School Discipline – Part 5 – How and When Democrats Broke Virginia Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

We read earlier today that the eminent developmental theorist Urie Bronfenbrenner has written:

The more we study human development, the more it becomes clear the family is the most powerful, most humane and, by far, the most economical way of making human beings human.

That truth, however, does not account for the degree that families have broken down in America in the last 60 years, which is, unfortunately, a lot.  The Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.

So we try to impart in school what some children are denied at home: humanity.

The federal government, Virginia government and local school boards have killed a lot of forests with laws, regulations and guidelines (and spent a very large fortune) trying to accomplish that.

I will provide here overwhelming evidence that Ralph Northam and the new Democratic majorities in both houses of the Virginia G.A. in 2020 did catastrophic damage to the schools’ ability to maintain order and thus safety.

The Northam-McAuliffe Board of Education in 2021 finished the job just in time for students to return in progressive-run divisions from as much as a 15-month COVID hiatus from schools.  No conservative-run division was out nearly that long.

So they created a perfect storm based on progressive dogma. At the most vulnerable time in our schools’ history.

They actually discouraged in law the reporting by school principals and teachers to police of cases of assault and battery in schools.

They never considered for a minute the easily foreseeable victims of the changes.

Ask Abby Zwerner about her school’s positive climate.

From the 2020 census:

  • 19 million children below the age of 18 live with a single parent, while 15 million children live with two parents;
  • There are about 15.3 million children in the United States who lived with a single mother while there are only 3.2 million children who live with a single father.

That does not mean that single parents are bad parents, just that parenting by one is much harder than parenting by two. And whether the father or mother is missing, the parenting of children not of the same sex as the parent is particularly hard.

In government schools, government rules emphasize, as parents should at home, positive role modeling and positive supports for proper behavior. That must always be the primary instructional model in both environments.

But then governments introduced the concept of protected classes into school discipline. Protecting them from not only school discipline, but from law enforcement.

That has not been done in secret. Federal and state governments are very up- front about it.

The Obama administration in 2014 openly threatened lawsuits against school divisions reporting “disparate impacts” of corrective actions against protected classes.

Then, in 2020, Virginia’s governing Democrats went nuclear.

The 2020 Virginia General Assembly. Virginia Democrats sought perfection in school discipline, which they saw as equal discipline outcomes for protected classes, despite unequal commission of disruptions and crimes.

They moved swiftly and comprehensively in the 2020 General Assembly and Board of Education to capitalize Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to designate a specific, defined program rather than the basic concepts of positive modeling, and to require that PBIS:

  • produce equal outcomes of discipline, and enforcing that rule by threatening retribution to violators;
  • demand that law enforcement not be informed of actions that do not rise to the level of felonies; and
  • insist that kids be kept in school for corrective action of anything but those same felonies.

§ 22.1-279.3:1 Reports of certain acts to school authorities; reports of certain acts by school authorities to parents; reports of certain acts by school authorities to law enforcement.

In 2020, House Bill 257 (Mullen, Hudson, Simonds, Guzman, Keam, Lopez) and Senate Bill 729 (McLellan/Mason) modified that law as follows:

Further, except as may be prohibited by federal law, regulation, or jurisprudence, the principal shall also immediately report any act enumerated in clauses (ii) through (v) of subsection A that may constitute a criminal offense to the parents of any minor student who is the specific object of such act. Further, the principal shall report that whether the incident has been reported to local law enforcement as required by law pursuant to this subsection and, if the incident is so reported, that the parents may contact local law enforcement for further information, if they so desire. [Strikethroughs are deletions in the law change; bold is added to indicate additions in the law change.]

It changed existing required reporting of criminal offenses to required reporting of only felonies.

Which requires each principal to be well-versed in federal and Virginia criminal law.

We also note that assault and battery and petit larceny are misdemeanors in Virginia.

Finally, we note that § 22.1-279.3:1 requires that only assault and battery that results in bodily injury need even be reported to the division superintendent. No special requirement to report assault and battery on teachers.

 § 22.1-279.3:3 The 2020 General Assembly also created § 22.1-279.3:3. Alternative school discipline process.

A. A school board may establish an alternative school discipline process to provide the parties involved in an incident described in clause (i) of subsection A of § 22.1-279.3:1 the option to enter into a mutually agreed-upon process between the involved parties. Such process shall be designed to hold the student accountable for a noncriminal offense through a mutually agreed-upon standard.

B. If provided for in the process established by the school board, no principal shall report pursuant to subsection D of § 22.1-279.3:1 a party who successfully completes the alternative school discipline process. If the parties fail to agree to participate in the process or fail to successfully complete the alternative school discipline process, then the principal may report the incident to the local law enforcement agency pursuant to subsection D of § 22.1-279.3:1. [Emphasis added.]

