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.

As I wrote in an earlier article, Newport News schools in general have been no strangers to weapons offenses.

Schools with a carat (<) on that list had between one and eight weapons offenses. In one year. Actual numbers are not reported because it is assumed possible to personally identify the offender and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) thus requires the non-specific indicator. Look at the ones that had nine and ten. In one year.

Richneck was no exception.

PBIS. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the empathetic discipline system meant to break the “school-to-prison pipeline,” has been in place in Newport News schools for years.


designed to impact school culture by shifting attention to positive behavior and successful learning systems.

Sixty-four of 132 school divisions in Virginia have adopted it. Let’s examine some results.

1. It has proved no impediment to mayhem in Newport News and other urban adopters in Virginia.

2. UVa researchers examined a Northam VDOE hypothesis that PBIS would improve attendance.

This study examined the impact of a state policy requiring that any school with a habitual truancy rate of 8% or higher to be trained in Tier 1 school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS).

Taken together, results suggested that the policy … had little to no impact on student outcomes.

Short version: PBIS, meant to make school more attractive to students, did not.

3. As for the “successful learning systems” part, let’s call that intriguing.

Divisions with PBIS discipline systems include:

  • Danville
  • Franklin
  • Harrisonburg
  • Martinsville
  • Newport News
  • Norfolk
  • Petersburg
  • Portsmouth

Chronic absenteeism has skyrocketed. Schools have become more dangerous. Learning has, to be kind, not improved. Teachers are fleeing in droves.

Listen to a teacher interviewed by The Daily Press.

Julianne Marse, an elementary school teacher at Newport News for 20 years and an administrator for 11, said she retired in 2019 because of student behavior concerns. As an assistant principal at the time, misbehaving students often were sent to her office. She said she has been hit, kicked and spit on by students.

“I would come home with bruises constantly,” she said.

She said requests for help from her principal, executive director and the special education department were often ignored.

“Basically, it was just, ‘Figure out yourself, there’s nothing we can do,’” Marse said.

This sentiment has been echoed in recent days among teachers online and in conversations with the Daily Press.

Richneck is an average elementary school in an underfunded, poor-performing, violence-prone division.

So, now the division is putting up metal detectors.

Newport News Public Schools will become an underfunded, poor-performing, violence-prone division with metal detectors.

Bottom line. The school board cannot immediately fix the underfunded problem. But scrapping PBIS in favor of zero tolerance will offer at least a chance to bring both safety and a supportive learning and teaching environment. And get most teachers and students to return. Which is not a done deal.

VDOE under the Youngkin administration has wisely discontinued previous administrations’ support of PBIS for the best possible reasons: It sounded good, but hasn’t worked.

If the current Newport News school board doesn’t follow suit, the city needs a new one that will.

Supporters of PBIS will need to step up and answer to readers here and to the Newport News school board:

  • why the mayhem in Newport News Public Schools is unrelated to its system of discipline; and
  • why teacher retention is unrelated to dangerous schools.

Can’t wait.

Update.  Jan 13 at 13:10

The Washington Post reports

In the hours before a Virginia 6-year-old allegedly shot his teacher, a school staffer had searched the child’s backpack looking for a weapon, a school district spokesperson said Thursday.

The search, revealed for the first time during a meeting school officials held for parents, was conducted after a report was made that the student may have had a weapon, the spokesperson said. No weapon was found.

The district spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment about criticisms of school disciplinary procedures Thursday evening. (emphasis added)

So, “a school staffer searched the child’s back pack.” Nonsense.

We are asked to believe a six-year-old kid, having extensively studied criminology and having planned the perfect crime,

  • smuggled a gun into school;
  • figured out that someone had ratted him out;
  • hid it before his backpack was searched by “a school staffer;”
  • having fooled said adult school staffer, retrieved it in accordance with his well thought out plan; and
  • shot his teacher.

When such accountings cannot be true, they are either false or incomplete or both.

I’ll go with both.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


71 responses to “Newport News Schools Making Changes After Shooting – But Not Enough Yet”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Here is the actual Daily Press story link – rather than Sherlock’s Word document:

    Not seeing any reference to PBIS in this piece though…

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Thanks for the link. My bad.

