Authority of Virginia Principals to Keep Schools Safe is Dangerously Undermined

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School, Bailey’s Crossroads

by James C. Sherlock

At St. Anthony school when I was a student, Sister Mary Adria was the final decision authority. The only one, really.

Sister Adria was the principal.

There was no division staff, for the simple reason that there was no division. I guess parents could have appealed to the pastor, but we all knew Father McCarthy. In retrospect, good luck with that.

That was a lot of responsibility for a young woman leading a school of 800 kids. Her staff was one secretary. Period. But Sr. Adria was extraordinary. Her decisions were, as far as anyone ever knew or could imagine, wise and fair. And final.

Today’s world is certainly far more complex than in that 1950’s Catholic elementary school.

But it remains imperative that for daily operations the principal of any school have unchallenged authority and responsibility for that school and the education and safety of its students.

And that the principal not hesitate to act.

The principals of the two Loudoun high schools where girls were assaulted in 2021 either did not perceive that they had that authority, or were loath to exercise it because of the policies of and pressure from Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) School Board and division headquarters.

That remains highly dangerous on its face. And not just in Loudoun County.

Policies. There is absolutely no question that Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the discipline component of the Multi-Level System of Supports (MLSS) used in Loudoun and many other Virginia school divisions, strongly discourages out-of-school disciplinary actions.

That is in fact the foundational principle of PBIS.

Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions are considered failures by principals. Records are kept. Reports are issued. Names are named.

Then there was what the special grand jury reports the LCPS Chief Operating Officer wrote, during his immediate visit to the first high school in which a sexual battery occurred,

The incident as SBHS is related to policy 880 (now LCPS policy 8040).

A Microsoft Teams videoconference among the LCPS division staff was held on the spot.

The grand jury report went on: “Policy 880 addresses the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students.”

Which in turn was/is based on the Northam administration’s 2021 Model Policies for the 
Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools. Which is now canceled by the Youngkin administration.

From that Northam administration model policy:

While there are existing procedures for complaints related to discrimination, harassment, and bullying, school divisions may consider emphasizing steps that a student or parent may take for complaints specifically related to discrimination based on gender identity. For example, a division-level ombudsman or team may be established to hear concerns brought by students, families, and staff when their concerns are not resolved at the school level.

Division will serve as appeal authority for “concerns not resolved at the school level.” The threat could not be more clear.

For a principal, there was no other rational interpretation than that he or she had better think twice, or more than twice, before taking action against that specially protected class.

The core issue is not about transgender policy per se. It would have been true of any specially protected class.

And every principal knew it.

The Principal. I don’t find Loudoun’s PBIS and transgender student policies to be an excuse for the principal of Stone Bridge High School where the first rape occurred.  Tracking the special grand jury report:

  • The principal had been warned in writing by a member of his own staff that the student was dangerous;
  • While an investigation and resolution were accomplished, he failed to suspend the male student — a student who wore a skirt and as such was entitled by policy to use the girl’s bathrooms where the assault occurred;
  • For nearly three hours after the sexual assault, the perpetrator remained at large in the building;
  • The principal called the police — to remove the outraged father of the victim;
  • He called LCPS — about getting a no trespass letter against the father;
  • At which point LCPS division leadership took over. And called a videoconference immediately. Not to help, but to cover up the assault.

There was no excuse for that. But PBIS and 880 were rationally the reasons the principal acted that way.

He did not suspend that student because he was actively discouraged by policy and practice from any out-of-school suspensions, most especially of a male student who wore a skirt.

And those policies were clearly sufficient explanations in Loudoun County.

He remains the principal of that high school. Case closed.

LCPS Cover-up.  From the grand jury:

Six people joined that (TEAMS) meeting, including the superintendent and now deputy superintendent. We believe this Teams meeting was the beginning of the complete lack of transparency by LCPS surrounding this situation.

Speaking of accountability, which we are, that same deputy superintendent is now acting superintendent.

Clear and present danger. So, what is the role of the principal in today’s Virginia public schools?

As I see it,

  • Principals must be supported in making hard and sometimes real-time decisions on school safety based on their sole judgement, authority and responsibility;
  • The role of the division superintendent is to back them up. And then investigate if something seems wrong;
  • If, over time, the judgement of a principal proves unreliable, the superintendent can (and regularly does) appoint someone else to do the job;
  • But it is clearly a dreadful mistake to threaten principals by official policy. Which is what both PBIS and Loudoun’s Policy 8040 unmistakably do.

It would be easy to say this highly dangerous situation exists only in Loudoun County.  But take Albemarle County.  Please.

And lots of others.

School Board actions.  I recommend three actions by school boards.

First. A good start in Loudoun County and some other large divisions would be to shrink the division staff by half.  Do it right after the holidays.  Examine the organizational chart and eliminate every other position at every level.  Just because you can afford a staff that big does not mean it is a good idea.

LCPS staff has 307 positions.  Make it 150.  They’ll get by better than with 307.

I am very sure that Loudoun is not the only division with a staff looking to justify its size by meddling.  Every bloated bureaucracy has done that since time began.

That is not a finding of individual fault, but rather a finding that the scale overwhelms mission efficiency and effectiveness.  Overwhelms its principals.

Second.  Beyond that, the most useful thing school boards could do at the beginning of every school year is restate by resolution the authorities and responsibilities of its principals.  No vision and mission statements.  Just first principles.

Make an unambiguous and short statement of the authority and responsibility of principals for the safety of their schools that overrides any other policy.  Declare the support of the school board for that authority.  And express thanks to the principals for taking on a very tough job.

