Category Archives: Discipline and disorder

Are Nonchalant Adults Responsible For School Shootings?

by Kerry Dougherty 


For instance, the former assistant principal at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News — Ebony Parker — has been indicted on eight criminal charges in connection with the shooting of first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner in January 2023.

This stunning act of senseless violence put Newport News in headlines around the world. After all, it isn’t often that a 6-year-old carries a loaded gun to school and attempts to kill his teacher.

The mother of the shooter, Deja Taylor, is in prison. She’s serving 21 months on federal gun charges and two years on state charges of felony child neglect.

But there is plenty of blame to spread around in this shocking case.

School officials were warned repeatedly about this boy’s antisocial and dangerous behavior. Yet he remained in a classroom with normal kids. On the day of the shooting at least one child reported that the kid had a gun and school administrators failed to take the report seriously.
In fact, according to a civil suit filed by Ms. Zwerner, who is seeking $40 million in damages, the shooter was a persistent discipline problem. He’d been kicked out of kindergarten and sent to another school after he reportedly tried to strangle and choke his teacher.

On the day of the shooting, Zwerner reportedly told Parker that the child was in a “violent mood.”

Yet nothing was done. Continue reading

Anarchy Visits Another School

Albemarle High School. Photo credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Teachers don’t feel safe in Albemarle High School, reports The Daily Progress. Within one recent week, a student punched a teacher in the face so hard he (or she) required medical treatment, while another student issued threats against teachers and classmates via social media and email. The newspaper reports other incidents such as a student slapping a language teacher in the face, a student throwing a chair at a teacher, and a student throwing an uncapped water bottle across the room.

“Students are roaming halls unchecked,” a teacher told The Daily Progress in an email. “Students are regularly cursing teachers out with NO repercussions. Consequences are inconsistently applied, if applied at all.”

“I want to assure you that we take the safety and security of our students and staff seriously, and such incidents will not be tolerated in our school,” Principal Darah Bonham communicated to parents.

Perhaps Bonham is serious about “not tolerating” violence. But how did the situation deteriorate to the present condition? Continue reading

Charlottesville, Its Public Schools and UVa – Part Four – Chronic Absenteeism, Social Promotion, VTSS and UVa’s Ed School

by James C. Sherlock

There is a rule: nothing else schools do will matter much for kids who are chronically absent.

In Charlottesville, it is the Black children who dominate the chronic absenteeism statistics.

Their SOL performance validates the rule.

The process for preventing and dealing with chronic absenteeism within the school system is so lengthy, bureaucratic and “progressive” (literally and figuratively) that it has failed Black children starting in kindergarten.

Absenteeism and social promotion are recipes for educational failure.

They also contribute directly to the breakdown of order and discipline in schools, as kids who are frustrated and lost in class act out first in disruptive, and then destructive ways.

Yet CCS schools allow runaway Black chronic absenteeism without truancy charges and engage in wholesale social promotion of Black students who do not have the academic skills to learn in the next grade.

Lest they be labeled racist.

What they get are racist outcomes. Continue reading

Charlottesville, Its Public Schools and UVa – Part Three – CCS Abandons Truancy Filings, Absenteeism Soars

Courtesy of

by James C. Sherlock

The effects of public policies can be murky.

Not this one.

The subject in this Part 3 is alarming chronic absenteeism of Charlottesville City Schools (CCS).  

At issue is the virtual abandonment by that division of the use truancy filings with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, removing parental consequences.  

That change has been accompanied by enormous increases in absenteeism and everything, all bad, that comes with it.

The numbers are stark. Continue reading

‘Defund the Police’ and Other Nonsense

by Joe Fitzgerald

“Defund the police” is a stupid slogan.

Give its proponents the benefit of the doubt, however. Maybe what they meant was return police to their core mission of protecting life and property, remove their frequent role as social worker or mental health counselor, demilitarize their responses to all but the most dangerous situations, and soften the qualified immunity defense. It’s still a stupid slogan, especially at the local level.