      As for PBIS, it is the Daily Press. The reference wasn’t there. And won’t be unless the school board takes it up.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Any answers to my two questions?

      1. Do you think the mayhem in Newport News Public Schools is unrelated to its system of discipline; and

      2. Do you think teacher retention is unrelated to dangerous schools.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        He was 6. What sort of discipline could he have experienced, or would you have him experience, in the school system?

        1. The Washington Post article also says:

          “Since 1999, there have been at least 11 cases in which children 10 or younger were responsible for shootings at schools. In all but one of the cases where children brought guns from home to their elementary schools, prosecutors filed charges against adults.”

          “The shooting comes amid a troubled period for the Newport News district, which has now seen three incidents with guns in the last year-and-a-half.”

          It’s entirely appropriate for citizens of Virginia to ask questions and demand more information.

          I would like to know what happened with each of the 11 cases since 1999.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Google ‘six year old brings gun to school’. Not all end in shootings, but there’s probably been a dozen in the last 3 years. The one that stuck out to me was the kid in SC this year who wanted to shoot zombies. Your dog has more reasoning ability than a 6-year old human.

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            In full agreement. Both need to be taught to obey rules put in place for their safety and learning.

          3. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Whoa!!! ! Shooting zombies is a civic responsibility.

          4. Nancy Naive:
            “Your dog has more reasoning ability than a 6-year old human.”

            That’s not only untrue, I find it repugnant. Surely, whatever point you wish to make could be articulated without such an absurd statement.

            “Parents Shot, 5-Year-Old Calls 911”

            “A young child was rescued from her house by Florida deputies early Monday morning, after calling 911 and telling the dispatcher her parents had been shot by an attacker.”

            “My mommy and daddy … there is blood coming out of my dad’s mouth and he fell off the bed,” the girl said on the 911 tape.

            “Her composure is extraordinary given what she had just seen. She was an amazing little girl. The information she gave us and the manner she gave it to us, we wish we could get that out of adults.”


            (If you have a change of heart regarding that statement and edit it out, I will remove my reference to it as well.)

          5. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            That’s a powerful amount of research covering two decades or one shooting every two years. Sherlock probably knows.

        2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          The kid had been in the system for a year and a half, and his education was never interrupted with COVID.

          in answer to your question, I would expect the school had enough time to instill in him enough discipline, if not enough of anything else, to not believe this was appropriate or that he would get away with it.

          Read the update.

          They did not send that child home after the shooter warning because they did not wish to violate PBIS doctrine – “no out-of-school discipline”.

          The screw-up after the call will give the school board an out if they want one.

          They can attribute the shooting to individual incompetence and fire the principal.

          They will fire the principal.

          It will give them license to ignore the elephant in the room, PBIS. I hope they don’t.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            “ in answer to your question, I would expect the school had enough time to instill in him enough discipline, if not enough of anything else, to not believe this was appropriate or that he would get away with it.”

            Parent’s job.

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            I agree with you, but when he is in school he needs to be taught school rules.

            I am going to take a break and go to the gym.

          3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            I agree with you, but when he is in school he needs to be taught school rules.

            I am going to take a break and go to the gym.

        3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Your comment did not address my questions.

      2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        For #1, I would need to see more data than I have seen before I could even say there is a correlation let alone if there is a causal relationship between the two.

        As to #2, I honestly do not know if their is an impact on teacher retention. If a significant number of teachers feel particularly unsafe in their schools (not what your survey you have referenced in the past said, btw) then there may be a contributing effect but if not, I would say it is unlikely. I have not seen data that shows a correlation between increasing violence in schools and decreasing retention rates and vice versa.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Got it.

          1. Newport News schools have a very specific system of discipline that has been in place for more than a decade.
          2. Newport News schools are undisciplined to the point that assaults are common and teachers and students are voting with their feet.
          3. You can see no correlation.

          And, you read the interviews of Newport News school teachers and “honestly do not know if there is an impact on teacher retention”.

