Catholic Schools: Boldly Putting Kids First

by Kerry Dougherty

Any parent of a kid with disabilities will tell you, more than anything else in the world, their child just wants to fit in.

Not easy when you’re a little different.

My son doesn’t mind if I tell you he has severe learning disabilities. He’s worked hard his whole life to overcome them. But I still remember his look of surprise and relief on the morning of his first day of 1st grade at St. Gregory the Great in Virginia Beach.

We held hands as we walked from the parking lot to the line for his class. He was taking deep breaths and squeezing my hand.

Then he caught sight of his classmates and his first-day nervousness evaporated .
“We’re all wearing the same thing!” he exclaimed.

The 26 or so children in his class were all dressed as he was, in khaki shorts, polo shirts with the school logo, brown shoes and socks.

In that moment I saw the genius behind school uniforms. They give every kid – even the ones who struggle to keep up – a sense of belonging.
Over the years I’ve launched plenty of criticism at the Catholic church. From the molestation scandals to more minor things like unsanitary practices at mass: holy water, communal cups and rampant hand-holding.

Not today.

A few days ago Kelly Lazzara, the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Richmond, boldly announced that Catholic schools will be open for “in-class instruction.” Five days a week.


She made this decision even before the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its statement saying kids need to be back in the classroom. The AAP suggests social distancing of 3 feet instead of 6 and putting more pint-sized riders on buses than the CDC’s nutty one-child-every-other-row would allow.

Oh, and the umbrella organization of 67,000 pediatricians acknowledged that the risk of the coronavirus to kids appears to be low.

Policy makers must also consider the mounting evidence regarding COVID-19 in children and adolescents, including the role they may play in transmission of the infection. SARS-CoV-2 appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance regarding school closures is based. Although children and adolescents play a major role in amplifying influenza outbreaks, to date, this does not appear to be the case with SARS-CoV-2. Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection. Policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within schools must be balanced with the known harms to children, adolescents, families, and the community by keeping children at home.

As public schools suck their thumbs and concoct cockamamie plans like two days in class and three days of virtual “learning,” Catholic schools are the first to do what’s in the best interest of the students.

Good for them. Other private schools – not held hostage by recalcitrant teachers unions – will no doubt follow suit.

If public schools remain stuck in unworkable reopening models because teachers refuse to return to the classroom or superintendents are afraid to reopen fully, parents of school-aged children should be eligible for property tax rebates that they can use for private school tuition.

Call ‘em vouchers. I don’t care. Just get the kids back to school.

This column is republished with permission from

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24 responses to “Catholic Schools: Boldly Putting Kids First

  1. Ooooh, there’s a joke in that headline…

    As often as the Catholic has demonstrated, throughout history, just how wrong they can be, this is not a ringing endorsement for reopening.

    Rufus : I’m telling you, man, this opening is a big mistake.
    Cardinal Glick : The Catholic Church does not make mistakes.
    Rufus : Please. What about the Church’s silent consent to the slave trade?
    Bethany : And its platform of noninvolvement during the Holocaust?
    Cardinal Glick : All right, mistakes were made.

    • Ignore him Kerry. The Episcopal girls school where my wife taught in Richmond is also going to fully open. Let’s see if he wants to attack Henry VIII next….

      • Attack him? I admire his sense of fair alimony.

        Hey, as for the Catholic Church and, oh say, slavery. The Jesuits at Georgetown owned some 250 slaves, which they eventually sold in Louisiana. My wife said, “That’s horrible!” I replied, “Hey, for Jesuits, slavery was a major improvement.”

        • Free pass from your side on hate speech against the Catholic Church, Nancy. You must be in big demand for progressive cocktail parties.

          The Catholic Church is the largest public charity in history.

          The Church runs 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, with 65 percent of them located in underdeveloped and developing countries. It is the world’s largest provider of health care.

          Around 4,500 Missionary Sisters of Charity (founded in 1950 by Mother Teresa) care for hundreds of thousands of poor refugees, mentally ill, the aged and convalescent, sick and abandoned children, lepers, and people with AIDS – in addition to running schools to educate street children and managing soup kitchens around the world.

          Then sum up all the small-scale charitable projects of more than 200,000 Catholic parishes around the world and those of individual religious orders.

          But I am glad I am glad you continue to find targets for your unmatched wit. I am sure your own contributions make those of the Catholic Church pale by comparison.

          • Nancy_Naive

            It’s history. And we haven’t even talked about Ireland. Anyway, coming down on the opposite side as the Church in matters of science is always a good bet.

          • Until the French Revolution, the RCC was the leading sponsor of scientific research.

            You should read “The Genesis of Science” before making such completely factually devoid statements.

        • You wrote:
          “It’s history. And we haven’t even talked about Ireland. Anyway, coming down on the opposite side as the Church in matters of science is always a good bet.”

          Lots of things are history. The Catholic Church is more than 2000 years old. Many saints and many sinners. It remains the largest charitable organization and largest provider of healthcare in the world.

          I look forward with some interest to your essay on Ireland. My family came from Ireland on both sides.

          Finally, I am sure that 67,000 pediatricians are breathless with anticipation of your opinion of the science of sending kids to school in the era of COVID-19.

  2. I am happy to see that Kelly is admitting that the AAP is saying that children are less likely to spread COVID-19. A couple of days ago, she was saying that the organization supported her assertion that children did not spread the disease.