“Let cops be cops” might have been a better slogan if the murder of George Floyd hadn’t stoked anti-police sentiment in so many. The more rational response might have been reforms to the concept of qualified immunity, which is roughly the idea that a police officer can’t be prosecuted for a harmful or destructive reaction if he thought he was doing the right thing. “Defund the police” seems predicated more on the idea that all police are bad or that paying them less will improve policing or that having fewer of them will reduce crime.

The attitude behind the slogan on the left is half of a symbol of the polarization that keeps government from accomplishing anything. The other half is the anti-teacher sentiment on the right. Public safety and education are the two largest segments of any local budget. Someone once observed that a local government is a school system with a police force. In Harrisonburg, those two segments of the city budget consume 57 percent of local funding. Continue reading

Charlottesville, Its Public Schools and UVa – Part Two – Black Students

by James C. Sherlock

What drew me to this story is the fact that Black students in Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) have suffered to a degree unequaled elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Keeping in mind the domination of Charlottesville and its schools by the University of Virginia and its School of Education and Human Development discussed in Part One, we will move ahead from there.

CCS is a school system designed unusually with six schools for Pre-K-4, one for grades 5 and 6, another for 7 and 8, and a single high school with a couple of alternative programs.

Map of elementary school boundaries courtesy of Charlottesville City Schools.  Author’s annotations in overlays reflect Virginia School Quality data


The map above shows that the Pre-K-4 school boundaries roughly follow the city’s neighborhoods.

Now look at the elementary school performance and attendance annotations.

The biggest anomaly is that the gap between White and Black academic performance in CCS is an ocean. Worse than Richmond both in absolute performance by the Black students and relative to White students.

I can find nowhere in the Commonwealth, including other college towns (and I looked), in which White and Black public-school students exist in academic disparity to the extent they do in Charlottesville.

The Charlottesville High School riots reflect that gulf.  Buford Middle is worse.

CCS has managed to fail those Black children in a relatively balanced student demographic of 42% White, 29% Black, 14% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 10% multiple races.

The teachers have far more advanced degrees, most from UVa’s ed school, than the average school division.

It just doesn’t work.

Continue reading

Charlottesville, Its Public Schools and UVa – Part One – Bad things Happen

Charlottesville neighborhoods.  Courtesy Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition

by James C. Sherlock

In the relationship between Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, very bad things have happened to Charlottesville and continue to do so.

I have developed a working thesis on that relationship.

The city is at the mercy of the University by virtue of the latter’s wealth, influence, and power in Charlottesville elections.

It is, driven by University community voters, the bluest voting district in the Commonwealth.

Unfailingly progressive Charlottesville city council, school board and Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates are elected by the dominant votes of the University, its employees and its students.

Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) are to a large degree creatures of the University.

Many CCS teachers have their bachelors and/or advanced degrees from UVa’s School of Education and Human Development. Many University ed school students do their student teaching in Charlottesville.

Every progressive educational policy and virtually every experiment the University’s ed school can dream up are visited on those students.  The University’s ed school Research Centers and Labs find the proximity convenient and a pliant school board welcoming.

The University can’t bear to leave anything in CCS alone.

As Charlottesville High School faces the aftermath of rising rates of violence at the school and three canceled days of school due to alack of personnel, teachers at the University and other community groups have assisted in the school’s response. Faculty from the University’s School of Education and Human Development were present at development sessions with Charlottesville High School teachers aiming to address underlying issues….

“Dr. Stephanie Rowley, dean of the University’s Education School, said faculty from Education’s counselor education and educational psychology programs were particularly involved with the efforts because of the relevance of their expertise.”

There is no record of their being invited.

“Lack of personnel”.  The teachers walked out because of runaway violence.

The University “lent a hand”.

“In light of the University’s recent push to bolster its impact in Charlottesville, some members of the University who specialize in education attended the teacher work day meetings at Charlottesville High School.”

Seriously.  To “bolster (the University’s) impact in Charlottesville”.