          Unbreakable denial.

          1. I can tell you first hand about our situation. My wife once worked in the LA Unified School System, including a school in South Central for a time. We left California for a better place for her to work, and for our children to attend school.

            It’s true. Teachers don’t like working in a combat zone.

          2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            If you want to demonstrate a correlation, you need more than rhetoric. You clearly don’t want to do the work.

  2. Joan van Avatar

    After 100 years of effort, if you want to see what happens to a society that glorifies single mothers, trashes the role of men and fathers in that social structure and marxifies the nuclear family as an obsolete remnant of an oppressive class system, no need to look further than the bleak wasteland of school shootings, teen suicides, drug overdoses, divorce, psychotropic drugs given to 2-year olds, daycare day orphanages, Hollywood and the pornification of children’s minds and bodies. Oh, and brain dead parents who find it too much trouble to lock up their firearms.

  3. The toleration of bad behavior is widespread, with or without PBIS. I think teachers and administrators are fearful of lawsuits, bad evaluations, getting fired, etc.

    So they quit.

    Things are VERY different from the way they were when I was young. I remember several teachers that even the toughest students wouldn’t dare mess with. One was a football coach.

  4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    More than two hours in, no one from our usually outspoken progressive commenter team has any answers to my two questions.

    1. Do you think the mayhem in Newport News Public Schools is unrelated to its system of discipline; and

    2. Do you think teacher retention is unrelated to dangerous schools?

    Looking forward to the answers.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      What is the definition of “weapon offense” in the schools listed? How many weapons were firearms? Your iteration of mayhem is based upon these weapon offenses. Whatever the definitions are the mere presence of “weapons” presents physical dangers. It’s possible that the presence of weapons relates more to internecine conflict among students or within their non-school environments. If so, all school discipline may be ineffectual.

      It can be agreed that dangerous schools affect teacher retention. How much remains the question and in which schools experience the lowest retention. Of those how do the “weapons offenses” correlate to retention.

      Apologies that you waited more than a few hours for critical reply. Some of us have lives to lead beyond reading BR screeds.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        My use of the term mayhem is based on the totals of reportable offenses.

        Newport News Schools, with 27,000 students, had 13,235 reported offenses in 2021-22..

        599 of those were in the category “Behaviors that endanger self or others”. In 180 school days. More than three every day.

        Ethel M. Gildersleeve Middle School had 61 of those endangerment reports. One every three days.

        As for the definition of weapons offenses, see

        For my own definition of mayhem, those statistics easily make the cut.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          Y’all didn’t respond to my observations. The statute cited if I understand the law will not apply to a 6 year old nor by its terms to his mother.

          1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            You really are an E-ticket ride.

            You asked me for the definition of weapons offenses for reporting purposes, not whether the criminal statue would apply to a 6-year old.

            Go away.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          You know the irony here is that Sherlock only knows this data because it’s required to be reported.

          But how do you decide the “cut” ?

          Do you have a number for what is acceptable? Do we know if Newport News is much worse than other schools?

          Can you make the case beyond your own subjective judgement?

        3. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          I inquired with respect to what is a weapon. Your use of the term mayhem is your opinion and questionable as a “cut.” Nor does the data you present about weapon offenses distinguish among guns, knives, clubs, or other. Sorry, bucko, but you’re out on a limb.

          1. In Virginia School Discipline Laws, there are no specifications of what constitutes a weapon other than firearms or destructive devices which are carefully outlined. See pages 39-40
            The term “weapons” is, however, cited in a number of locations.


          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            Pretty complex stuff.

          3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            “I inquired with respect to what is a weapon”.

            I responded by giving you the terms of reference in Virginia law, counselor.

            You chose not to acknowledge it. The data I present, at the next level of detail, comes close to distinguishing what you want.

            Look it up.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      What do you define as “mayhem”?

      How about a “dangerous” school?

      Are those terms that have precise meanings or are they your own judgement?

      I don’t discount that both your premises have some truth but I don’t think they represent the full reality for most schools either.

