School Discipline Issues Meet Unshakeable Progressive Dogma

by James C. SherlockMoral panic

has been defined as a:

…widespread feeling of fear, often an irrational one, that some evil person or thing threatens the values, interests, or well-being of a community or society.

Virginia’s progressive community is in moral panic over the refusal of school discipline outcomes to bend to their prescriptions for “equity.” Scientific surveys conducted by the state show teachers are scared of their students. In Virginia Beach.

To see that panic in action, read the comments on my article, “Why are Teachers Quitting? In Virginia Beach, It May Not Be “Mean Parents.”

Combative progressive comments offer a clinic on the subject.

Let’s look deeper to see sources of the progressive concerns.

The article was about school discipline and safety in Virginia Beach. It provided discipline- and safety-related Virginia Beach results from a November 2019 – January 2020 statewide survey of teachers.

Here are two of the Q and A:

Q.  Since the start of the school year, have you been concerned about your own safety because of student misbehavior? A. 38% very or somewhat concerned.”

Q. How effective do you think PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (the progressive prescription for school discipline in force in Virginia Beach schools at the time of the survey and today) is in improving student behavior in your school?  A. Very effective – 10%

From those results and others I observed that progressive school disciplinary processes had not achieved their end goal of providing a safe and effective learning environment and opined that perhaps teacher fear of the students in their schools was a reason that so many of them were leaving.

Whatever was wrong with school discipline, PBIS had not fixed it.

In over 100 comments, progressives utterly dominated the conversation. Perhaps 95% of the comments were progressive objections to the article and responses by me and by Jim Bacon trying, utterly without success, to answer those objections.

The progressive commenters were desperate to claim that the survey could not be true, or professional, or replicable, or representative, or applicable to teacher resignations, or credible … or something. Anything.

The moral panic was so real you could touch it.

Background. The questions in the survey were devised by the University of Virginia School of Education for the Virginia Department of Education and are asked of teachers statewide every year.

The PBIS system of discipline implemented in Virginia Beach is one of the dogmatic holy grails of progressivism. It incorporates both multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS) for discipline and social emotional learning (SEL). It is full of interventions and positively stated behaviors.

Effective classroom management and preventive school discipline are essential for supporting teaching and learning. PBIS emphasizes the integration of classroom management and preventive school discipline with effective academic instruction in a positive and safe school climate to maximize success for all students.

Good to know. But it didn’t work in Virginia Beach.

Those tiers incorporate every progressive prescription for the achievement of “equity” and the elimination of Enlightenment concepts of personal rights bringing personal responsibilities emanating from personal agency — another term for free will.

PBIS prescriptions provide built-in excuses and “restorative circles” for those who used to be described as offenders and threaten those who used to be recognized as victims by keeping the offenders in school and encouraging their victims to face them.

This process is called “restorative justice,” meant to banish “systemic racism” from the schools.

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. OK. If it works in the schools. It apparently does not.

Systemic racism is

…discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of membership in a particular ethnic group (typically one that is a minority or marginalized), arising from systems, structures, or expectations that have become established within society or an institution.

We’d all like to banish that where it exists.

But having embedded PBIS concepts in the Code of Virginia and the Board of Education guidelines crafted by eight years of Democratic governance, Virginia progressives panic when there is evidence that they do not provide teaching and learning environments that support education.

Because progressives not only do not have a plan B, but cannot imagine one exists outside their dogma.

Incident data. In order to provide additional context for the workplace fears of Virginia Beach teachers referenced above, I offer the Virginia Beach submissions to VDOE on incidents of discipline, crime and violence (DCV) in Virginia Beach schools during the 2018-19 school year.

Again, for reference, Virginia Beach Schools had 68,624 students in 82 schools in 2018-19.

2018-19 was the last full year before the climate and working conditions survey referenced in my article. It was also the last full year before COVID, after which the DCV statistics were disrupted.

DCV reporting

The Code of Virginia §22.1-279.3:1.E requires school divisions statewide to submit data annually to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) on incidents of discipline, crime, and violence. This report provides safety indicators for Virginia’s School Performance Report Card. These incidents shall include those that occurred on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.