That statement would be aimed not only at the principals, but also at the superintendent and his/her staff.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Finally, rewrite any policy that challenges the authority of principals to keep their schools safe.

General Assembly.  I recommend the General Assembly consider prohibiting by state law state and school division policies from restricting a principal’s authority, responsibility and freedom of action to protect school safety.

Another action to consider is a repeal of the state law on threat assessment teams at the K-12 level.

It is an overreach and a significant training burden, was apparently unused in the Loudoun cases, and in practice is more likely to prove a delay and distraction to action than to be helpful.

The rest of us. As for citizens, it is our responsibility to examine the conditions in the schools where the children in our families go to school.

And take action with the school board if they are made dangerous by policy.

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158 responses to “Authority of Virginia Principals to Keep Schools Safe is Dangerously Undermined”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    It’s an interesting argument coming from a career military officer.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Authority and responsibility of the unit commander is what any military officer would support. It is the difference between success and failure in military operations. Lack of unit authority is the primary weakness of the Russian army.

      Ask the Russian soldiers remaining alive about their encounters with the Ukrainian military trained by NATO.

      That is why that army has always depended on artillery. It is unfit for close engagement except as in support of a doctrine of acceptable mass attrition.

      1. I know they’ve depended on: “Throw another million men at them, we can always make more!” on numerous occasions throughout their history.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        but the unit commanders are not autonomous – they follow and obey command or risk court martial.


        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          They follow strategic direction and adjust tactics to meet it.

          Western militaries don’t issue tactical orders from headquarters. Military commanders at the unit levels operate without them.

          So do non-commissioned officers, the unique strength of western militaries, in the face of the enemy.

          That does not happen in the Russian army. It is a strategic weakness.

          1. Ok, but if our tactics are so great, how many wars have we won since 1945?

          2. Matt Adams Avatar

            We could’ve one Vietnam if it weren’t for the MIC wanting more green. The secret war was winnable.

          3. Matt Adams Avatar

            “Western militaries don’t issue tactical orders from headquarters. Military commanders at the unit levels operate without them.”

            Good lord you have zero understanding of op orders and Commanders Intent.

            HQ gives WARNOS, the PL or CO issue the op order in the 5 paragraph format and you move out time now.

            The NCO’s complete the action.

          4. Except under Barry Obama where NSC 20-somethings were calling USMIL officers in Iraq and directing operations.

      3. “Ask the Russian soldiers remaining alive about their encounters with the Ukrainian military trained by NATO.

        That is why that army has always depended on artillery. It is unfit for close engagement.”

        That may be one of the most bizarre and ignorant statements I have ever seen.

        You’re contending with McCarthy for “silly walks” awards. Maybe you guys could team up and do a silly walk duet.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Bizarre to you, Lefty.

          Historical evidence to others, including contemporary evidence.

          1. All right, you’ve done a “Jim McCarthy silly walk”. Now it’s a “Jim Sherlock ain’t no Holmes” Silly walk. Thank you for the entertainment. Please give us more.

        2. Matt Adams Avatar

          Never take combat advice from surface warfare officers.

          Artillery is the King of Battle and danger close is a very real thing.

          1. They’re who gave us Pearl Harbor.

            The Russians have been providing a demonstration of the value of artillery. I feel for the Ukrainians in that meat grinder and am thankful it is not me.

            Domestically some are deluded enough to believe our own propaganda…

          2. Matt Adams Avatar

            Russia is also currently only using conscripts, they haven’t unleashed their seasoned soldiers.

            They end state is resources as it always is.

          3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            They didn’t start that war with conscripts. That should inform you about how it is going for them.

          4. Matt Adams Avatar

            Yes, yes they did.

            They have yet to deploy their professional fighting force, the fact you’re not aware of this means you should zip those coffee coolers and stick to talking about Ed or whatever is you think you’re proficient.

          5. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            You may the one of the few people on earth who has discovered that the Russian army has yet to deploy its professional fighting force.

            You should alert Mr. Putin. He will be greatly relieved.

            Seriously, Major, where do you get your talking points?

          6. Matt Adams Avatar

            As you beat the drums of war, I think it’s you who has a direct line to Putin.

            Much like Sen. McCain whom I’m sure was your buddy. Never met a conflict you weren’t willing to send someone else’s child to die in.

            Major huh? I don’t recall ever saying my rank, because it is and was irrelevant.

          7. In the last 10 months the Ukraine has run through all the Soviet era gear left in the world and we have stripped our own stockpiles to disturbingly low levels.

            Last week the Ukrainian commander of ground forces pleaded that to compete with the Russians he needed hundreds of tanks, thousands of vehicles and 500 howitzers. That’s more armament than several of our NATO allies have combined. That’s not a good omen.

            Zelensky will be worshiped before Congress tonight, so everything will be ok.

          8. Matt Adams Avatar

            Nothing like another CIA installed puppet regime. About defines incompetence. They should have negotiated. He’s going to get more of his citizens murdered.

          9. DJRippert Avatar

            I find it amazing how poorly reported the Ukrainian situation is in the US. Obama was absolutely meddling in Ukraine when the Maiden Revolution ousted the duly elected president of Ukraine.

          10. Matt Adams Avatar

            They installed a TV star, which is highly ironic given that was their criticism against Trump. There were lots of warranted criticisms of Trump, but they prefer the nothing burgers.

          11. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            CIA-installed puppet regime? Ukraine? Interesting segue, Major. You are breaking news right here on BR.

            Write it up and submit it as an article to the editors.

          12. Matt Adams Avatar

            The fact that you’re making the statements you are is hilarious.

            It has no relevance to VA nor do a vast majority of the BS you write without any thought of what you’re saying.