For Black children in CCS schools, that influence, long-running and well-meaning though it has been, has turned out to have been a disaster unparalleled in the Commonwealth.

Continue reading

Wokeness As Social Disease: Charlottesville Schools Edition

by James A. Bacon

If you have any doubt that wokeness is the primary force responsible for collapsing discipline in Virginia public schools, eroding teacher morale, deteriorating learning conditions, and the educational impairment of tens of thousands of students, consider this story from Charlottesville.

After incessant student brawls this school year, 27 teachers at Charlottesville High School called a walk-out, effectively closing school for the day. Following an emergency meeting of the School Board, Chair James Bryant announced that classes would be cancelled Monday and Tuesday while students, teachers and staff planned a “reset.” Summarizes the Daily Progress:

That “reset” will be addressing a high school culture that many say has gotten out of control, with students roaming the halls during class time, instigating fights, disobeying administrators and even letting intruders into the school with the sole purpose of perpetrating violence.

The purpose of the “reset,” according to Bryant, is for staff to “return to our core purpose — offering a safe learning environment in which our students will grow and thrive.” Continue reading

Last Year’s SOL Performance — Meh

Table source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Department of Education is running two weeks late in releasing Standards of Learning (SOL) testing data for the 2022-23 school year. The reason cited by state Superintendent Lisa Coons, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is to process retake data and appeals.

The SOL results, as they appeared on a Richmond Public Schools website before being taken down, were disappointing. Far from reverting to the pre-COVID norm, student achievement remained mired in a post-lockdown slump. Reading and writing scores were mostly unchanged, history/civic scores eroded, and math and science scores improved only a little.

The Youngkin administration has not commented on the results. The only quote cited by the Richmond Times-Dispatch comes from James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, who dishes out the usual social justice-style rhetoric calling for more money. Continue reading

Charlottesville Schools Ban Student Cell Phones

A Yondr cell phone pouch.

by James A. Bacon

The Charlottesville public school system has banned the students’ use of cell phones. Superintendent Royal Gurley decries students’ “addiction” to the mobile devices, and teachers have complained that the phones have become a tremendous disruption in the classroom, reports The Daily Progress. The restrictions, school officials hope, will “increase connectivity between classmates and teachers improve mental well-being.”

Predictably, some parents are pushing back.

“It’s too extreme,” M.J. Smith, whose son is a senior at Charlottesville High School, told The Daily Progress. “I think it’s in the right place, but it comes across as heavy-handed and not well thought out in light of the active anxiety that the community is facing with another school year and active shooter robocalls. We’re all worried about that.”

I’ve got some questions for parents opposed to the ban. Continue reading

Virginia Redefines Student Progress in Grades 3-8 for Distributing Federal School Improvement Funds

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) on June 16th notified the federal Department of Education (USDOE) of its updated State Plan.

Such updates are required annually to allow the states to receive federal school improvement funds appropriated for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as updated by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The change was designed under the Northam administration to give credit for the first time in Virginia to a school for the progress of any student who has:

  • failed two consecutive state assessments on SOLs or the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) test (eligible students with significant cognitive disabilities); but
  • does better in the current year than the previous one.

It has been in the works for several years. This past school year was the second year of data collected under that system. That in turn provides comparable year-to-year data to show progress or lack of same for a student and the work of his or her school. Thus, the formula change will be implemented in the coming school year.

The change was designed to help identify the schools in Virginia who most need the ESEA funding rather than repeated cycles of identifying the same schools with poor minority student populations without giving credit for such progress.

It appears to be at least partially an attempt to improve morale — to give teachers in such schools credit for improvements with kids, say, who enter 5th grade unable to read but show progress on the next set of tests.

I don’t know what effect it will have, but I believe it is a good thing to try.

We’ll look at the entire process for distributing that particular pot of federal money in Virginia. Continue reading

SCHEV on the Community College Guaranteed Admission and Credits Programs

by James C. Sherlock

Image credit: Lumenlearning

I received a note from Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), in reference to my column on that program in early July.

