Category Archives: Discipline and disorder

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

About That 6-Year-Old’s “Acute Disability”…

by James A. Bacon

Kudos to The Washington Post for continuing to dig into the particulars of the shooting by a 6-year-old student of a Newport News elementary school teacher. The latest revelations raise urgent questions about the causes of the breakdown of discipline at Richneck Elementary School and other schools across the commonwealth.

As the Post reports, school officials downplayed repeated warnings about the boy’s behavior, dismissing a threat to light a teacher on fire and watch her die.

Speaking through their attorney, the boy’s parents said that he has an “acute disability.” In one instance, he wrote a note saying that he hated his teacher and wanted to set her on fire. In another, he threw furniture, prompting students to hide beneath their desks. In yet another, he barricaded the doors to a classroom, preventing a teacher and students from leaving.

A six-year-old terrorizing the class. I shudder to think what he’ll be like when he’s ten or twelve.

The main question consuming the media is how the child gained access to a handgun, which his parents stated they store out of reach with a trigger lock. That’s a legitimate question. But there’s another: why was that child in school in the first place? 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

Spotsylvania Pandemonium

Posted for the benefit of readers who are still in denial about the meltdown in discipline and the epidemic of violence in Virginia schools:

There have always been fights in schools. It’s never been like this.

Part II: School Discipline, Virginia Data and Virginia’s Disproportionality Concerns

This is the second of a three-part series on school discipline. The authors present information and provide discussion questions for the audience to respond. We hope the discussion will further an understanding of the complexity of school discipline and safe and orderly schools within the context of the presented data.

by Matthew Hurt and Kathleen Smith

Findings from Virginia Data

Data on school discipline are abundant, but not always reliable. The reasons are many. Overall, data are reported by infraction to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and to the Office of Civil Rights by each school division. One kind of infraction in one school division may be deemed another kind of infraction by another division. For example, using a curse word while talking to a teacher could be considered disrespect or a threat, depending on who is entering the data in the system. Although the VDOE has attempted to clarify the language over time, it still may not be reliable. For this reason, the data used herein refer to only a few data points of what is reported to the Office of Civil Rights by divisions for each school every two years in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. This data can be found here. Some data are highlighted below.

Congruency Matters in Learning and Discipline Data

Congruency means that percent of total of a discipline indicator should be similar or equal to the enrollment percent of total. In other words, in 2017-2018, if 22 percent of students are Black, then 22 percent of Black students should have been suspended. In 2017-2018, 51 percent of the total number of suspensions were of Black students. This means that the Black population’s results are not congruent to the actual percent of the Black students in the total population. Continue reading

School Discipline, Part I: Framing School Discipline and National Data

by Matthew Hurt and Kathleen Smith

This is the first of a three-part series on school discipline. The authors present the information and then provide discussion questions. We hope the discussion will further an understanding of the complexity of school discipline and safe and orderly schools. Part I of this series frames school discipline and provides the latest national data from the Office of Civil Rights. Part II dives into Virginia data regarding suspensions, expulsions, and school arrests and context for Virginia’s disproportionality concerns. Part III discusses how discipline has been “reframed” in recent years.

School discipline is not a simple problem. There are some aspects that educators have a great deal of power to address and other aspects that are outside their ability to influence. Recent events have also likely caused school discipline to become more complex and difficult to address.

From an Administrator’s Experience

When Dr. Matthew Hurt was an assistant principal in a K-8 school 20 years ago, discipline was among his main duties. By working with teachers, students, parents, and staff, disciplinary infractions declined each year.

He learned early-on that suspending students was like throwing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. The practice gave students a vacation where likely no one was there to help them catch up on their work. As it provided no disincentive to stop negative behaviors, the administration focused on in-school suspension. Staff found this was a significantly better deterrent. With in-school suspensions (ISS), the school employed an individual who worked with the kids to make sure any missed instruction was mitigated. For smaller infractions, students would be assigned to ISS during their lunch and exploratory classes (PE, music, etc.) so they wouldn’t miss any core instruction. Kids hated missing the social time with their peers, and this provided great incentive to improve their behavior.

The second lesson Dr. Hurt learned is that the administration had to support teachers with discipline. Teachers realized that what they did in their classrooms was prized, and that they were supported for not tolerating any shenanigans while teaching. Their instructional time was extremely precious. The administration supported the in-class disciplinary measures that teachers implemented and told them to send kids to the office as soon as their behavior became untenable. Students realized quickly that once their teacher sent them out of the classroom, consequences were quickly and progressively meted out.

Like every other school, this school enrolled students who frequently needed discipline, and a lot of time was spent with those students. The administration’s philosophy was that if a student was misbehaving, there were usually factors that must be taken into consideration. Disciplinary consequences were consistent regardless of those factors, but they realized there may be some mitigating interventions that could be applied to improve future behaviors. Many of these students lived in chaotic and sometimes violent homes. Staff realized that they had to double their efforts to ensure that these students had stability during the school day and realized that teachers and administrators were there to support their efforts to be successful at school. The administration spent a lot of time working with parents to find out their perspective about their kid’s behavior. They also worked with outside agencies to better coordinate necessary services. The more successful school staff were at identifying student social/emotional needs and mitigating those, the more successful they were at mitigating their negative behaviors.
Continue reading

“We Have Failed Our Students Under the Guise of Grace”

by James A. Bacon

The breakdown of discipline in some of Virginia’s public schools is so stark that it has penetrated the ideological filters of the The Washington Post news staff. The lede to the WaPo’s article about last night’s Newport News School Board meeting sums up the picture nicely:

Dozens of teachers and parents unleashed fury, fear and frustration on the Newport News school board Tuesday evening, saying systemic problems throughout the district created the climate in which, police said, a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher earlier this month.