      The schools are guided by VDOE rules as well as laws in what they can do or not.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Mayhem, Larry, is mayhem. Look at the data to which I provided links and you call it what you will.

    3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      Well, I did.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        And I replied.

  5. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    The whole country is looking into improved policies after this. I saw today disclosure that at least one staff had been aware of the possible gun before shooting…no further details. I do not see why some charges are not filed already, except I suppose that would disclose ID of parent. Why protect the parent though?

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Other than the 6 year old’s crime, VA law might sustain a misdemeanor against the mother. As an investigation is likely continuing, charges are premature.

      1. The 6 year old is not prosecutable, so I don’t know why that part is even mentioned.

        The mother is subject to the specific law regarding failure to secure the firearm. That law was cited in a previous article, and as you have stated, subjects the mother to a potential misdemeanor.

        But depending on the circumstances, I would think the mother could also potentially face additional charges. Her omission in the care of her child put not only her own child in danger. It also put at risk the lives of other children and that of the teacher (and a teacher’s aid?). See below.

        B. 1. Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 whose willful act or omission in the care of such child was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life is guilty of a Class 6 felony.,Any%20parent%2C%20guardian%2C%20or%20other%20person%20responsible%20for%20the%20care,of%20a%20Class%206%20felony.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          That’s what I thought and said.

          1. You did mention the misdemeanor, and I acknowledged that.

            Where did you point out that additional charges, including a Class 6 felony are possible?

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I wrote about the “search” for the gun before the shooting.

      They will appropriately protect the parent(s) unless and until charges are brought. To protect the kid as well as his family.

      They will fire the principal. That incident is a symptom, not the disease.

  6. Not Today Avatar

    What empirical evidence do you have that schools using PBIS have disproportionate rates of violence and absenteeism than similarly composed schools (socioeconomically) that do not employ PBIS?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Similarly composed schools in Virginia all use PBIS

      1. Not Today Avatar

        Virginia isn’t the only state you could consider/research. Facts matter.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Thanks for your input. See the response I gave to McCarthy. The federal agency charged with the responsibility of evaluating the validity of educational studies indicates that there is no study, anywhere, that indicates that PBIS works.

        2. “Bacon’s Rebellion covers a wide range of public policy issues in Virginia….”
          If you’d like to research other states or nationally beyond the link provided at
          and compare to Virginia, feel free to submit an article.

          1. Elaine Luridman Avatar
            Elaine Luridman

            If you want to make broad claims about the merits, or not, of a national approach like PBIS, Virginia comparisons are too limited.

          2. If you have a better source than the one cited, please share it.

          3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            You, too, Elaine, should see my response to McCarthy about national studies.

      2. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Y’all didn’t answer the question. I continually admire your capacity for deflection and off-point answers.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          I believe I just told you that it is unanswerable in Virginia.

          As far as nationwide results, the gold standard for the studies you seek is the federal Institute for Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse. Before I wrote the article I researched the topic and found that in the last 10 years, only two studies were published that made that organization’s minimum standards, and those two were dismissed for not meeting standards. Check the results yourself at

          So we don’t have any valid evidence that PBIS “works”. Just hopes.

          The empirical evidence in Newport News schools indicate it doesn’t “work” there.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      You’re present an impenetrable wall of denial.

      If you think Newport News schools, which have used PBIS for more than a decade, have profited from the practice, go with it.

      No one, especially including me, will ask you again.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Don’t hold your breath…

  7. In the quote below from the Washington Post, take note of where the word “allegedly” is used.

    “In the hours before a Virginia 6-year-old allegedly shot his teacher, a school staffer had searched the child’s backpack looking for a weapon, a school district spokesperson said Thursday.”

    So in a room filled with people, it is “alleged” that the 6-year-old student shot the teacher.

    A sign of the times.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      The “searching of his backpack” is undisputed nonsense presented by the school system as fact. See my recounting of the supposed “perfect crime” by a six-year-old boy.

      When things cannot be true, they are incomplete or false or both. I pick both.

      1. Yes, I read it, and share your skepticism. The person who performed the search should go on record. Would they do so under penalty of perjury?