He thanked, as do I, readers for their interest and supportive comments.

We agree with you that (Community College Guaranteed Admissions and Credits) are one of the most effective ways to expand access, improve retention and completion, and make college more affordable.

We (SCHEV) talk about it regularly in our various reports and recommendations.

We have a standing item in our annual tuition and fees report that calculates how much a student can save by following a pathway that goes through a community college.

For years, we have worked on improving systems that guarantee not only admission but also acceptance of community college credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

We could always do more outreach, so we appreciate your interest in the subject and the positive response you received from your readers.

It is important that the state offers a way to mitigate substandard K-12 educations. Virginia does that very well as far as I can tell.

It is important to spread the word.

But the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) cannot replace fully the lack of a solid grounding in life and academics in K-12. Continue reading

Judge Orders LCPS to Turn Over Investigation into the Assaults and Rape at Two County Schools

by Jeanine Martin

Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James P. Fischer has ordered Loudoun County Public Schools to turn over its internal investigation into the assaults and rape that occurred in 2021 at two Loudoun County high schools.

The school system had argued that it was privileged information that they need not share with the public. Judge Fischer disagreed and ordered the report to be turned over to the public within 7 days.


The ruling is a win for Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who has been fighting to expose how he says the school district mishandled the incidents.

The judge agreed with prosecutors from the Miyares’ office that the internal report on the 2021 sexual assaults and rape on school grounds was not protected under attorney-client privilege — noting that then-Superintendent Scott Ziegler gave the perception that any findings from the independent investigation were for the public’s benefit.

In a statement, Miyares’ spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said in part, “We appreciate the courts time and attention to this matter.”

More on the story here.

This piece was originally appeared in The Bull Elephant and is reprinted with permission.

Does Virginia Beach School Board Care About Girls’ Sports?

by Kerry Dougherty

If you live in Virginia Beach, I have some questions for you:

Did you sit at home while the Bathrobe Brigade on the School Board fought to keep schools closed, long after we knew kids weren’t at risk from Covid-19?

Did you watch on public access TV as the hysterical hypochondriacs of the School Board battled to keep face diapers on kids long after we knew they were doing absolutely nothing to stop the spread?

Did you sit on your hands when you learned that graphic novels featuring oral gay sex were on the shelves of public schools and the woke majority on the School Board wanted to keep them there?

Well, it’s time to get out of your La-Z-Boy and join the weary parents and grandparents who have been fighting your battles for you.

Get to tonight’s school board meeting at 6 p.m. Join the 87 people who had signed up to speak as of late yesterday, according to board member Vicky Manning.
Continue reading

Virginia’s New School Chief: Raise Standards, Fill Teacher Vacancies

Lisa Coons. Image taken from Virginia Department of Education YouTube clip.

by James A. Bacon

Dr. Lisa Coons, Virginia’s new superintendent for public instruction, has been on the job for only two weeks, but she has clear priorities for reversing the slide in educational achievement in Virginia’s public schools: raise standards, get chronically absentee kids back into the classroom, and address teacher shortages.

Recruited from her job as chief academic officer for the Tennessee public school system, Coons filled the vacancy created by the resignation of Jillian Balow. She granted Bacon’s Rebellion her first media interview. I started with an open-ended question: What are the greatest challenges facing Virginia public schools today? Her gut response: Recruit more teachers.

“We have to get a high-quality teacher in every classroom in the state,” she said. “Remove the barriers and challenges to processing licenses. Create plenty of pathways to bring people into the [teaching] workforce.”

Raising teacher pay is one obvious strategy for reversing the brain drain from schools. Lawmakers have funded significant pay hikes for Virginia teachers, but the raises have lagged cost-of-living increases. Improving working conditions is another approach. Virginia teachers consistently cite disciplinary issues, unsupportive administrators, and lack of respect from students and parents as morale busters. But those issues are inherently local and not amenable to top-down action from Richmond. Rather, Coons is focusing on changing state-level regulations with the goal of enlarging the pool of teachers. Continue reading