Disadvantaged, Disabled and Homeless

In the last post I pledged to explore, and hopefully to explain, the social epidemic of broken kids. For all our rising incomes and for all our advances in health care, the number of children suffering from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as the number diagnosed with autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other cognitive and emotional disorders appears to be on the rise. The problem cannot be attributed to one single cause. It is multi-factorial and complex.

I’m certainly no expert, just a journalist trying to understand what’s happening. One place to start is to look at numbers generated by the Virginia Department of Education and made accessible through its searchable Build-a-Table database of Standards of Learning test takers. VDOE tracks the number of kids designated disadvantaged (eligible for free school lunch programs), disabled (falling within one of 10 sub-classifications), and homeless. All are associated with higher failure rates in SOL tests, and all are associated with behavioral problems that disrupt classes for other children.


In absolute terms, the number of homeless children is not huge (although certainly way higher than one would hope for) — 7,000 in the 2017-18 school year. But the increase is alarming — the number has quadrupled over the 12 years for which VDOE has data.

Homeless children no doubt come from a wide variety of circumstances. The parents of some may be just down on their luck. Other parents may be drug addicts or alcoholics, or rotating in and out of jail. Many have bounced back and forth between homeless shelters, the homes of family members, and their own apartments. The lives of most are disordered if not downright chaotic. There is a good chance they experience physical and emotional abuse or neglect in ways that effect their learning and social behavior.

The population of children with disabilities is far larger — more than 90,000 last year. In a previous post, I had noted that the increase over the 12-year period did not seem calamitous, only 4%. But I did not look closely enough at the data. The period between 2005-06 and 2009-10 showed a decline in the number of children with disabilities. I have no explanation for that decline, and it seems to fly in the face of all other evidence, so I suspect it may be a statistical artifact of how the data was collected or reported. If we look at the period of 2009-10 to 2017-18, we see an increase of 9.4%.

The big drivers of the disability numbers in recent years appear to be autism and ADHD, causes are not well understood but appear to be medical in origin, not tied to social conditions. It’s not clear how much those disorders have increased versus how many children have been reclassified from one disability to another. Regardless, under our current legal structure which mandates that children be placed in the least restrictive environment possible, many of these children are being mainstreamed with implications for public school  budgets and the maintenance of classroom discipline.


Meanwhile, despite a growing economy since 2008 and a declining jobless rate, the number of disadvantaged students has increased relentlessly as well. Many of these children come from broken homes with single mothers and are more likely to be exposed to the pathologies of America’s poverty sub-culture. Not only do they get less support at home for their schooling, they are more likely to endure physical and emotional abuse and neglect and, therefore, overlap to a significant degree with the kids with disabilities.

With the number of disadvantaged, disabled, and homeless kids all on the rise, Virginia’s public schools face unprecedented challenges. I have been highly critical of the public schools in the past, and I acknowledge that I have not been fully appreciative of how difficult their task is. We are facing a societal crisis, an epidemic of broken children arising in part from spreading social dysfunction and in part from medical causes we don’t fully understand, and these social and medical problems are being dumped onto the schools.

I’m still skeptical of the shift toward a disciplinary system based on the principles of restorative justice. I’m still suspicious that school officials are covering up the dysfunction by gaming numbers. I’m still not convinced that “mo’ money” is always the answer. But there seems no denying that schools are caught between a budgetary rock and a hard place of needy children. Society no longer looks to schools merely to educate but to address problems that originated elsewhere.

There are currently no comments highlighted.

6 responses to “Disadvantaged, Disabled and Homeless

  1. re: so are you a “leftist” liberal or a Conservative when it comes to the role of government?

    Would you, for instance, agree and support the govt paying for the “needs” of autistic and other kids with problems but not pay for economically disadvantaged kids?

    Is there a point where the schools (taxpayers) are done with the “needs”?

    I consider myself a fiscal conservative but socially moderate so that I do believe the govt and taxpayers are responsible for these kids.

    So what is the Conservative viewpoint? I have no trouble believing that the govt/taxpayers are responsible for these kids but I often get the impression from the frequent brickbats about education from the Conservative folks here that they would not agree.

    So, how about it? What is the Conservative viewpoint with respect to the govt/taxpayers paying for the “needs” of these kids?

    It goes without saying that we want to minimize the costs so that’s not an answer. Is this something that govt and taxpayers should be paying for?
    Are we “responsible” for the needs of these kids or are we not?