Virginia Beach DCV data 2018-19

So, for the incident context for the fear teachers reported in the 2020 school climate survey taken starting in the fall of 2019, we will look at Virginia Beach Public Schools DCV report for 2018-19.

Interesting numbers. Eighty two schools. Selected results by offense category:

  • 51 reported assaults with battery.
  • 1,851 reports of disorderly conduct.
  • 226 drug violations
  • 1,020 fighting incidents.
  • 2,896 incidents of harassment
  • 3,289 incidents of interfering with school operations
  • 864 other violations
  • 5 of gang activity
  • 1 of inciting a riot
  • 141 weapons offenses
  • 6 bomb threats

Perhaps the teachers who reported fear of their students were the more perceptive ones.

Did I mention that those were from a total of 82 schools? In Virginia Beach.

Other than that, nothing to see here.

The progressive press. The progressive press will avoid at any cost discussing school discipline and safety as an issue unless it reports on a school shooting.  Perhaps the most prominent regional practitioner is Hannah Natanson of The Washington Post.

Read her “‘Never seen it this bad’: America faces catastrophic teacher shortage. Her go-to sources for quotes on the reasons so many teachers are leaving? Radical teachers unions.

“The political situation in the United States, combined with legitimate aftereffects of covid, has created this shortage,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “This shortage is contrived.”


Leslie Houston, president of the Fairfax Education Association, said she has never in her career seen so many teachers leaving the job because they feel disrespected, primarily by politicians and some parents.

“When people were beating up on teachers and just being real nasty about what we’re doing and what we’re not doing,” Houston said, “I don’t think they were really thinking, ‘Who will teach my children?’ ”

No evidence. Just the testimony of the saved. That’s it. That covers it. “Mean parents” are the reason for the resignations. Nothing left to say on that subject.

Natanson reflects perfectly progressive readers of this blog who cannot accept data — or talk to anyone — which/who offers another plausible, and well-documented reason, for teacher resignations.

She reports on education for a living and clearly cannot conceive of one.

Moral panic.

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44 responses to “School Discipline Issues Meet Unshakeable Progressive Dogma”

  1. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
    Virginia Gentleman

    Progressive outrage? Who writes article after article on the subject? Who is the loudest voice in the room? Look in the mirror.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      You know, progressives. Those are the people who know that even hot monkey rape sex will produce progeny, no matter how much or little interest the victim displays.

  2. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

    Twice I have written about my experience with “double session.” If you are not familiar with it, it is designed for overcrowded, understaffed schools. The school day is divided into two sessions, a morning session and an afternoon session. Students are assigned to one or the other. Most of the teachers, however, have to teach both sessions. In my school, the problem was slowly resolved: More classroom were added and more teachers were hired. (This all took place in California.)

    I hesitate to say when this was (1956-58) because there are people here who will spend more time attacking me for my ancient experience than discussing the merits of “double session.” Just yesterday, I observed that downtown Norfolk’s violence in the last 55 years had not changed for the better. The usual reply arrived, basically suggesting that my age had turned me into a bitter conservative, or words to that effect.

    The author of the above article, one of Bacon’s best, and most prolific, authors, is slammed for his unrelenting concern over the state of public education in Virginia. People, there probably wouldn’t be a BR without this gentleman’s contributions. And who, among the many critics here, is doing anything for the kids?

    1. vicnicholls Avatar

      Who is not allowed? Superintendent Spence has stopped the involvement of folks on porn in the schools. The SB, progressive, GAVE him that authority which he illegally has no right to exercise, nor does the SB have any business dropping their jobs to an unelected bureaucrat.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      On the contrary, your experience from 55 years ago actually does well illustrate issues the public schools have been dealing with for decades.

      It’s never been nirvana. It’s always had complex and messy issues including discipline (and other) issues – for decades. It’s the essential nature of public schools when folks kids from all walks of life are put in the same school and classrooms and told to share with others and respect others.

