By Hans Bader
Virginia is apparently giving preference to certain clusters of minority residents in access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as Judicial Watch notes:
In the next few weeks, the state will give preference to black and Latino residents 65 and over while much older white seniors, many in their 80s, cannot secure an appointment to get inoculated. The plan was announced a few days ago by Dr. Danny Avula, who was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam this year to be the state’s vaccine coordinator…. In recent weeks, [a news] article says, roughly 10,000 vaccines were channeled specifically toward trusted clinics in neighborhoods with older black residents… the reporter cites “some experts” that have raised concern over age-based vaccine prioritization because it fails to account for lower expectancies among black and Latino communities, though it does concede that 75% of Virginia’s deaths are among those over 70….
by Hans Bader
The General Assembly is moving toward requiring history teachers to study black history. SB 1196, passed by the state senate, would mandate teachers seeking a license or license renewal to have training in “cultural competency” and complete board-approved instruction in African American history.
I worry about these “cultural competency” requirements, and whether schools will teach bizarre racial stereotypes under the guise of cultural competency. For example, the Seattle Schools, under the guise of teaching cultural competence, made bizarre claims, such as that individualism is racism, that only whites can be racists, and that “future time orientation” – planning ahead – is a stereotypically white characteristic that minorities shouldn’t be expected to exhibit. As a black Supreme Court Justice disapprovingly noted in a 2007 ruling, “The Seattle school district’s Website formerly contained the following” examples of what it called “cultural racism’: “emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology” and “defining one form of English as standard.”
These disturbing claims came from Pacific Education Group, one of America’s most famous diversity-training firms, which has been hired by school districts in Virginia, Maryland, and many other states. It has promoted some of the crudest imaginable racial stereotypes, such as claiming that “white talk” is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual” and “task-oriented,” while black talk is “emotional.”
Let’s hope that the Pacific Education Group is not involved in designing Virginia’s Black History curriculum. In the meantime, it is now Black History Month and Virginians should consider inoculating themselves against Critical Race Theory-infused thinking by reading about one of America’s great thinkers and orators, Frederick Douglass. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Pay regulations that are a manageable hassle for the biggest employers can be a nightmare for small employers. One example is SB 1228, a bill pending in the Virginia legislature. If enacted, it would keep employers from setting employee pay based on employees’ past wages, even though wages are usually a sign of what an employee is worth, and often reveal more about an employee’s role in a company than the employee’s mere job title reveals. It would forbid any employer in Virginia, regardless of size, to “rely on the wage history of a prospective employee” in determining the employee’s wage. It would also forbid them from seeking “the wage history of a prospective employee.”
Since federal law permits such wage-setting, and small businesses often don’t have lawyers, some small businesses will likely get sued for violating it, before they even learn about the existence of this law.
SB 1228 also defines certain pay differences as discrimination even when they are unlikely to be due to bias — especially when they occur at small employers, where such pay differences affect only an isolated number of employees, and thus are statistically insignificant. SB 1228 requires pay equity for businesses of all sizes, for all protected classifications — not just sex, but also marital status, religion, race, disability, etc. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Governor Ralph Northam and other Democratic Party leaders are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty. But that’s not all. A newly submitted bill would abolish life sentences without parole, even for serial killers and those who once would have been sentenced to death.
The powerful head of the state senate’s Courts of Justice Committee, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, has just introduced a bill, SB 1370, to bring back parole and retroactively make people eligible for parole even if they were sentenced at a time at which there was no parole. Parole will be made available even to people who commit “a Class 1 felony,” which includes the worst murders, such as serial killers who commit the “willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person” in a single crime spree. If the death penalty is abolished, this legislation would mean that even the worst murderers could be paroled. Continue reading
Slippery slope: Abolish the death penalty…. eliminate life sentences… empty the prisons.
by Hans Bader
Virginia’s governor and the head of a key legislative subcommittee are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty in Virginia and overturn existing death sentences.
In theory, the death penalty could save lives by deterring people from committing murder. Several studies found that it deters killings of innocent people. As the Associated Press noted in 2007, “Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five, and 14).”
The death penalty also can prevent additional murders by prisoners serving life sentences. Being executed is the only thing that stops some murderers from killing again. Consider the case of Robert Gleason. He had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder. He beat his cellmate to death while in Wallens Ridge State Prison. Afterwards, while awaiting trial on that charge at Red Onion State Prison, he murdered another inmate. He then declared that he would continue killing until the state executed him. He was sentenced to death and moved to Sussex I State Prison, home of death row. Continue reading
Sen. Ben Chafin
by Hans Bader
Virginia’s state senate had a narrow Democratic majority, with 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans. Then, on January 1, Republican Sen. Ben Chafin died. Virginia’s Democratic governor has deliberately delayed filling the seat so that progressive bills will be able to pass the state legislature more easily, and without being moderated by the amendment process.