            Again, your attempts to intimidate me with talk of rank is cute, but not effective.

          13. It’s all just compensation for being selected out and not making flag.

          14. Matt Adams Avatar

            It’s just mildly annoying when someone who is no longer a member tries to pull rank.

            He certainly thinks himself political sauve enough to be a flag, however his politics at this time were no aligned with the individual whom made the selections.

          15. It is a puppet regime, and would collapse immediately without our ongoing string of blank checks.

            Victoria Nuland bragged about spending $5B to overthrow the elected government in 2014. It’s been downhill from there.

            Opposition political parties are outlawed, media is nationalized, Christian churches were seized and the religion repressed. Then there’s the massive corruption and the Nazis.

            The Russians would be an improvement, but they don’t want the mess. They’d rather we were stuck with it. They will take the east and south and leave the demilitarized basket case residue for us to pour more billions into. The Poles and Romanians may reacquire some of the west end.

          16. Matt Adams Avatar

            Don’t you just love being called a troll for pointing out inconvenient facts. I mean baseless calling facts conspiracy theories is pretty sad, I know they are facts I have the receipts.



            On the other hand, he’s taken to calling me Major Adams, clearly signifying his inability to do any research at all

          17. They did negotiate early last year and we killed it. Boris Johnson was the hatchet man.

            The Russian goals are now broader than those the SMO started with. They now have around 500k soldiers with equipment staged around Ukraine. NATO is likely to come out on the short end.

            Lots more dead, and quite a few will be civilians freezing in the dark.

            The interviews with Zelensky and the two top military guys last week looked like softening us up for a change in policy. European freezing and depression will help. In the meantime the meat grinder keeps grinding.

          18. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            The fact that “that’s more armament that several of our NATO allies have combined” is what in poker is called a “tell”.

          19. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            What is not a good omen is that our industrial complex has been merged and contracted into impotence in producing war munitions. This war has exposed that strategic weakness. It seems that the system thought that having them is enough. Didn’t calculate using them.

          20. You’re right, that ain’t a good omen.

            It’s amazing watching the new contracts for replacement arms and ammunition with delivery beginning dates in out years.

            Makes one wonder how we did it in WWII.

          21. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            We agree.

            The military, as described by a recent Chief of Naval Operations, is a health care system that sometimes engages is combat.

          22. DJRippert Avatar

            “War is the ultimate criminal act, an armed robbery writ large.”

          23. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            I commanded a fighter squadron and a carrier air wing. Flew combat missions in Vietnam and the Middle East.

            As for the Russian army in Ukraine, I rest my case.

          24. “As for the Russian army in Ukraine, I rest my case.”

            As well you should. It was moronic.

          25. Matt Adams Avatar

            Hey he’s a Vietnam Vet who wasn’t aware there were Russian’s in the fight there. Guess he missed the secret war SOG fought.

            Field Grades high on their own fumes and short on facts are a dime a dozen.

          26. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            Russians, by our intelligence reports at the time, shot at me, Maj. Adams, both from surface-to-air missile sites and from aircraft.

            We killed some of them. They killed some of us. As happens.

            You are ill-positioned to know or comment on what I knew and what I did not during the Vietnam War.

            But they were not Russian army ground forces, Major.

            That is a fact.

          27. Matt Adams Avatar

            Who is Major Adams?

            So you said Russia wasn’t on the ground before but now they shot at you in Vietnam? Humm interesting statement.

            “You are ill-positioned to know or comment on what I knew and what I did not during the Vietnam War.”

            The only people who make those statements did nothing, the secret war only had a 25 year NDA. You wanna talk about what you did, take it up with SOG, whom you weren’t a part of.

            You should read more and speak less and again you’re attempts to intimidate me are pointless, you’re not in the service anymore nor am I. That structure is gone, you have no protection from the truth.

          28. Matt Adams Avatar

            Cool story, my blue cord says your knowledge of ground warfare is a sum total of zero.

            None of those items you listed have anything to do with artillery.

            Let’s talk about the 5 paragraph op order and see how far you bs.

          29. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            I have never fought the Russian army in ground combat.

            Neither have you.

            We have different interpretations of the facts reported from Ukraine.

          30. Matt Adams Avatar

            “I have never fought the Russian army in ground combat.

            Neither have you.

            We have different interpretations of the facts reported from Ukraine.”

            Well considering they were on the ground in Vietnam that goes against your previous statements.

            Also, you have no idea about ground combat, you were in the Navy and not NSW.

            Stop talking out of your 4th point of contact.

            We augment line companies and platoons with FISTERS for a reason.

          31. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            You somehow think that the Russian army was engaged on the ground in Viet Nam?

            That too is breaking news. Sorry I missed it.

          32. Matt Adams Avatar

            They were, hence the T-54 tanks ARVN was using. Read a book for once in your life.


      4. Stalingrad was pretty close quarters.

        I do know the Russian army has depended on: “Throw another million men at them, we can always make more!” on numerous occasions throughout their history.

        1. The “making more” part is the incentive.

        2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          At Stalingrad, the Russians sent draftees without guns at the Germans until the Germans ran low on ammunition from killing them. Not recommended in most military tactical manuals.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar

            The only difference between Stalingrad and now is their conscripts have been given weapons. They have yet to deploy professional soliders and they frankly don’t have to.

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock


          3. Matt Adams Avatar

            Thay you attained the rank of O6 without a shred of knowledge about combat history, yes, yes it is.

