by James C. Sherlock
Virginia’s school threat assessment and mitigation processes are broken, putting entire school communities in danger.
The University of Virginia shootings and the rapes at two Loudoun County high schools were each preventable had the focus been on intervention by authorities responsible to do so. It was clearly not.
School cultures are an issue, but not an excuse.
One signal in progressive jurisdictions is the creation of committees and teams to define and enforce progressive cultural orthodoxy. At the extremes, leaders will even assign cultural enforcers to teams that have serious threat deliberation and action responsibilities.
Like threat assessment teams.
But that is insufficient excuse here. I see four factors at play in all three tragedies.
- Special situation policies and plans — like those that failed in Virginia’s pandemic response and more recently in school threat responses — usually fail without executive interest, oversight, and the training, exercise, accountability and inspection of action agencies prior to need.
- The chief executives of the Loudoun County Public Schools and the University of Virginia failed to set a clear tone and show by their actions that school safety took precedence over extraneous considerations and values.
- Second-tier executives with specific responsibilities for safety at UVa and in the Loudoun school system (at least one principal) failed to do their duties.
- The individual members of threat teams do not shed their personal executive authorities and responsibilities upon meeting as a group. They remain personally responsible and have to carry out their duties against cultural headwinds and enforcers. They failed in the UVa case. It is nowhere clear they were even used in the Loudoun cases.
There was a price paid for those failures. But only a single member of that hierarchy has been fired, and that happened yesterday in Loudoun county.
Five UVa students and two Loudoun County girls paid very high prices indeed. Continue reading