Keeping the seat vacant will make it easier to pass progressive bills even when not all Democrats vote for them — such as when a relatively moderate Democratic senator votes against a bill to release criminals earlier. That occasionally happened in 2020, such as when a Democratic senator voted against lowering the age of geriatric release for some criminals to age 50.
Keeping the seat vacant ignores the governor’s duty to call special elections to fill vacancies that result from a legislator dying. Virginia Code Section § 24.2-216 provides: “The Governor shall issue a writ of election to fill the [House or Senate] vacancy. If the vacancy occurs during the session of the General Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Delegates or the President pro tempore of the Senate, as the case may be, shall issue the writ unless the respective house by rule or resolution shall provide otherwise.”
(Update: A special election was announced this afternoon, for the ridiculously late date of March 23 — after the regular legislative session ends! That’s nearly three months after the seat became vacant. By contrast, Governor Northam filled a Democratic seat in Prince William County less than a month after a Democratic legislator resigned. Delegate Jennifer Foy resigned from the House of Delegates on December 8, 2020. Her successor was elected in a special election on January 6, 2021.)
Crime scene of a recent Fairfax County murder. Credit ABC News.
by Hans Bader
Murders have skyrocketed this year, as local governments have become softer on crime. In the 57 major cities for which data is available, the murder rate is up an average of 36.7%. Murder went up in 51 cities, and down in only six cities. Murder is up 74.1% in Seattle, 72.3% in Minneapolis, 55.5% in Chicago, 54.1% in Boston, 39.2% in New York, 34.5% in St. Louis, and 30.4% in Los Angeles.
This huge rise in murder occurred as progressive prosecutors became softer on crime, parole became available to more murderers, and the death penalty stopped being used in most states.
In the last few years, voters in many areas have elected left-wing prosecutors who refuse to “prosecute entire categories of crimes” and thus “enable crime to explode under their watch,” notes the Heritage Foundation. For example, in 2019, Steve Descano was elected as Commonwealth’s Attorney in Virginia’s Fairfax County. He defeated the incumbent, a moderate Democrat, in a close Democratic primary election by massively outspending him. His campaign was funded mostly by a PAC bankrolled by left-wing billionare George Soros, which gave Descano over $600,000. Continue reading
Judge David Bernhard
by Hans Bader
A judge in Virginia’s Fairfax County has ruled that portraits of white judges must be removed from a courtroom to protect a black criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial. The idea that white people are so scary or racially offensive that just seeing them deprives minorities of a fair trial would have been viewed as laughably racist even a few years ago. But in today’s bizarre political climate, this idea is viewed as progressive. So the judge’s ruling was applauded by the liberal media.
Judge David Bernhard ruled that the white portraits had to be banished, in Commonwealth v. Shipp. As he put it, “The Defendant’s constitutional right to a fair jury trial stands paramount over the countervailing interest of adorning courtrooms with portraits that honor past jurists,” because those portraits were “overwhelmingly of white individuals.” Since 45 of the 47 judges were white, he viewed their portraits as “symbols” that black people are “of lesser standing.” Continue reading
The Academies of Loudoun
by Hans Bader
The Virginia attorney general’s office has ruled that the Loudoun County school system committed illegal racial discrimination by admitting relatively few black and Hispanic students to its selective schools, the Academies of Loudoun.
For reasons that have nothing to do with racism, the Academies of Loudoun are much more heavily Asian than the Loudoun County Public Schools as a whole. They have fewer blacks, Hispanics, and whites than the Loudoun school district as a whole. The finding of “discrimination” against LCPS is wrong, because it is based on an apples-to-oranges comparison and concept of discrimination that likely does not apply to school systems. Continue reading
Teacher’s George Floyd pun: bad taste, even offensive, but was it a firing offense?
by Hans Bader
A high-school teacher in Arlington is under investigation and has been “relieved of classroom duties” after posting a chemistry question that referred to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. “George Floyd couldn’t breathe because a police officer put his _____ George’s neck,” the question read. The answer is “neon,” an element that sounds like “knee on.”
If the teacher is fired from his position, that will violate his constitutional rights, because teachers weren’t on notice that such classroom references to killings were forbidden. While school districts are entitled to control what students are taught, they can’t punish instructors for classroom speech without first making clear that it’s prohibited. If “people of common intelligence” wouldn’t have known that such references were forbidden, then punishing an instructor for them “violates due process,” as judges explained Bradley v. University of Pittsburgh (1990).
For example, an appeals court overturned the discipline of a professor for classroom lectures deemed sexually insensitive, because he wasn’t on notice that his remarks — which weren’t aimed at any particular student — would be deemed to fall within the “nebulous outer reaches” of his college’s sexual harassment policy. (Cohen v. San Bernardino Valley College (1996)). Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Criminals are being released from jail due to the coronavirus pandemic, especially in progressive states. But states should think twice. Letting criminals out won’t save lives. Instead, it will spread the disease far and wide, and increase the crime rate, including murders and rapes.