      5. LarrytheG Avatar

        This is my understanding:

        In a military context, the chain of command is the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed within a military unit and between different units. In simpler terms, the chain of command is the succession of leaders through which command is exercised and executed. Orders are transmitted down the chain of command, from a responsible superior, such as a commissioned officer, to lower-ranked subordinate(s) who either execute the order personally or transmit it down the chain as appropriate, until it is received by those expected to execute it. “Command is exercised by virtue of office and the special assignment of members of the Armed Forces holding military rank who are eligible to exercise command.”[2]

        In general, military personnel give orders only to those directly below them in the chain of command and receive orders only from those directly above them. A service member who has difficulty executing a duty or order and appeals for relief directly to an officer above his immediate commander in the chain of command is likely to be disciplined for not respecting the chain of command. Similarly, an officer is usually expected to give orders only to his or her direct subordinate(s), even if only to pass an order down to another service member lower in the chain of command than said subordinate.”

        Is this not how a school system with superintendent and principals might operate?

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          The difference between Western armed forces and the Russians is that in the West we give combat orders to subordinates down the chains of command and give them the responsibility and authority to select and adjust tactics in the face of the enemy all the way down to the non-commissioned officer level.

          Even tactical advances, adjustments or retreat can only be issued by generals in the Russian army and Loudoun County Schools.
          Lack of trust and bureaucratic interference is deadly in both.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            “Even tactical advances, adjustments or retreat can only be issued by generals in the Russian army and Loudoun County Schools.”

            I literally laughed out loud when I read that.

  2. I am struck by your reference to Sister Maria Adria. The Episcopalian school I attended in the 1960s, St. Albans, was similar. There was a headmaster of the entire school, and a headmaster for the lower school (grades 4-8), and a headmaster for upper school (grades 9-12). I expect there were back-office employees who handled orders and billing whom I never came into contact with, and probably someone who headed the kitchen, and maybe someone to head the sports programs. But I don’t recall a single layer of authority between the headmasters and the teachers.

    (Interestingly, many teachers were gay — or homosexual, as we called them back then. But nobody cared because (a) they were discrete and did not advertise their sexual persuasion, and (b) they were excellent teachers and dedicated to the school.)

    How many hundreds (or thousands) of administrators are employed by Loudoun County Public Schools? How many layers of bureaucracy are there? The greater the number of layers and the greater the number of administrators, the more diffused the responsibility. Further diffusing responsibility by allowing appeals to the “division” is a recipe for inaction and ass-covering.

    If a girl had been raped in a bathroom at St. Albans, accountability would have been swift. I’m sure it would have been at St. Anthony as well.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Yes, swift. She’d have been burned as a witch.

      Oh, 1960. Sent to an nunnery to birth the child.

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      And the rapist would have been condemned to Hell – if the incident were reported. Repressive religious authority may have caused such not to be reported out of shame. 70 years ago!!!

    3. DJRippert Avatar

      Did any you fops and dandies who write columns for Bacons Rebellion go to public school? Am I the only one?

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        “Fops and dandies” DJ?

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        i went to public school.

  3. St. Anthony had a shooting club. It trained at the indoor range at Ft. Meyer in conjunction with the NRA. Maybe that aspect of the school should be emulated today. Arm the good students and teach them to shoot straight.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Today’s NYT Carrie’s an interesting piece re NRA participation in schools with such programs.

      1. Most of us can’t get past the paywall. Perhaps you’d excerpt a portion of it. I don’t imagine the Times approves of teaching kids gun safety or to shoot.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          Sorry, no link. I get my copy at the supermarket. I’ll try to post a link. The Times article (as far as I read) offered no opinion on teaching kids to shoot. The piece was a follow up to the one on JROTC savaged by Sherlock a few days ago. The piece simply reported upon the NRA involvement.

      2. NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program has been around for 30 years. Something like 32 million K-4 children nationwide have received gun safety instruction under the program.


      3. NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program has been around for 30 years. Something like 32 million K-4 children nationwide have received gun safety instruction under the program.


    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Azalea Gardens Jr. High, Public. 1966, 9th grade health and PE devoted 6 weeks to Va. hunting laws and gun safety including a field trip to the NPD range to shoot, given parental permission.

      1. Azalea Gardens. That’s Norfolk, right?

        My Virginia Beach city public high school had a shooting team.

        Bolt action .22 rifles were kept in a safe in the office until issued to team members on practice and match days. City school buses transported us to the range with each student in possession of his/her rifle.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          This is fantastic! When I tell people about bringing my Remmington .22 to school in the 60s, people all but call me a lyre(bot protection, ya know). Norfolk used city buses for all school transport. None of that nimsy pimsey red flashing light stuff for us. School zone? That’s where speeding was encouraged.

          The NPD range was at the airport. Great place for a range, eh? Practice leading game birds? We used to swim in sand pits next to it, but you had to stay low. If a cop saw you, they’d chase you away. Of course, thinking back on the bright turquoise color of the water, god only knows what toxins and metals were leaching into it.

          At night, the range road was a “parking” lane 3 years later.

          1. Yes, and this was in the 1979-82 time-frame.

            I might be wrong, but I think the NPD shooting range was on the same access road as the police dog training facility.

            I was in the Civil Air Patrol in the late 70s-early 80s and the squadron’s Quonset hut was at the end of that road, just past the police dogs and next to the Navy Flying Club.

            After the Doobie Brothers’ airplane burned up on the tarmac, they dragged it behind the CAP building and left it there. It was sitting in
            a little clearing in the woods with its tail tied to the ground and its nose sticking up in the air. We used to practice rappelling out the front door of that old plane. We called it “The Doobie Liner”.

          2. Yes, and this was in the 1979-82 time-frame.

            I might be wrong, but I think the NPD shooting range was on the same access road as the police dog training facility.