Emotions ran so high that in “something of a mass catharsis” citizens called for the superintendent to be fired.

Many said discipline at district schools had deteriorated, resulting in unsafe classrooms, and they noted that the shooting at Richneck Elementary School was the third in the district since fall 2021. Several teachers said they were not supported when facing violence in the classroom or even attacks by students. And speakers repeatedly charged that the district cared more about keeping its official discipline statistics low than properly handling students who act out.

What’s this? Deteriorating discipline? Teachers feeling unsupported by administrators when threatened or attacked by students? Administrators suppressing the violent reality by manipulating statistics? Where-o-where have readers heard that before? Oh, here on Bacon’s Rebellion. Over and over. now it’s not just us saying it. Now it’s The Washington Post. Continue reading

Newport News Schools Making Changes After Shooting – But Not Enough Yet

Evolve Technology
Courtesy Kenton Brothers

by James C. Sherlock

Better late than never. Truly.

The Daily Press reported today that the Newport News school board has secured funding for state-of-the-art metal detectors.

State-of-the-art means systems that can detect weapons without the long lines and delays we associate with such systems.

As an example, a 125-year-old company, Kenton Brothers, offers Evolve Technology that combines artificial intelligence with digital sensors that they claim can screen visitors and students 10 times faster that older methods.

Kenton Brothers inevitably has competitors with similar technologies. Perhaps better ones.  These systems won’t keep teachers or kids from getting assaulted in schools, but should reduce knifings and shootings.

Which is something.

But to restore order, metal detectors must be paired with old-school zero tolerance discipline. The long-adopted, utterly failed Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) discipline system must be scrapped in Newport News schools.

Which is something else. 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

R.I.P. Virginia Public Schools

Martin Luther King Middle School Richmond. Credit RCPS.

by James C. Sherlock

I have crafted and will share what I believe to be an epitaph for public education in Virginia.

All of the evidence we see is that Virginia’s public school system, counseled and cheered on by its disgraceful publicly funded schools of education, is crumbling at its foundations.

We start children in school at ever younger ages to give them a head start. We have moved supervision of child care to the Department of Education, thus rearranging the deck chairs.

Many of the adults in the system, and quite possibly many of the students, have given up on education in actual facts. Adults argue about the teaching of history as if, evidence aside, kids were going to learn it.

Displacing traditional course time, teachers are directed to spend dedicated hours to try to instill social-emotional learning that kids traditionally learned at home.

Those kids who already have those skills sit wondering what they have done wrong.

The lessons plans, unfortunately, will tell them soon enough.

But that is just the beginning. 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

Conservatives Are Exaggerating Violence In Schools: Newport News Edition

Hot off the wires from The Virginian-Pilot:

A teacher was injured in a shooting Friday afternoon at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, according to police and school officials.

No students were injured but an adult was taken to the hospital. Police believe they have the person responsible in custody and said there is no longer an active shooter.

A Newport News school district spokesperson confirmed the adult is a teacher. The extent of the teacher’s injuries [was] unknown.

Never fear. This won’t affect teacher morale. I have it on the highest authority that the explanation for the increasingly acute teacher shortage in Virginia is the Youngkin administration’s policies on transgenderism and prohibition on the teaching of “real” history!

— JAB

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. Continue reading

Junior ROTC – Important to Students, High Schools, Society and the National Defense

Cadet Andrea Ellerbe, Richmond N.C. Senior High School JROTC

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond Senior High School (RSHS) is a 1,200-student grades-10-to-12 school in the Sandhills Region of North Carolina.

Its mission, vision and belief statements genuflect at none of the shrines of progressive dogma. Not a single one.

Minority enrollment is 57% of the student body (majority Black), which is higher than the North Carolina state average of 54% (majority Black).

RSHS is ranked in the top 10% of high schools in North Carolina for math proficiency. That is after, as is a practice in the North Carolina system, the best students have been skimmed off to Richmond Early College High on the same campus, but whose school is graded separately.

All RSHS students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly 90% of students and parents surveyed agreed the school was competitive. That still, at least to those parents, seemed a good thing.

The school features its Army Junior ROTC program.

It is a source of pride, as is highly awarded and accomplished scholar and athlete Cadet Major Andrea Ellerbe, pictured above.

Ellerbe’s future plans include attending East Carolina University in fall of 2023 as part of the ROTC program majoring in business and accounting.

The New York Times (NYT) literally cannot imagine any of that.

Dismayed by JROTC and playing to its base, The New York Times published an article headlined “Thousands of Teens Are Being Pushed Into Military’s Junior R.O.T.C.”

Cue the progressive rending of garments. Tears were shed on the Upper East Side for the micro aggressions suffered both in the research for the article — and in reading it.

They don’t get it. Never will.

They have never met Cadet Major Ellerbe. Continue reading