should open next week.

A spokesperson for the City told Jeremy Wall at WRIC: The City of Richmond is grateful for the partnership with Commonwealth Catholic Charities and their continued commitment to our unhoused residents. The contract that was signed allows the city to add another 60 beds to the 100 we currently provide.  We count today as a good day because we have expanded the capacity to provide shelter for our residents.”

So we can be thankful this winter’s capacity is finally coming online after months of inexcusable delays. But we also need to make sure the ineptitude does not return next winter (yes, winter will come back next year). That’s why it is good to see that Lynch is still calling for an investigation into how the administration is managing its shelters and spending funds. She said she’d like to see all four shelters finalize contracts with the city, as RVA Sisters Keeper and United Nations Church have been operating shelters since November without a contract in place. Continue reading

‘Second-Look’ Bill to Release Inmates Is Back Without Safeguards

by Hans Bader

In 2022, legislation allowing inmates to seek a reduction in their sentence after 15 years in prison passed the Virginia state Senate, but died in a 5-to-3 vote in a House subcommittee after a lobbyist for the bill boasted it would empty two entire Virginia prisons. The bill, SB 378, was viewed by House Republicans and many prosecutors as too radical. It was criticized because, unlike other early-release bills, it did not exclude from release even inmates who committed the most violent offenses, such as serial killings and aggravated murders (Class 1 felonies).

In 2023, this bill has been introduced again, as SB 842. It is still known as the “second-look” bill. But this time, even safeguards found in the original legislation, such as that inmates exhibit mostly good behavior in prison before being released, have been removed — inmates no longer need to meet such “behavioral standards” to be released.

The new bill also allows violent criminals to be released without a formal finding that they are no longer a danger to the victim or the victim’s family, or to the community. Such findings are required as a safeguard by “second-look” laws in other jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia. Washington, DC’s municipal second-look law requires a finding “that the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any person or the community” before a sentence can be reduced. (See D.C. Code § 24-403.03(a)(2)). But no such finding is required under the Virginia second-look legislation just introduced. Unlike Oregon’s second-look legislation, which does not allow killers who committed “aggravated murder” to be released, the Virginia second-look legislation would allow petitions for sentence reductions by inmates of all kinds, including serial killers, child-killers, and cop-killers. Continue reading