            I was in the Civil Air Patrol in the late 70s-early 80s and the squadron’s Quonset hut was at the end of that road, just past the police dogs and next to the Navy Flying Club.

            After the Doobie Brothers’ airplane burned up on the tarmac, they dragged it behind the CAP building and left it there. It was sitting in
            a little clearing in the woods with its tail tied to the ground and its nose sticking up in the air. We used to practice rappelling out the front door of that old plane. We called it “The Doobie Liner”.

          3. Yes, and this was in the 1979-82 time-frame.

            I might be wrong, but I think the NPD shooting range was on the same access road as the police dog training facility.

            I was in the Civil Air Patrol in the late 70s-early 80s and the squadron’s Quonset hut was at the end of that road, just past the police dogs and next to the Navy Flying Club.

            After the Doobie Brothers’ airplane burned up on the tarmac, they dragged it behind the CAP building and left it there. It was sitting in
            a little clearing in the woods with its tail tied to the ground and its nose sticking up in the air. We used to practice rappelling out the front door of that old plane. We called it “The Doobie Liner”.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            I never knew the Doobie’s plane caught fire at Norfolk. Bet I can guess how though.

          5. Sorta like Ricky Nelson’s?

          6. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            I think the big difference was Ricky’s was in the air…

          7. They were apparently playing a concert when it caught fire.

            Details on it are sketchy and there were not many news reports on it even at the time. I found this, though:


            And I think I have a pdf file somewhere of a college newspaper (don’t remember which one) story that was written back when it happened.

            Here’s a photo:


      2. Bet they don’t do it these days as part of the general decline of standards.

        St. Anthony’s was a session at the range Wednesday evenings year round. Everyone brought their own rifle. Participation at the annual NRA Junior National Championship match was optional.

        I moved to a rural county in the mid ’70s. The school system there closed the high school on the first day of hunting season. Most of the pickups in the parking lot had gun racks. Subsequent days during hunting season many held shotguns because kids had gone hunting early morning and from there directly to school.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar

          In NWPA we had the first day of buck as well as the first day of doe off.

          However, once I went to college I stopped hunting, I had professors who would intentionally place tests on that Monday.

          1. Should a given ‘ya first day of black powder and bow off too:)

          2. Darn right!

        2. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and while they did not close the high schools for opening day, gun racks containing shotguns and/or rifles were a common sight in the student parking lot at my school.

          This was more than 40 years ago, of course, and much of Virginia Beach was as-yet undeveloped.

          1. The cultural differences between urban/suburban and rural areas are profound.

            I grew up in the ‘burbs and went to college in a city. Moved to a rural county and raised my kids there. I was usually glad we were not closer to town. They got an education in independence and what America was about for many generations.

            Both kids work urban and live rural these days. The commute is worth it for them.

          2. how_it_works Avatar

            As recently as 1993, Prince William County Schools code of behavior specifically allowed keeping a firearm in a student’s vehicle if that student were going hunting after school.

            Well, yea, that was almost 30 years ago…but it seems like yesterday.

        3. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Yep. True in the cities too. When you tell a 30-something that they stare at you. Of course, that was the NRA of old, not run by a whacked out bunch of Michigan miltia types.

      3. how_it_works Avatar

        They were still doing “hunter education” in 1989, in Prince William County. No trip to the range and I don’t recall that they spent more than a few days on it.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          At most it would have been 3 weeks, “health class”. The other 3 weeks would have been in the gym. Ya know, girls one week, boys the next. It probably included fishing too, so even less on hunting and guns. The range trip came at the end. .22s if you had your own. I brought mine and shared with others.

          1. how_it_works Avatar

            Oddly enough, nobody else I went to school with there remembers the hunter education, so it must have been really forgettable.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Ya know what I remember off the top of my head? Shotguns had to be plugged to hold only 2 rounds in the magazine. Two in the mag, one chambered. Three rounds. And using a rifle east of someplace (Richmond?) was illegal unless you were up a tree. Yep, pretty much forgettable.

          3. Pretty much shotguns only in Virginia east of the blue ridge. Plugged for 3 was common.

          4. Matt Adams Avatar

            PA law was 3 and a plug as well.

  4. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Sherlock and Bacon need to reflect upon the differences with today’s public school agers and experience in religious schools 70 years ago. At St. Luke’s RC school in the South Bronx 70 years ago, Brother Francis (Sacred Heart) was head of the middle school while Sister Daniels (or Mama Dan as the Brothers called her) headed the lower school. My recollection is of a respectful student body largely first-generation of immigrant parents but one rife with cynicism toward authority and religion. Nothing within the authority of the school heads could have countered that attitude nor ameliorate it. The times were different and it is doubtful enhanced principal authority today would be any more effective.

    1. Yes, it is a different era from 50 years ago. One of the biggest differences (not the only one, but one of the biggest) is that society now seeks one-size-fits-all bureaucratic solutions to every problem on the theory that the use of individual discretion often results in racial, sexual or gender bias. The result is a ponderous, bureaucratic, and unaccountable system… that still results in bias. Just different biases.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        …in an era of intolerance, hate , bullying… we seem to confuse that with ” individual discretion” and institutional responses to it: ” ponderous, bureaucratic, and unaccountable”

        I dare say that most religious and private schools ALSO have these things in place these days and efforts to discourage hateful behaviors are perceived to squash “rights” and “Free speech”.

        A lot depends on how one views these issues and whether or not they feel that such hate behaviors should be tolerated as “normal”.