      Why there is a uptick in resignations is not yet fully understood but I doubt seriously it’s due to one thing like discipline. I do agree with Eric that mass shootings and widespread availability of weapons to folks as young as 18 is a good reason for concerns for personal safety.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” “Q. Since the start of the school year, have you been concerned about your own safety because of student misbehavior? A. 38% very or somewhat concerned.”

    Anyone else notice that the “very and somewhat concerned” is 48% for elementary teachers? Is that reasonable?

    My problem with Sherlocks approach is that he seems to think the current data indicates failure without really comparing it to prior years in the same system or to other jurisdictions.

    Then he does the same thing with the PBIS question.

    He’s comparing these numbers to what? Prior years? other jurisdictions?

    what percentage thresholds for two polls indicate “failure”? What standard are you using to make such judgements?

    Then for his “mean parents” , instead of looking for comparable poll data from the same teachers who responded to the polls, he goes and quotes education leaders views.

    What’s the truth about school discipline issues in general – in many schools – across Va? Is this district worse than other school districts ? Is it worse than it used to be>

    We have no way to really calibrate the numbers, compare and contrast them across schools in general.

    If Sherlock looks at only these numbers for one school district and one year, how is he determining that these numbers are “bad” or a “failure”?

    If these numbers were in line with prior years and/or in line with other school districts across Virginia, would Sherlock then claim total failure in all public schools in Va?

    I don’t know the data so I cannot even begin to judge, much less reach the conclusions that Sherlock has.

    And how is pointing these issues out “moral panic”?

    We need enough (historical and cohort) data from properly designed polls and it needs to include questions about the politicization of public education, salaries, etc, relative to resignations if we’re really want objective answers.

    Sherlock is just pushing a pretty narrow and one-sided narrative IMO.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Look at the actual incident numbers and types in just 82 schools, Larry. That is a good working definition of chaos. In what universe is that OK? How would you fix it?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Do you think that ONLY disciplinary issues are what affect resignations?

        What disciplinary numbers would you consider “acceptable” if the current ones are not?

        How would you determine what are acceptable numbers – a norm?

        What does it mean when the poll shows more elementary teachers concerned about personals safety than high school?

        You’re looking at this issue in isolation IMO without looking at comparable historical or cohort data – so what are “good” numbers? Where would you find them? What alternative techniques yield those better numbers?

        This is a lot like looking at something like traffic accidents or shoplifting and declaring it unacceptable without any idea of what “good” numbers should be.

        Typically, we look at historical and cohort data to determine what is a norm.

        What norm should we be trying to achieve here?

  4. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Again, unless you have data to demonstrate that your 38% is higher than the previous year’s figure, you can not blame an increase in teacher resignations on their concerns over personal safety. You must first establish a correlation and you have failed to do so. In actuality, your VB survey suggests that there has been no significant net change in how teachers view school safety so it looks like your theory fails.

    1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
      Kathleen Smith

      That depends. The numbers could remain fairly steady, but the consequences of student behavior for teachers has not been mentioned. If teachers are chastised by parents, and we know that happens, per the teacher survey, significantly more than they were prior to this data set, then teachers could feel more threatened.

      Teachers have Type A personalities. Most strive for perfection. They take it quite personally when their students misbehave and the parents and administration blame them. I would. In the end, every complaint would become personal and I would leave.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Kathleen, I can accept that too many teachers are scared for their safety from the kids in their schools because we have hard evidence of the extent of that.

        I lay the failure to improve that figure at the feet of PBIS, which is the school discipline system in Virginia Beach.

        I accept that some teachers are angry at some parents. Always have been. Neither of us have data on the extent of that post-COVID, or how it affects resignations relative to the school safety and discipline issue. Exit surveys are notoriously unreliable because people don’t want to offend on the way out the door. So we may never really know.

        The point is that school discipline and safety is something government must address. PBIS brings with it a huge overhead and is not getting the job done.

        That se

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

          “I lay the failure to improve that figure at the feet of PBIS, which is the school discipline system in Virginia Beach.”

          You don’t know if that figure is actually an improvement.

          1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            Look at actual numbers, not ratios. Look at the incident categories and numbers in only 82 schools. In what universe is that acceptable?