    And I agree with her on the subject of school uniforms. I have long thought that they should be required. There has been talk in the past about public school uniforms in the Richmond area. Del. Lamont Bagby, the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, is on record favoring them.

  3. I was not aware of the Episcopal school stance, was told that the Church itself is not yet opening ….

    In terms of “full-open” , it’ll be interesting to see if private schools do follow suite…. They actually have a better chance in that most do not offer school buses and other congregating activities.

    And as I have said before, I have no problem with taxpayer-funded vouchers as long as those schools accept all demographics, do not force religion, and provide transparency and accountability on their academic performance.

    As far as uniforms, I support them but I also point out that it’s a severe restriction on “rights” – something Kerry reminds us of for a whole lot of other things.. Again – picking and choosing what she likes… no consistency – just what she wants.

    • Facts that apply here:
      – No one has a right to belong to any private organization.
      – Private organizations get to set rules for membership
      – Anyone who is a member of a private organization has the unfettered right to leave if he or she does not like that organization’s rules.
      – Asking a religious school “not to force religion” violates fundamental constitutional rights.
      – The use of vouchers by parents to choose religious schools is just that, a choice by parents not the government.
      – The Supreme Court decision yesterday found that said the State of Montana was not required to “subsidize private education” but that if it did, “it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

      Most Democratic politicians oppose vouchers at least in part because teachers unions are a strong part of the Democratic base and provide some of the most reliable foot soldiers for campaigns.

      Yet vouchers have been proven everywhere to improve education for the poorest kids, an outcome to which every politician pledges allegiance.

      Most importantly, virtually none of the politicians who oppose vouchers have children who would qualify for them because of income caps. I think that is true of nearly all of those who oppose the program. The beneficiaries are not their kids.

      If their kids were stuck in a poor performing, undisciplined public school in an inner city or a declining coal mining town somewhere, they would rush to participate.

      • Basically – if a private school wants students to be able to be publically-funded – they have to choose if they want to be truly open to all kids regardless of demographics or religion or not.

        I’d support ANY private school that is “open” and does not require religious instruction – as opposed to any child of any religion can attend without prejudice.

        You mention the Constitution. It’s freedom FROM religion, no?

        and those required uniforms – that don’t sound very “Constitutional” either…………..

        We have folks who say that private schools can do a better job than public schools. I’m all for the competition as long as they also recognize the “right” of the child to not be religious AND they conform to transparency and disclosure of academic performance such that the use of public dollars is justified on the same basis as public schools.

        I think SOME schools might do this. Others will not want to exclude religion or disclose their academic performance – and thus not qualify for the use of public funds – either voucher or tax credit.

        Just can’t have it both ways.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I expect to see some form of exodus from public education. Something that has happened in Virginia since the integration of schools. It will certainly shape the politics and policies of education in Virginia. I believe the school boards and superintendents are underestimating this challenge to public schools.

  5. The private schools I know in Fairfax County are falling over themselves with promises of 5 days per week of in-school education while the governor, public school board and teachers’ unions stumble in the dark like drunken rhinos. COVID19 is turning out to be very profitable for the private schools. One is asking and getting a 12.5% tuition increase from last year to this year. Profiting on the incompetence and intransigence of government is well understood up here in NoVa.

    Pity the children whose parents lack the financial resources to avoid the epic meltdown of public school education in America.

    Virginia’s public schools have been given more second chances than a Redskins quarterback. It’s time to dismantle Virginia’s BigEd monopoly with vouchers. School choice has become a matter of national survival. We cannot continue to entrust the public school education system that has failed us for decades.

  6. I support the concept of private schools – for a number of reasons – not the least of which is as competitors to force Public Schools to respond to what parents and the public want from them.

    Having said that – the public schools are held to a different standard.

    For instance, some say they like the idea of uniforms. I cannot imagine the upheaval if Fairfax County schools mandated uniforms. All legal hell would break loose.

    Similarly – ask the private schools to stay secular – and seek to serve kids of varied beliefs and many would refuse.

    I support public funding of secular private schools as long as they will accept all demographics that public schools have to and as long as they publish their academic standards and those standards are equivalent to public schools – or worldwide PISA standards… and they publish results.

    The Virgina SOLs are well known and, in fact, many online K-12 specifically advertises that their curriculum conforms to the Va SOLs.

    Private schools can do the same easily, if they want to and again, I’d support tax credits for parents for the school that meet those standards.

    • With the just-released U.S. Supreme Court opinion, government cannot fund secular private schools and not fund religious private schools. Government can either fund all private schools or none at all. The court decision dealt specifically with tax credits, but I assume that it would apply to vouchers, as well.

      • I might have mispoke. This is what I meant: ” In the private school world, you may see schools listed as nonsectarian or non-denominational, which essentially means that the institution does not adhere to a particular religious belief or tradition”

        I agree with the SCOTUS opinion. There should be no public money for schools that have religious involvement.

        • That is not what SCOTUS ruled, Larry. The ruling was that Montana does not have to fund private schools, but that if it does, “it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

          • saw that… Can they be “religious” but not require religious instruction?

          • Not sure how SCOTUS got to that decision but it does seem to upend the separation of Church and State and perhaps that’s the way it will be from now on.

            I’m thinking other shoes will drop……

      • Now, if they’d just follow those same rules on other issues.

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