      2. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        It’s more like 70 years ago and the nation’s population is about 125 million greater. I don’t agree with your “ one size” bureaucratic theory. Has society underestimated its institutional capacities to serve that population growth? Perhaps, but not necessarily due to one size fits all or unrestricted individual discretion. Such broadsides lead to the type of nostalgic appeals in the post under discussion without recognition of the burgeoning proportions. Nostalgia is nice but not terribly helpful.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          it’s looking back…. and pretending the forces that let to change did not occur…

          It’s as if the things we have added to the administrative structure were never needed to start with , just “layered” on for no good reason.

          It’s like Amazon should not have happened.. it was way better when Mom & Pop did commerce.

        2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          If you think this column is nostalgic, McCarthy, you missed the entire point. Which happens.

          The article was about the erosion by policy and practice of the authority and responsibilities of school principals being a threat to school safety.

          I think that is a strategic mistake that can and must be corrected.

          He who hesitates is lost.
          The principals of those two Loudoun high schools hesitated. And two girls were raped.

          If you disagree about the cementing in law and policy the authority and responsibility of principals, say so.

          That may be a defensible position, not to me, but to some. If that is your opinion, state and defend it.

          It would be helpful if you don’t change the subject.

      3. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        That’s just not true. It’s not “one size fits all” that is sought. It’s that any different sizes must fit the law, respect the rights of the “all”. You know, the Constitution.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Didn’t know that the Constitution required chaos in public schools. I’ll read it again.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Start with the 2nd Amendment. It will save you time.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            The real chaos is all in your head…. ah, figuratively? Literally?

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Indeed. Pretty sure the headmaster had authority over the school principal and anyone who is really knowledgeable about the various religious sects KNOWs that, for instance with the Episcopalians or Catholics, that there is a “higher authority” than the school headmaster also.

      I too went to a Catholic school in my youth. And in the day, the nuns – none were homosexuals as far as I know – had thick yardsticks and “whacks” were pro forma for just about anything that was not “authorized”.

      1. how_it_works Avatar

        Corporal punishment was still allowed in Prince William County schools in the late 1980s.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          yep. and I have felt the yardstick a time or two myself prior to 1980.

          A different time …. and not all wonderful… a LOT of that “indoctrination” and “grooming” stuff went on in some “religious” settings for quite some time when the leader “authority” was unquestioned.

          1. how_it_works Avatar

            At the time my family moved to Prince William County (Manassas area) in 1988, I was unaware of the phrase “Paddle faster, I hear banjos”.

            But it certainly would have been apropos.

            An un-airconditioned middle school filled with students missing one or more chromosomes or perhaps with extra ones, where corporal punishment is allowed.

            A veritable paradise.

          2. how_it_works Avatar

            There’s no image there, if there was supposed to be one.

          3. how_it_works Avatar


            I think there was at least a couple of kids there who looked like that!

          4. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Mr. Addington at Marstellar. I remember that. I remember his big paddle too. He would put a Marine corps wallop on the hard heads that needed it.

    1. You’re saying a government authority that answers to no one could have consequences???

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        been there, done that, Sherlock types forget or liked it anyhow.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I was wondering if there is any truth to this:

    ” But this week, during a juvenile court hearing, a fuller picture of Smith’s daughter’s ordeal emerged. She suffered something atrocious. It had nothing at all to do, however, with trans bathroom policies. Instead, like many women and girls, she was a victim of relationship violence.

    Smith’s daughter testified that she’d previously had two consensual sexual encounters with her attacker in the school bathroom. On the day of her assault, they’d agreed to meet up again. “The evidence was that the girl chose that bathroom, but her intent was to talk to him, not to engage in sexual relations,” Biberaj, whose office prosecuted the case, told me. The boy, however, expected sex and refused to accept the girl’s refusal. As the The Washington Post reported, she testified, “He flipped me over. I was on the ground and couldn’t move and he sexually assaulted me.”

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      And what about the second girl he raped … in your mind was she “asking for it” too?

      Rape is rape, Larry – whether its being done by a person the victim knows or a complete stranger.

      1. This is the only response you have to this, despite my correcting you countless times now.

        Nobody is debating that two rapes were committed. We are clarifying the nature of how the first rape occurred. It was not, as the Wire made up, a transgender student going into a girls bathroom and raping a student. It was two students sneaking in together to talk, the boy expected sex, and when the girl declined he raped her.

        You’d be better off just playing dumb like Sherlock. Or just admit you fell for bad reporting and move on to the more salient points of issue.

    2. We’ve known about this since last year. Don’t expect anything material from Sherlock on it.

      It was an hastily assembled story to build a narrative to benefit Youngkin’s campaign (not that he needed it given McAuliffe’s lifeless effort), and by the time the truth came out everyone had moved on.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        moved on from the truth?

        how quaint.

      2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        “Old news”. “Moved on”. As I wrote. Nothing if not dependable.

        1. See, Larry? Nothing material, as always.

  6. Bubba1855 Avatar

    Sadly, going back in time…aka 50 yrs ago…is not reality…yes, I also have 50 yrs ago stories about Fairfax High School (or maybe 60 yrs ago)…Times have changed…deal with it. I believe that ‘mega sized’ school districts are a major part of the problem…from the school board down to the school principal…’one size’ does not fit all. Here in South Carolina we have, for the most, part much smaller school districts…way smaller. ‘Smaller’ allows for more specific and tailored solutions to problems and issues for the students. Just my ‘rant’…Mega school districts only mean two things…1) ‘one size fits all’ and 2) senior administrators are paid outrageous salaries.
    I’ll refill my wine glass now…

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Enjoy. Your contribution is spot on.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      E Pluribus Unum.

      Or for the dead language challenged, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

      BTW, just for perspective…

  7. Catholic schools are a…bold choice of example for an institution with the safety of children in mind.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      their authority was not to be questioned.

