Category Archives: Children and families

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Part 2 – Stop Trying to Provide Mental Health Services in School

by James C. Sherlock

In Part 1 of this series I described the current Virginia Community School Framework (the Framework) and found it not only lacking, but counter-productive.

Its basic flaw is that it assumes all services to school children will be provided in the schools by school employees, including mental health services.

When you start there, you get nowhere very expensively, less competently, and with considerably more danger in the case of mental health than if the schools were to partner with other government and non-profit services.

This part of the series will deal with child and adolescent mental health services exclusively.

Public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services for children and adolescents are funded by governments at every level. For the federal view of the system of care, see here.

In Virginia, those services are organized, overseen and funded through a state and local agency system.

  • The state agency is the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) in the Secretariat of Health and Human Resources. The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) (Medicaid) plays a funding and patient management role as well;
  • Local agencies funded and overseen by DBHDS are the Community Services Boards (CSB’s) throughout the state.

Some schools and school systems seem to operate on a different planet from their local CSB’s. Indeed, the Framework mentions them only reluctantly and in passing.

The ed school establishment clearly wants to handle child and adolescent mental health problems in-house, with tragic results. They need to stop it now.

There is absolutely no need to wait. Continue reading

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Hubs for Government and Not-for-Profit Services in Inner Cities – Part 1 – the Current Framework

by James C. Sherlock

I believe a major approach to address both education and health care in Virginia’s inner cities is available if we will define it right and use it right.

Community schools.

One issue. Virginia’s official version of community schools, the Virginia Community School Framework, (the Framework) is fatally flawed.

The approach successful elsewhere brings government professional healthcare and social services and not-for-profit healthcare assets simultaneously to the schools and to the surrounding communities at a location centered around existing schools.

That model is a government and private not-for-profit services hub centered around schools in communities that need a lot of both. Lots of other goals fall into place and efficiencies are realized for both the community and the service providers if that is the approach.

That is not what Virginia has done in its 2019 Framework.

The rest of government and the not-for-profit sector are ignored and Virginia public schools are designed there to be increasingly responsible for things that they are not competent to do.

To see why, we only need to review the lists of persons who made up both the Advisory Committee and the Additional Contributors. Full of Ed.Ds and Ph.D’s in education, there was not a single person on either list with a job or career outside the field of education. Continue reading

Chilling Revelations In The Saga Of The 6-Year-Old Teacher Shooter

by Kerry Dougherty

Excuse my language, but what the hell is going on at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News?

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that school administrators there have downplayed threats of violence, apparently ignoring pleas for help from frightened teachers.

One account claims that the same boy who shot and nearly killed his teacher two weeks ago threatened another teacher saying he wanted to set her on fire and watch her burn.

The Post story is crammed with horrifying accounts of violent outbursts by an out-of-control child allegedly terrorizing his fellow students and teachers.

If true, there needs to be a wholesale shake-up in that school and this bleeding heart nonsense needs to STOP.

School officials must explain why they allow students who have threatened violence against teachers to remain in the classroom. Then they need to tell us why THEY deserve to keep their jobs.

Here’s a question for Richneck school leaders: Is there anything they WON’T tolerate at that dysfunctional elementary school, where a substitute teacher told The Post that the kids were so frightening that after one day she refused to go back to that particular school?
Continue reading

Free at Last

by Jim McCarthy

Compulsory K-12 education under state law is a fact often taken for granted since its enactment in 1908 in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1984, the state authorized homeschooling initiated by an earlier Supreme Court decision in 1972 (Wisconsin v Yoder), providing for a religious exemption from compulsory attendance in public schools.

At present, some 56,000 youth are homeschooled in Virginia. Enhanced empowerment of parents was a principal plank in Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign for the statehouse and continues to be extolled even as he travels around the country in support of GOP candidates. The newly elected Speaker of the House of Delegates, Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), enthusiastically proclaimed upon his elevation, “We’re all about empowering parents.”

Under current regulations, homeschooling is authorized where parents demonstrate the following:

1. Possession of a valid high school diploma (or a higher degree, such as can be obtained through a university), which must be submitted to the district’s superintendent (a GED does not fulfill this requirement); or,
2. A valid teacher’s certificate as approved by the state; or,
3. Provide a distance or correspondence curriculum approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction; or,
4. Provide evidence that they, as the teaching parent, can meet the Virginia Standards of Learning objectives.