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

            I did not say any figures are (or are not) acceptable, I said that the fear teachers cited at 38% could be lower than the previous year’s figure which would mean PBIS actually did improve things. You simply don’t know. Why is that so hard for you to comprehend?

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

        According to James here, angry parents has been ruled out as a cause of the increase in teacher resignations in Virginia.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          It is ruled out as something over which government can assert control. Discipline it can control. I have made my suggestions for discipline improvement. State yours.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      So now it is a net change issue. You are clearly unconvinced by Natansen’s article and a thousand others, including here, about unprecedented levels of resignations. So now you ask me to prove not only what those two union presidents are saying about surging resignations but simultaneously to disprove the reasons they offer for that phenomenon. I’ll leave it to you to prove that resignations are down. Remember while you are at it that there are no new data on teacher attitudes towards school climate since Covid started. Good luck.

    3. Kathleen Smith Avatar
      Kathleen Smith

      Think about the fact that PBIS is usually driven by a committee much like child study committees. How would you feel if you were a teacher and you got dragged before this committee to hear that you are promoting racism and the parents agree. I’d quit.

    4. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

      Good gracious.

    5. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      So now it is a net change issue. You are clearly unconvinced by Natansen’s article and a thousand others, including here, about unprecedented levels of resignations. So now you ask me to prove not only what those two union presidents are saying about surging resignations but simultaneously to disprove the reasons they offer for that phenomenon. I’ll leave it to you to prove that resignations are down. Remember while you are at it that there are no new data on teacher attitudes towards school climate since Covid started. And that last survey is the one I quoted. Good luck.

      1. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

        The Weather Channel said it snowed last night. I didn’t see it snowing. I was sleeping. So, it didn’t really snow, and the Weather Channel is systemically lying. That’s what you are dealing with, Captain.

        1. …I would probably avoid bringing up anything related to climate in a discussion about claims of ignoring evidence.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            “Rosie YellowstoneBound1948 • 11 hours ago
            …I would probably avoid bringing up anything related to climate in a discussion about claims of ignoring evidence.”

            You should probably take your own advice, snow is weather.

            “Weather refers to short term atmospheric conditions while climate is the weather of a specific region averaged over a long period of time”

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

        “You are clearly unconvinced by Natansen’s article and a thousand others, including here, about unprecedented levels of resignations.”

        I never stated or suggested there was not an increase in teacher resignations. I have stated that you have shown no correlation between an increase in teacher resignations and teachers’ fear for personal safety.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          not for a lack of frantic hand waving though….

        2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          We will either have a public education system or we will not. Right now, these in-school incident numbers say we don’t have one. If any adult thinks those numbers are acceptable he or she has lost his or her mind.

          Progressives refuse to discuss it because such behavior is indefensible and hasn’t yielded to dogmatic progressive solutions. Damn them to hell.

          I propose that the government control what it can and must control – student behavior in school. Whatever that takes, it must be done to ensure the teachers and kids are safe and the kids who control themselves can learn in peace. I really do not care what that takes. PBIS is failed. It never had a chance because it accepts what it accepts.

          We need two levels of schools. One for kids who behave and one for kids who need to learn how to behave before they rejoin the first team.

          As for the behavior of adults, last I checked that is out of the government’s control unless they commit a crime. First amendment and all that.

          Teachers who feel safe in school and can teach in peace will deal with parents. They always have. I suspect many teachers quietly cheer on the parents who fight woke school authorities for the good of their kids. Teachers are parents too.

          Special programs for children with disabilities? I strongly support them. I support all the extra effort we can give kids who want to learn,

          But the progressive morons – I’m talking to you Albemarle County Schools – who literally tell kids they need not attend school, do homework, participate in class or pass quizzes and can still get a good grade if they somehow master the work are ruining the lives of those children.

          Progressives who build large new PBIS bureaucracies and programs so that disruptive kids can stay in school to ruin other kids’ opportunities to feel safe and learn are effectively child abusers.

          Clear enough?