    2. how_it_works Avatar

      I don’t know. How do the chances of getting punched out cold while minding your own business in the locker room compare, catholic schools vs. public ones?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        well no, the Priests weren’t doing that type of assault… right?

        1. how_it_works Avatar

          Well, in public schools it would be the students from the low-income housing projects doing that kind of stuff (while the staff looks the other way, because they don’t want to deal with it).

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            but they’re not presented as authority figures who are responsible for their safety, no?

          2. how_it_works Avatar

            No, they’re not. Is there much of a difference between an authority figure who commits an act of abuse and an authority figure who looks the other way as others commit acts of abuse??

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            you mean someone who fails to do their job to protect others vs someone who IS the predator threat themselves?

          4. how_it_works Avatar

            Yes. That is exactly what I mean. One could argue that the former is committing abuse by proxy.

    3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      You are nothing if not dependable.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        I dunno, how’d they do in Canada with the schools for indigenous peoples? Or Bolivia?

        Good thing the Pope has repealed the bull euphemistically called the Doctrine of Discovery. Oh wait! No, he didn’t.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          I can’t compete with you for you fascination with all things Catholic.

          1. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Try considering the commentary. Affirming Bubba when he actually did not agree with your article is an example of selective reading.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Uh yep, the Captain jumped right on the back of a dead horse. Bubba was singing the praises of the State passed in the national standings by Mississippi.

          3. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            And yet you would use the Catholic model for our secular schools. Is that with or without a student cemetery? Gotta admit, you kill one and the others fall in line post haste.

  8. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    I wrote this column with the single purpose and recommendation to return more authority to principals to make schools safer. Few readers addressed that issue. I reread the article. The point is clear in the text. The response is disappointing. Somewhat dysfunctional. But not unprecedented.

    The reminiscences I started in the article and was mostly charming, but led to the anti-Catholic bigotry that always awaits here.

    Then the discussion descended even further into dark, counter-historical “facts” and conspiracy theories both modern and more than half a century old from the deepest reaches of the dark web.

    Jim Bacon threatened to end commentary and I helped talk him out of it. He is right. The trolls on here are bitter, relentless and irredeemable. This space cannot continue to give space to the ugliness regularly displayed. He will either have to ban individuals or shut it down. I reluctantly recommend the latter.

      1. My reaction?

        I ask: “Who does your hair”?

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    USNews ranks Va #12, #10 in K-12, #17 in Higher Ed. All that bureaucracy must be doing something right.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      nope. It’s terrible and needs to be torn down and start over….. no question….

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Hey, I get it. The guy spent his entire life in what can only be described as a feudal caste system. The obvious answer to bureaucracy is autocracy. Remove the power from the process and vest it in one man. Create the epic hero.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          It’s actually a bit odd in my mind because the military is if nothing else a very formal command structure where you get your orders from up the food chain and you follow and if you go off the ranch, it normally does not end well.

          I get that impression having been a military brat in my youth and working for the military in my adult life.

          Each individual in that military command structure seems to know what authority they have and what authority is above them that they will absolutely follow if they want to keep their position.

          re: ” Authority of Virginia Principals to Keep Schools Safe is Dangerously Undermined”

          So the assertion – that schools are not safe because the authority of principals is limited… not just limited but Dangerously limited.

          That’s not exactly a “moderate” viewpoint in my mind but rather extreme. It’s impugning public education out the wazoo on how they operate.

          And he is surprised and “disappointed” at the feedback and proceeds to call them “bitter trolls” that should be “quieted” as individuals or just shut down entirely so he doesn’t have to hear it.

          In other words, he wants to spew his extreme viewpoints advocating autocratic “leadership” stuff but don’t want responses other than those that agree?

          Principals already have quite a bit of authority but they are also agents of the school system, AND in turn the State AND responsible for carrying out Federal and State laws and regulations and policies promulgated from them.

          Principals are responsible for carrying them out , not deciding them.

          Within that framework , not outside of it, they DO already have substantial authority and even some autonomy but they cannot and should not ignore or be allowed to ignore their statutory duties which seems to be what Sherlock is advocating – which again, is surprising for someone with a military command structure background.

          Responses that allude to abuses that have occurred in the past from such autocratic and autonomous “leadership” is then dismissed as “bigotry”.

          The name calling and vitriol is emblematic of conservatives these days.

          They not only don’t want to hear disagreement with their views but they dismiss those who do disagree as “bitter trolls” and the like.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Bang on Larry. A wooden ship romantic.

            My $1 to your dime, he’s a closet Putin lover too. Well, maybe not so closeted. The Magna Carta is a signed confession.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            “They not only don’t want to hear disagreement with their views but they dismiss those who do disagree as “bitter trolls” and the like.”

            I think JAB and the Captain were speaking of Lefty and Matt grinding the “platform on a platform” commander under their combat boot’s heel down at the bottom of these threads. “Call the Shore Patrol! A sailor is getting mugged by a soldier.”

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        The heroic principal…
        “(Joe) Clark was seen as an educator who was not afraid to get tough on difficult students, one who would often carry a bullhorn or a baseball bat at school. During his time as principal, Clark expelled over 300 students who were frequently tardy or absent from school, sold or used drugs in school, or caused trouble in school. Though some argue that his tough practices turned the school around, the data does not support that conclusion. “While math scores are up 6% during Clark’s reign, reading scores have barely budged: they remain in the bottom third of the nation’s high school seniors. While a few more students are going to college — 211, up from 182 in 1982 — Clark has lost considerable ground in the battle against dropouts: when he arrived, Eastside’s rate was 13%; now [in 1988] it is 21%.”[5] After his tenure as principal of Eastside High, Clark later served as director of the Essex County Detention House in Newark, New Jersey, a juvenile detention facility.[1]”

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          The drift to autocracy is driven by frustration with the current and it’s “failures”

          And it’s a little convoluted because it’s wanted not only at the top of the food chain but down to the level of Principal where following the law and carrying out the regulations and policies that accrue from the law are claimed to be “dangerously limiting the ability of the principal to safeguard the kids” as if the policies and regulations themselves do not do that and the principal needs to take control and do what they think should be done.