    When we talk about “accountability” and “gaming the numbers” – etc… exactly what would we have the schools do that they are not already doing – and what about these “alternative” private schools? Do we expect transparency and accountability from them also?

    by the way – on scope and scale – this is not a small thing.. take a look at how many schools that are in the same realm as the one that Jim visited:

    Accotink Academy Springfield
    Alice C. Tyler Village of Childhelp East Lignum
    Alternative Paths Training School – Alexandria Campus Alexandria
    Alternative Paths Training School – Fredericksburg Campus Fredericksburg
    Aurora School, The Leesburg
    Barry Robinson Center, The Norfolk
    Bear Creek Academy Cumberland
    Boys Home of Virginia Covington
    BREC Academy Petersburg
    Bridges Treatment Center Lynchburg
    Brook Road Academy Richmond
    Building Blocks Center for Children with Autism Danville
    Charterhouse School Richmond
    Charterhouse School – Edinburg Edinburg
    Cumberland Academy New Kent
    Discovery School of Virginia for Girls Dillwyn
    Discovery School of Virginia, Inc. Dillwyn
    Dominion Academy Richmond
    Dooley School Richmond
    East End Academy Newport News
    Elite Academy Fredericksburg
    Elk Hill – Charlottesville School Charlottesville
    Elk Hill – Harambee School at Elk Hill Farm Goochland
    Elk Hill – Staunton School Staunton
    Faison School Richmond
    Girls in Focus Academy N. Chesterfield
    Gladys H. Oberle School, The – Fredericksburg Fredericksburg
    Hallmark Youthcare Richmond Richmond
    Harbor Point Behavioral Health Center Portsmouth
    HopeTree Academy Salem
    HopeTree WOODS New Castle
    Hughes Center Danville
    Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services Jarratt
    Kellar School of Inova Kellar Center, The Fairfax
    Kempsville Center for Behavioral Health Norfolk
    KEYS Academy – Charlottesville Charlottesville
    KEYS Academy – Culpeper Culpeper
    Kids in Focus Academy 1 N. Chesterfield
    Lafayette School Troy
    LEAD Center, The Hopewell
    Liberty Point Behavioral Healthcare, LLC Staunton
    LIFES Academy Rocky Mount
    Little Keswick School Keswick
    Little Kids in Focus 1 N. Chesterfield
    Little Kids in Focus 2 N. Chesterfield
    Matthew’s Center Manassas
    Metropolitan Day School Richmond
    Minnick Schools – Bristol Bristol
    Minnick Schools – Harrisonburg Harrisonburg
    Minnick Schools – Roanoke Roanoke
    Minnick Schools – Wise Wise
    Minnick Schools – Wytheville Wytheville
    Morrison School, The Bristol
    Newport News Behavioral Health Center Newport News
    North Spring Behavioral Healthcare Leesburg
    Northstar Academy Henrico
    Oakland School Troy
    Oakwood School Annandale
    Oyster Point Academy Newport News
    Phillips Building Futures ~ Loudoun Leesburg
    Phillips School ~ Annandale and Phillips Building Futures ~ Fairfax Annandale
    Phillips School ~ Fairfax Fairfax
    Rivermont School – Alleghany Highlands Covington
    Rivermont School – Chase City Chase City
    Rivermont School – Dan River Danville
    Rivermont School – Fredericksburg Fredericksburg
    Rivermont School – Greater Petersburg Dinwiddie
    Rivermont School – Hampton Hampton
    Rivermont School – Lynchburg Lynchburg
    Rivermont School – NOVA Springfield
    Rivermont School – Roanoke Roanoke
    Rivermont School – Rockbridge Fairfield
    Rivermont School – Tidewater VA Beach
    Sarah Dooley Center for Autism Richmond
    Three Rivers Academy Kenbridge
    Timber Ridge School Cross Junction
    Virginia Home for Boys and Girls – The John G. Wood School Richmond
    Virginia Institute of Autism Charlottesville
    White Oak School Chatham
    Youth For Tomorrow Bristow

  2. Well, start with what the law already requires, which is substantial.
    http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/parents/index.shtml

  3. My God, all these horrible statistics in post after post. I can’ keep up with it all. But am reminded of the famous question, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

    • When you consider together the following charts labelled

      1/ Disadvantaged Students, Virginia Schools (English reading SOL test takers),

      2/ Disabled Students, Virginia Schools (English reading SOL test takers),

      3/ Homeless Students, all Virginia Schools (English reading SOL test takers)

      4/ Two Cranky charts found inhttps://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/social-promotions-as-high-as-40-in-some-school-districts/

      5/ the chart shown in BR’s post titled Cranky Shows the Educrats How Its Done, posted on November 27, 2028,

      When you consider all of the emotion on this charts altogether, you begin to realize enormous damage our society, culture and institutions is wreaking on generations of our children and youth, all of them, from top to bottom.

      The elite in this country is in the process of destroying an entire nation, its, culture, and institutions, starting with its children, working its way up from K to 12, and then through colleges and universities, thought graduate school.

  4. Correction to second to last paragraph above:

    When you consider all of the Information on these charts altogether, you begin to realize enormous damage that our society, its culture and institutions, are wreaking on generations of our children and youth, from top to bottom.

Leave a Reply