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

            Nice screed. You still have not made your case that teacher fear for personal safety is what is causing your increase in teacher resignations. None of your data support that conclusion.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            Now you ARE getting to your actual views, took awhile to get here.. all that progressive bashing and moral panic, at all.

            So zero tolerance for the kids for ANY offense and two separate school systems, the 2nd one being essentially an incarceration for offenders?

            Let me guess. You would have voucher schools that operate like private schools and only kids who behave can attend.

            If they misbehave, they get sent back to the public schools where all the bad kids are confined?


  5. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    I do not doubt for a moment that discipline issues in the classroom have gotten worse in recent years and may be contributing to teacher flight, among other things (pay, better options, parental politicking, and yes that includes CRT). But the obsession is toxic and boring, that particular survey proved nothing (not even relevant to resignations) and the debate on all sides is inane. Just like with Covid and everything else these days, two camps line up to scream at each other, hurl taunts, and nobody has much useful to add. Let’s admit what this is — blaming THEM. The problem is THEY are getting away with too much stuff. Who is THEM, Jim 1 and Jim 2? Who is THEM that YOU think WE should worry about?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Helpful insight Steve.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Useless post, Sherlock.

    2. Them was Van Morrison, obviously. Without him, Them did not last very long.

  6. Joan van Avatar

    That there is a teacher shortage is fact.

    The causes of that shortage do not interest me. In some way, they are obvious: breakdown of family discipline at home; victim society which means no responsibility for one’s actions which means violent assaults are A-Okay, and turning children into activists instead of responsible citizens is rampant. Disillusioned teachers, like police, see no upside to working in a Daliesque nightmare system.

    As a parent who decided to homeschool my 11-year-old when schools were shut down in March, 2020, I suggest that many teachers, like many parents, have had enough of this poisonous progressive pedagogy being promoted and taught in public schools. While their children’s and/or students’ ability to compute, read and write was being seriously and negatively affected, the child’s daily lessons on the climate crisis, trans bathrooms and the racist founding fathers were now the important subjects.

    1. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

      The usual cohort here will relentlessly attack you on what you observe and perceive. Unless you have found a way to reduce them to data sets that support the progressives (and only the progressives), your experience doesn’t amount to more than a hill of beans here.

  7. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    “Combative progressive comments.” Oh goody!

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      “combative” = Sherlock butt-hurt?

  8. In Virginia Beach, the current local GOP leadership, if you can call it that, does not involve themselves with local school board races like they used to when they were chaired by a competent chairman and had a competent committee. As a result of the current failed leadership they have lost control of the school board and their 8 seat majority has been lost to liberals who in a few cases ran for their positions as Republicans with the help of a member of the local Virginia Beach GOP leadership team. To top that off, the chairman of said local GOP who in his words claims he is “woke” went on a warpath against a member of his own party who is one of few conservative republicans left on the school board. Is it any wonder why this situation is playing itself out down in Virginia Beach?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Let me add to this. In our County, Conservatives now are in the majority of the School Board. They fired the current superintendent in the firs few days after they were seated. They have set up committees to review book for sexual content and are investigating for CRT.

      They will maintain their leadership for another 1 1/2 years so I am not going to be surprised if they get involved in the culture war stuff and the things that Sherlock and JAB have written about.

      stay tuned.

      1. The parents aren’t mean, they care about their kids. Put the kids first, not the progressive agenda , and don’t be shocked by the rapid actions to sever relationships with toxic administrators who have done their best to carry out on an agenda that excludes the rights of concerned parents.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          You can care about your kids without threatening teachers, administrators and school boards.

    2. vicnicholls Avatar

      Excellent summary. Every word of it is true.

      1. Its worse there than Loudoun.

        1. vicnicholls Avatar

          Close but Chesapeake isn’t far behind. We must get strong leadership and we’re getting the Forward party …

  9. disqus_VYLI8FviCA Avatar

    School choice has been the obvious answer to failing public schools for years. Give parents the option to get out of public schools, which have really just become a government jobs program most interested in self preservation with little interest in educating kids.

    It is ironic and sad that kids who most need a strong education are trapped in horrific schools by those who claim to care about them the most.

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