          You do that in most other institutions, govt or NGO or military and you no longer will be in a role performing that duty.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          This is an example of a “failure”. Important to recognize that it’s a failure/flaw in the law first that then leads to failure in the institution and those in leadership.

          And the way that usually works is this way as opposed to releasing leaders from carrying out their legal duties according to their discretion. Those leaders ARE agents of the government not their own authority.

          We actually went away from the autocrat model in prior eras precisely because of problems with autonomous leadership where “failures” happened and the only remedy was after-the-fact dismissal as opposed to following the codified law and regulations to start with.

          Basically we’ve evolved over time to follow the law as the law is codified and if it has flaws, we address and fix them, we don’t junk the current command structure model and convert/revert back to distributed autonomous leaders who do what they think is right.

          If someone in the line of command fails to carry out their stated legal duties including policies, regulations and laws, then they are removed and replaced with someone who will and does.

          Totally odd for someone who hews from a career of military command structure to advocate dismantling that model of leadership.

          I’d note further the way the issue of sexual misconduct was handled in the military with the Commander having autonomy and discretion rather than laws that he/she must follow and carry out no matter his/her own preferences.

          The history of how Military Commanders handled sexual misconduct is filled with inappropriate and wrong decisions that were far, far worse and more egregious than the incident in Loudoun.

          It took awhile and it’s still not finished but the laws have been and are being changed to actually require commanders to follow the laws and regulation and not their own philosophies.

          This is the approach that should be used for Loudoun, not more autonomy and discretion down the leadership chain.

          We abide by and carry out the law. If the law “fails”, we fix it.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            You make better cops when you train them to Mirandize those they arrest and respect those rights rather than make loopholes for when they don’t. Professionalism.

            I sincerely hope the Captain lives to see ALL felonious crimes removed from the chain of command. He’s highly likely to see sexual assault, rape, et al, removed. Surely it will happen within the next five years. Military officers clearly cannot handle it as he thinks. Could principals?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            those dang social media videos are biting again!


  10. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Principle of the Principal as the Captain of the Ship of Schools. We get it. And just like The Lord of the Flies is fact to some, so are the Caine Mutiny and the Bounty to others. Flogging and keel haulings will continue until morale improves.

    You use the nonsecular only as an example of a system that is compact and responsive to the parents, but they’re not. They are the very definition and product of extreme indoctrination, groupthink, and bureaucrats.

    Remember the Pueblo. Sometimes going it alone sucks.

    No bureaucracy here:,%20Authority%20and%20Command.pdf

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      A recent VDOE survey found the biggest reason teachers were dissatisfied was they feared for their safety. 56% gave that response.

      Seemed worth addressing. So I wrote this article.

      In response I hoped for serious discussion, including constructive criticism of my suggestions.

      I wanted critics to either make the case that current approaches to safety are working, or, if they do not think current safety structures are working, offer viable alternatives to the ones I offered.

      I wanted to hear them make their cases for PBIS and politically protected classes or offer alternatives while answering the questions embedded in the article.

      1. Why is PBIS, the current disciplinary system in Loudoun, Richmond and elsewhere, an optimum one? It starkly discourages out-of-school discipline and openly threatens career reprisals for principals who don’t make acceptable numbers. Why does a critic of my suggestion consider PBIS and special protected classes policies likely to produce viable learning environments and safety in schools with feral kids like the Loudoun rapist roaming the halls? Or, pardon me, in restorative justice circles and then roaming the halls?

      2. Why is the multilayered bureaucratic system in Loudoun for handling clear and present threats the right way to proceed instead of empowering principals to deal with such situations immediately without regards to politically sensitive issues?

      Instead we got Nancy and Larry.

      Nancy: “ Ship of fools”. “Floggings and keel haulings”. That passes for satirical depth in commentary from Nancy. Our own Lenny Bruce. We always get a chuckle. Especially from the anti-Catholic riffs.

      Larry: “That’s not exactly a “moderate” viewpoint in my mind but rather extreme. It’s impugning public education out the wazoo on how they operate.”

      So Nancy insinuates inimitably that the article was subtly recommending the use of physical force – corporal punishment. I missed that recommendation from the article. But Nancy didn’t.

      Larry thinks it “Impugn(ed) public education ‘out the wazoo.” by offering ways to make demonstrably unsafe schools safer.

      Got it. Thanks.

      I’ll try to pass your thoughts to those 56% of teachers who are frightened in their workplaces.

      Did I mention a gentlemen weighed into a discussion about school safety in Virginia with his excitement – we could feel the tingling – about positive Russian military prospects in Ukraine?

      Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

      But perhaps baconsrebellion need not offer a home for such as these.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        I said, “Ship of schools, but if the foo…

        BTW, the first teacher I ever met that feared for her life at school was in Columbia, SC, whereas my redheaded cousin taught in southside Chicago for three years and felt perfectly safe, in fact in his words, “protected” by his students.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          might be interesting to know if the “fear” was always there or more recent.

          The recent uber politization of public schools. The claims of “indoctrination” and “grooming” and enraged parents confronting school boards AND teachers… on social media is a “safety” issue that Principals cannot “fix”.

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