Perhaps, under the excitement of the leadership of Youngkin and Gilbert, a newly woke conservative effort is emerging designed further to shed or minimize state control in this area. Del. John McGuire (R-Louisa) introduced House Bill 1454 to eliminate the existing qualifications for homeschool proctors. Evidence of student academic progress remains a requisite at the end of the school year and may be based upon a standardized test on a nationally recognized examination, or an evaluation by a licensed educator, or a report from a distance-learning vendor. Continue reading

School Discipline, Part III: Reframing Discipline in Virginia and Considerations for Making New Policy

by Matthew Hurt and Kathleen Smith

Reframing School Discipline

The Student Behavior and Administrative Response (SBAR) data collection was implemented in response to reframing school discipline from that of criminal, punishment, and exclusionary practices from 1991-2020 to that of restorative, intervention, and inclusionary practices in 2021 and beyond. The SBAR reports on behaviors that impede academic progress, behaviors related to school operations, relationship behaviors, behaviors that present a safety concern, behaviors that endanger self or others, and behaviors identified as persistently dangerous.

The SBAR records responses to discipline such as class removals, suspensions, expulsions with or without instructional services, and loss of privileges; behavioral interventions such as parents contacts, referrals, restorative practices; and instructional supports such as changes in placement, virtual programs, and support with and without face-to-face teacher contact.

The collection will always have inherent problems. Some data are clear: suspension or expulsion. Some data are not clear: support with or without face-to-face teacher contact. What if that contact was made by an administrator? Would removal for the last five minutes of class period be considered a removal? The reporting individual could inadvertently make the data very unreliable.

A cursory literature review demonstrated that “reframing discipline” occurred not only in Virginia, but throughout most educational institutions and juvenile justice organizations. Tight discipline policies in the late 1990s and early 2000s were replaced by less rigid or loose policies as early as 2010. After expulsions and suspensions catapulted, deterrent policies that used police, cameras, metal detectors, and locker searches were replaced by progressive policies that allow for a continuum of responses, prevention, intervention, supports, and consequences that foster positive behaviors.

Unintended Consequences of Both Tight and Loose Policies

Tight discipline policies do not allow for mitigation. The teacher uses minimal discretion for enforcement of rules. Breaking a rule, no matter the circumstance, is followed by a prescribed consequence. Loose discipline policies allow for more teacher and principal latitude over managing students. Loose discipline policies allow them to navigate the circumstance and use their professional judgment and expertise to decide on how much or how little  consequence should be received.

Our efforts to address disproportionality through looser policies that allow more educator discretion and at the same time provide better reporting and hold schools accountable may have inadvertently caused additional problems. Continue reading

Parents’ Rights Under Assault in Richmond

by Kerry Dougherty

HB2091 – SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:

Parental access to minor’s medical records; consent by certain minors to treatment of mental or emotional disorder. Adds an exception to the right of parental access to a minor child’s health records if the furnishing to or review by the requesting parent of such health records would be reasonably likely deter the minor from seeking care. Under the bill, a minor 16 years of age or older who is determined by a health care provider to be mature and capable of giving informed consent shall be deemed an adult for the purpose of giving consent to treatment of a mental or emotional disorder. The bill provides that the capacity of a minor to consent to treatment of a mental or emotional disorder does not include the capacity to (i) refuse treatment for a mental or emotional disorder for which a parent, guardian, or custodian of the minor has given consent or (ii) if the minor is under 16 years of age, consent to the use of prescription medications to treat a mental or emotional disorder.

Parental rights continue to be under assault by Democrats in the General Assembly. They will never give this up until they are all voted out of office.

Fortunately, the GOP majority in the House of Delegates will be able to kill HB2091, a bill that would create an avenue for “health care providers” to keep information and treatment of mental or emotional disorders secret from parents.

We all know what “mental and emotional disorders” are code for: transgenderism and other associated behaviors. Continue reading

The Shooting at Richneck Elementary – Part 2 – the School

By James C. Sherlock

Richneck Elementary Credit WAVY TV 10

The shooting at Richneck Elementary was a tragedy by every measure.