Supporters of releasing criminals say it will protect them from catching the virus in prison. But COVID-19 already is pervasive in our prisons, and many inmates are either asymptomatic carriers of the virus, or already had it and swiftly recovered from it. The fatality rate from the disease appears to be less than 1% for inmates, just as it is for many other demographics.
Inmates aren’t going to catch the disease a second time, much less die from it. But if they are released, asymptomatic inmates can infect lots of people. That includes inmates’ elderly relatives, who are much more likely to die of COVID-19 than criminals themselves, who tend to be younger and more able to cope with the virus.
Recently released inmates are testing positive for COVID-19, even when when they were screened before release, and did not show any symptoms until after being released. This is raising “concerns” that the disease “could spread to the communities where people return upon release.” Continue reading
Not a threat
by Han Bader
Several countries are reopening schools after temporarily closing them due to coronavirus. For example, Denmark and Norway have reopened their elementary schools. States in America should start reopening their schools, too. New research says that doing so won’t spread coronavirus to many adults, and it will have little effect on child mortality. Yet schools remain closed in 44 states.
Two months ago, I called for states to close their schools, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. My goal was to “slow down the spread of coronavirus and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed” by large numbers of coronavirus patients at any one time, by spacing out infections over a longer period of time. That way, hospitals would have enough ventilators and other equipment to treat all the people who fall ill, even at the peak of the epidemic. The goal of my advice, which was cited or shared by a number of web sites like Real Clear Policy, was not to prevent all transmission of coronavirus. That would be an impossible, unrealistic, and silly goal. Instead, the goal was more practical: To “flatten the curve” of infections and hospitalizations so that no more people would be hospitalized at any one time than hospitals can handle.
But even in the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus, American hospitals never ran out of ventilators — not even at the peak period of infections. Cities never ran out of hospital beds. Some hospitals did face difficulty obtaining enough personal protective equipment (PPE), but in most of the country, hospitals had enough PPE. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
The schools in Arlington County are refusing to teach children anything new out of a concern for “equity.” Although the schools are physically closed due to coronavirus, students have been doing their assignments from home using school-issued electronic devices. Now school officials fear students will learn differently if they come from different home environments or have different abilities.
In an April 9 email, Arlington’s schools notified parents that their kids won’t be taught any new “concepts” during the remainder of this academic year. Instead, during the school closures, students’ “learning plans” will “focus on previously introduced learning from” the prior academic quarters when they were physically in school. They will be taught the same things all over again.
So, until the end of this academic year, students will receive only a repetitive, low-quality education. That violates kids’ right to be given a quality education, on a continual basis, under the Virginia Constitution. Article I, § 15 of the state constitution mandates a “system of free public … schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth,” to ensure that “an educational program of high quality is …. continually maintained.”
Coronavirus is a good reason for physically closing the schools — but not for preventing students from learning at home. Especially not when teachers are still being paid to assign students work and correct it, and federal education dollars are still flowing to the state of Virginia to enable its education system to function. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Last week, several governors correctly closed their states’ schools to slow the spread of coronavirus. The draconian actions were needed to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks as the number of coronavirus cases grows exponentially.
But closing the schools will place heavy burdens on many parents who have to work, can’t work from home, and have no stay-at-home spouse — especially nurses taking care of critically-ill coronavirus patients. All of a sudden, nurses will either need to find child care for young children previously in school, or quit working and stop taking care of critically ill patients. Obtaining child care on such short notice is likely to be difficult, and quite expensive even when it is available.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order Saturday to deal with this problem. It aims to help overwhelmed “providers of health care” and “emergency medical services” do their job by “expanding child care access.” It authorizes the State Superintendent of Schools to “suspend certain State child care and local regulations,” including “zoning” and “land use” permits, in order to “expand capacity for child care services.” It also allows the Superintendent to “issue guidelines permitting family and friend child care providers to provide care for up to five unrelated children in the provider’s home.” This is a good first step that other governors, such as Virginia’s Ralph Northam, should also take if possible. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Coronavirus is spreading rapidly. If the number of people with the disease continues to grow exponentially, it will overwhelm the healthcare system within a month. Hospitals will be so packed with patients that hospitals will run out of ventilators needed to keep seriously ill patients alive, and intensive care units will be filled to capacity. The lack of adequate medical care will increase the death rate from the disease, from under 1% to over 3%.
The Washington Post reports that is already about to happen throughout northern Italy, where the disease arrived earlier than in the U.S.
To slow down the spread of coronavirus, and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, we need to close America’s schools now. Continue reading