Thus lawbreaking is protected and madness defined in state law in the name of breaking what proponents of the change have deemed to be a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

That new law, like the modifications to § 22.1-279.3:1, offered no suggestion for what to call the victims of the changes.

§ 22.1-279.6 That General Assembly in 2020 revised § 22.1-279.6. Board of Education guidelines and model policies for codes of student conduct; school board regulations to include:

(v) standards for reducing bias and harassment in the enforcement of any code of student conduct.

With that statement, Virginia law now presumes the existence of bias in schools. Think about that.

That law refers to § 22.1-253.13:7. Standard 7. School board policies.

“3. The standards of student conduct and attendance and enforcement procedures designed to provide that public education be conducted in an atmosphere free of disruption and threat to persons or property and supportive of individual rights;”

Ironically, that guidance in law stands as a rebuke to this whole progressive effort.

The Northam/McAuliffe Board of Education. The revised Student Code of Conduct Policy Guidelines, including a change in the name of the document to Model Guidance for Positive and Preventive Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension (Guidance). It was published in June of 2021 by a Board of Education entirely appointed by Democratic governors to carry out the new Democratic laws.

I watched the sessions in which the draft was written.

The discussions within the panels led by ed school representatives were flat out scary. They were alternately ignorant, dismissive, or both of the conditions facing principals and teachers in the maintenance of discipline, order and safety in schools.

Guidance took policy a very long way indeed. From pg. 19:

Specifically, regarding equity in school discipline, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) recommends that school board policies should include a five-point multicomponent approach to reduce disproportionality and ensure equity in school discipline. School Board policy can develop procedures to:

  • Evaluate student code of conduct and school discipline policies for gender, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural biases;
  • Collect, use, and report disaggregated discipline data that clearly identify disparate discipline outcomes and utilize this data to inform professional development planning (A free guide to examine school discipline data is available at Safe Supportive Learning) ;
  • Provide implicit bias training and implement protocols to mitigate bias in discipline decisions;
  • Develop policies that include accountability for discipline disproportionality; and
  • Implement a behavior framework that is preventative, restorative, multi-tiered, and culturally responsive.

What would we do without free guides? That one, which includes the Obama “Dear Colleague” letter as a combination threat and “component of this guidance”, is 67 pages long before references. Reading it, you will find the root causes of disproportionate exclusionary discipline to be:

  • bias; and
  • schools and their principals and teachers not aligned with progressive thinking.

Who knew?

Guidance also told school boards what to expect of principals “demonstrating support.” See those expectations starting on page 24 and finishing on page 26.  Read that whole section and make your own assessment.

I find it to constitute a revolutionary redefinition of the role of principal in school discipline. Just as schools were returning from lengthy COVID shutdowns.

And you note we did not even get into that same 2020 General Assembly’s law and the BOE’s model policies on how to treat transgender students that managed to turn what should have been prevention of bullying into a national melodrama.

Something about a male Loudoun County student wearing a skirt for two sexual assaults in girls bathrooms in two different high schools.


Progressive school boards, while their colleagues in Richmond were changing policy, shut their schools and kept them closed far longer than medically indicated, and far longer that private schools and public schools controlled by conservative school boards.

Bottom line. I call them the twin towers of progressive destruction of the viability of public schools in Virginia.

  1. The 2020 laws and the 2021 Board of Education guidance directed by them radically reconfigured public school discipline systems.  
  2. Those two efforts were joined simultaneously by progressive-led school boards extending the shutdowns of their schools as much as a year longer that in private schools and conservative-dominated school divisions, putting severe pressure on order and discipline in the schools.

That leaves progressives with at least three problems.

  1. They cannot now pretend they didn’t change the system of school discipline.
  2. They cannot contend that those changes have helped schools recover academic losses from the unnecessarily long shutdowns they imposed on their own kids.
  3. They cannot pretend that teachers are not now leaving because they have lost control of their classrooms.

They can only try to change the subject and blame it on things beyond their control.

Yet everything in play was in progressive control, including discipline policy and  COVID shutdowns in progressive-led school divisions.  Guidance was revised, renamed and re-issued by the Democratic-appointed BOE in June of 2021 at the end of the last COVID shutdowns.  

They were so drunk with dogma they could not see the train coming.

They created a new system unable to maintain order and protect itself, its employees and other children from students who get negative modeling of humanity at home or in their communities or are mentally ill.

Subsequent General Assembly sessions under Democratic control until 2022 provided the opportunity to account for COVID outcomes in subsequent revisions school discipline laws.

They did not, and now with a Republican governor, the Democratic state Senate continues to block all attempts at post-COVID education reform with their “blue wall,” their own proud term.

Democrats own what public schools have become. If you like it, pause to say a prayer for the kids and their teachers.

And vote Democratic.

Updated Feb. 5th at noon.