I am not going to discuss the shooting itself here.

I will instead offer a summary of the school’s state quality data so we can get a sense of the environment in that school.  It is located across I-64 from Fort Eustis in a neighborhood described in The New York Times as “generally safe”.

Fort Eustis hosts General Stanford Elementary, the highest performing elementary school in the Newport News Public Schools system.  In a neighborhood generally considered extraordinarily safe.  Hooah.

Continue reading

Area Principals Admit to Withholding National Merit Awards From Students

by Asra Q. Nomani

While Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid claims the principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) withheld National Merit awards from students in a “one-time human error,” parents at two local high schools got a Friday and Saturday night surprise.

The revelations are emerging after school district principals scrambled to a meeting Wednesday afternoon with the superintendent, after Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced a civil rights investigation into the controversy. Just as at TJHSST, the new revelations appear to impact many Asian-American students – one focus of the investigation.

In an email, obtained by the Fairfax County Times, Langley High School Principal Kim Greer pressed send on a mea culpa at 9:29:30 p.m. on Friday night, confusing, agitating, and angering parents and students already on edge during the tumultuous college admissions season.

Greer told parents that she was “delighted” to let them know that “your student was designated a Commended Student by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.” She then immediately followed up by saying, “I must apologize that certificates were not distributed to these Langley High School students in the usual way this past fall.”

Tonight, another email shared with the Fairfax County Times went out to parents at 8:39 p.m. This time, Tony DiBari, the “Proud Principal” at Westfield High School in Chantilly, told parents that “it has come to light that Westfield High School students designated as Commended Students this past fall were also not notified by the school.” Continue reading

The Shooting at Richneck Elementary – Part One

Police and EMS response at Richneck Elementary.  Credit WAVY TV 10

by James C. Sherlock

There is trauma everywhere you look.

A six-year-old boy shoots his teacher in school and we first consider the trauma.

Then we look for ways to minimize its effects.

And we simultaneously ask questions about the event itself. What happened and why?

Unless we are personally involved, and even if we are, we look for all of those answers almost immediately.

This first part of a series is about what is to be done with the kid shooter and how the widespread trauma, including his own, will be dealt with. Continue reading

Democrats Want to Raise Youngkin-Proposed Mental Health Budget Increase

Health Resources and Services Administration Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage Areas, by State, as of September 30, 2022, data.HRSA.go.                 Courtesy Governor Youngkin

by James C. Sherlock

There is fundamental agreement in Richmond over mental health services.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Virginia’s forecasts of long-term budget surpluses mean this year’s General Assembly has a chance to catch up with years of under-funding Virginia schools and the state’s behavioral health system, General Assembly Democrats say.

To govern is to choose. “Democrats” may wish they had used different words than “years of underfunding,” considering who had control in Richmond in 2020 and 2021.

But it is actually helpful that they now think even the governor’s proposal for a 20% increase in the mental health budget approved last year is not enough. If (a big if) more money can be spent efficiently and effectively.

The governor has proposed a $230 million increase in behavioral health program spending over what was approved last year.

So, as the old saying goes, they are just discussing price.

Let’s look at the behavioral health situation to see why. Continue reading

Preparing for the Costs to Government of Virginia’s Generation COVID

John Littel, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources

by James C. Sherlock

To justify her insistence on keeping schools closed, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in February of 2021, “kids are resilient and kids will recover.”

She brought that same message to Virginia.

In one of the strangest choices in Virginia political history, Terry McAuliffe brought Weingarten to Virginia to campaign with him on the last weekend of his losing gubernatorial campaign.

Thus sealing his defeat.

It turns out, as it was always going to, that you can’t keep kids out of school for up to a year and a quarter, homebound, and expect all of them to “recover.”

I will call here those in K-12 during COVID school shutdowns Generation COVID (Gen C).

I wrote the other day of an estimate by a renowned educational economist that the 1.2 million Gen C kids in Virginia public schools would lose several hundred billion dollars in lifetime earnings because of un-repaired damages to their learning of all types.

His critics here argued into the night about study methodology, but none denied costs at some level would be there. They did not offer their own estimates.