        Were there witnesses? They should go on record too. There’s no way I would search a student’s backpack without others present to ensure that I wasn’t accused of doing something inappropriate.

        And if the threat was credible enough for a backpack search, I’d search his desk, locker, etc.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          You already declared the shooting was in a room filled with people. Witnesses???

          1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            25 kids and, what may be, given the level of detail reported, a teachers assistant.

          2. I wanted to know if there were witnesses to the search of his backpack.

            It was unclear to me if the search was conducted in the classroom around others. Does the article state that explicitly? Perhaps I missed it.

            If told a student had a gun in his possession, I would not perform the search in the presence of young students as a matter of safety.

            If that’s what happened, then there’s another issue with how the school dealt with this situation.

      2. Having now read Nancy Naive’s pronouncement that a 6 year old human has less reasoning power than a dog, I am even more perplexed with his ability to hide the firearm and elude detection.

  8. As this story develops, it’s becoming increasingly clear that similar to the UVA shooting, the administration was warned in advance, yet but nothing effective was done to prevent this tragedy. It could have been prevented.

    “In Newport News, all middle and high schools have an assigned full-time School Resource Officer who is a sworn police officer.”

    Perhaps elementary schools should also have School Resource Officers. Educators aren’t trained to find weapons, and apparently aren’t very good at it. When the administration was warned that a student was in possession of a gun, the School Resource Officer should have handled the situation. That’s who should have conducted the search and questioned the student.

    Also similar to UVA, administrators appear to be in full CYA mode. Without unrelenting public outcry, the full story may never be known.

    Mr. Sherlock has focused on the school. That’s understandable, since it happened at a public school.

    I hope in the course of time more information will also become available about the home environment and any potential warning signs might have been available to law enforcement or Social Services. Did they also drop the ball?

    Occasionally, tragedy occurs without warning. All too often, however, the warning signs are there and continue to build over time.

    When legislation was passed mandating that parents secure firearms from children we were told that enacting this law would prevent things like this from occurring. It didn’t.

    I suggest it’s time for a thorough examination of this incident and others like it to seek out the cause(s) rather than just the symptoms. Three incidents with guns at Newport News schools within the last year-and-a-half specks to a systemic problem.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      So, the elementary schools in the county I live in, DO have resource officers , AND it was/is a cost issue – increases in taxes to pay for it.

      1. I’d be surprised if there isn’t sufficient funding already. It’s just being wasted.

        How much is currently being spent on DEI within Newport News and throughout the state? I think minorities would support and benefit more from safe schools than such feel good nonsense.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I think you can make that argument with respect to almost anything. Would you not generate the funding
          for this need until/unless you find offsetting savings AND make those cuts at the time you allocate for this?

          1. I don’t think I should get too prescriptive from afar.

            I made what I thought was a viable suggestion for a potential improvement – that being School Resource Officers.

            It’s been reported that Newport News will be getting state-of-the-art metal detectors. Okay, so what happens when a weapon is detected? Someone must still confront the person attempting to enter with a weapon. Seems to me that needs to be a sworn police officer, not a teacher’s assistant.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            It will take more money and more staff , right?

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      In the case of Newport News, unlike UVa, there is new leadership.

      Phil Jones, a brilliant young former Marine officer and Naval Academy graduate just took over as mayor.

      I expect him to drive positive change with and without the school board.

      1. Thanks. I wasn’t aware of the new mayor there. A glimmer of hope.

        With respect to UVA, it’s been over a month since the team was announced to conduct the external review of the shooting. With the “full cooperation” of everyone at UVA, I wonder how long that should take.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          The idea of certain folks who might cater to a particular political philosophy in their leadership is a failed concept IMO.

          No one person is going to permanently change something. It’s takes compromise and collaboration among all the leadership.

          Folks looking for the “right leader” are on the wrong track, IMO.

          We need to work together to deal with the issues, and especially so the tough issues.

  9. Thomas Dixon Avatar
    Thomas Dixon

    Too bad NN schools can’t introduce state of the art fathers who will be part of their offsprings’ lives. But that might offend someone if you said it.

Leave a Reply