John Littel, Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, has the job of preparing his agencies for the lifetime social costs of those children. Continue reading

Afghan Immigrants and Their Children in Virginia – Part 2 – the Afghan Adjustment Act

Courtesy of Virginia Department of Social Services

by James C. Sherlock

When I wrote Part 1 of this series, I promised further investigation into immigration of Afghan allies into Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), a hero in this story, has been entirely forthcoming in answering my inquiries. I will recount in a follow-up post their work so far. But the federal government has much more to do.

As a retired Naval officer, I strongly support the bi-partisan Afghan Adjustment Act (the Act) sitting in committees in the House and Senate. We must do the right thing for allies who fought alongside us.

Neither the House nor the Senate acted upon the bill in 2022.

The VDSS Office of New Americans, funded by the federal government, is doing terrific work, but needs the help that the Act would bring.

VDSS is assisting 5,161 Afghan parolees.

Parole offers only limited, temporary benefits and — unlike refugees and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders — parolees have no clear path to permanent status. Instead, those thousands of parolees live in Virginia uncertain about their options or their future in the United States.

There are 2,123 additional Afghans in the Commonwealth that already have SIV designation.

Only California and Texas host more Afghans who have fled their country since the American withdrawal.

Both SIVs and parolees who qualify as SIVs but await very limited numbers of authorized visas are welcome with our thanks for their service. They can be expected to make major contributions to Virginia.

We owe them the chance to do that. That is why the Act is so necessary. Continue reading

RVA 5×5 – Holiday Briefing

by Jon Baliles

It’s Friday! Which means this newsletter would normally be filled with stories and analysis about what is happening in the RVA region (not all of it good), with an honest and insightful take (so far as that is possible). For instance, this week we could have stories about:

A non-profit that presented a homeless shelter plan to the City in June and still hasn’t received the go-ahead or money to open; so they raised $30,000 on their own this week to open a shelter this weekend because the Mayor and City haven’t been able to get their head out of the sand for SIX MONTHS to execute a contract. If a timeline helps your perspective, the City sent the latest contract to the non-profit on November 13th, which returned it to the City within two days. The non-profit did not receive a response until December 20. Temperatures will get down to ten degrees tonight and won’t get above 32 degrees until Monday. The only explanation has been another word-salad buffet from the mayor’s press office. Shameful.

The first concepts are coming into view about VCU’s 42-acre athletic village across from what will become the Diamond District development. This area is exploding!

At least eight to 10 very old and huge trees (some close to 100 years old) in Mosby Court were razed to the ground this week. Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority said that the trees were being cut “as part of a curb appeal improvement request that came from the City of Richmond to RRHA for several of our public housing sites.” The Mayor’s Office replied that “The city requested RRHA to pick up trash and remove brush — not trees.” This has got to be a government operation. More breadsticks, please. Continue reading

Red States Have Significantly Higher Percentages of Minors than Blue States

Courtesy Public Domain Pictures

by James C. Sherlock

The Census Bureau yesterday released part of its 2022 population estimates.

It showed marked differences in the percentages of children and adolescents under 18 among the states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Adults in red states are raising more children on average than those in blue states. And it is not a close call.

I did not have a figure in mind, but the magnitude of the imbalance surprised me.

Eighteen of the 20 states with the most kids as a percentage of their populations vote Republican. Of the other two, #12 Georgia has split its gubernatorial and Senate votes between the two parties. #16 Minnesota votes blue.

#30 Virginia is slightly below the national average in percentage of minors.

The United States population is estimated at 333,287,557 of which 72,450,827 are under the age of 18. The rule of large numbers applies.

#21 California, with nine million more people than #2 Texas, has only a million more minors. Continue reading

Why Aren’t Children Learning in Petersburg Public Schools?

by James C. Sherlock

Why aren’t Black children, on average, learning in Virginia public schools?

You have heard and perhaps internalized all of the excuses.

Cue the historical/social/cultural/economic theories. They are all interesting. And exhaustively pursued.

And irrelevant.

Black children in many Virginia urban public schools are not being taught properly in environments conducive to learning. Black students in those schools depress the averages for Black students statewide.

Money won’t fix that if it funds more of the same. No chance.

There is a different way. Continue reading