Tag Archives: James Sherlock

Get Weapons Out of Schools – Start with the Schools Most Threatened

by James C. Sherlock

When we talk about getting weapons out of schools, most Virginians don’t have any concept of how many are found in schools every year.

Or think they are all in high schools. Or likely both.

When they do find out, eyes glaze over thinking of the cost and difficulty of fixing that problem in Virginia’s 2,100 or so public schools.

How could such a problem even be approached?

Consider the Willy Sutton rule.

The last full year pre-COVID, 2018-19, Virginia public schools reported 2,103 weapons incidents in 898 of its public schools. Yes, that is a disturbing number of weapons. I can find no indication on how many were guns and knives.

Yes, that only indicates the weapons that were found.

But “everybody” doesn’t do it at scale. There were seven or more weapons incidents in 41 schools. Continue reading

Governor Youngkin Can Restore Parental Rights in the Treatment of Transgender Children in Schools with the Stroke of a Pen

by James C. Sherlock

Gov. Youngkin criticized after calling on teachers with LGBTQ students to tell parents” is a headline in The Virginian-Pilot.

Apparently, “Gov. Youngkin calls on teachers with LGBTQ students to tell parents” did not make the cut.

Narrative shaping 101.

Now consider these statements of government opinion:

  • “If she has to tell her parents, they might beat or disown her.”
  • “If his parents find out, he might kill himself.”

These are judgments that not only can be made by public school personnel under current Virginia policy, but are actually encouraged by that policy.

Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools (Model Policies) was written pursuant to the 2020 law § 22.1-23.3. Treatment of transgender students; policies. That law was written for action by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who works for the governor. Read it.

Nothing in that law required the DOE to go nearly as far as it did in Model Policies. But it was drafted by a panel dominated by progressive activists who shared their pronouns.

You will note there is not a single word in that law about parents.

All the Governor needs to do is tell his superintendent to revoke that destructive policy document and re-rewrite it requiring parental involvement. (And new rules for bathrooms. You are welcome, Hanover County School Board.)

Elections matter. Continue reading

The Circle of Government Fecklessness and Homelessness – Newport News Edition

Newport News City Manager Cynthia Rohlf

by James C. Sherlock

Newport News ought to work.

It starts with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS). I’ll let them describe it.

Newport News Shipbuilding is the sole designer, builder and refueler of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and one of two providers of U.S. Navy submarines.

With approximately $4 billion in revenues and more than 25,000 employees, we are the largest industrial employer in Virginia and the largest shipbuilding company in the United States.

We build the most advanced ships in the world using our expertise in nuclear propulsion, naval design and manufacturing.

Many of the 187,000 citizens of Newport News either have a family member who works at NNS, one of its 2,000 active suppliers (half of which are small businesses) or one of the businesses who provide services to those employees. The population of Newport News is a full five years younger (median age 32.9) than that of the rest of Virginia (37.8).

So, as I said, Newport News as a city ought to work, if for no other reason than that it is anchored by 550 acres of the most spectacularly accomplished industrial plant and white- and blue-collar workers in the world.

But in key government services it does not work. Continue reading

Richmond Times Dispatch’s Flexible “Community Guidelines”

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Times- Dispatch motto is “Where Your Story Lives.”

They fail to define “your.”

I posted a comment this morning on a story in the RTD titled “Hanover County School Board introduces transgender policy; discussion is limited.”

The headline is unconsciously ironic, but I did not comment on that. Picking on headline writers is weak.

I noted that the author, in an extensive article, failed to mention as context for the public discussion upon which she reported the fact that parents and the Board had in mind the two rapes in Loudoun County Public Schools last summer/fall by a young man wearing a skirt to get into the girls bathroom.

I did not comment on the wisdom of the draft resolution that was considered by the Board of Education. I thought it ridiculous. Something simpler, perhaps, like “unless you have to sit or squat to pee, stay out of the girls room.” Or whatever.  But I left that alone.

Mine was, I thought, a respectable input. I just received a note rejecting my comment.

This is the entire note: Continue reading

Can Teaching Be Fixed to Transform It From a Burnout Job? – A Professional Approach

by James C. Sherlock

K-12 teachers all over the state and country report burnout.

There are lengthy discussions — OK, arguments — about the reasons for that situation. But no one denies it is happening.

One of the attractions of teaching when I was a kid and a young man was that teachers, largely then as now women, could raise their families, teach and enjoy and feel fulfilled by both.

  • Most went to school with the school buses and came home with the school buses. They were home when their kids got home. They were with their kids in the summers.
  • They did not work at home or at school on their computers and the internet because there were no home computers or internet. They had a free period during the day, but they did grade papers at home. Sure. Sometimes. Lesson plans. Ditto. I know I did in my brief pre-military stint as a teacher. But I did not find that stressful. Neither did my married colleagues. Teaching was fun.
  • The undergraduate education schools taught their students how to teach. Both the curricula and student teaching were meaningful. They prepared student teachers for their first and second years of teaching far better than they do today.
  • Ed school emphasis was on their undergraduates. Teachers did not require graduate degrees to teach. (Still don’t, but their own schools today make them second-class citizens if they do not have one. Lower pay. Unlikely to be a principal. Not versed in the latest graduate school of education trendy theories, so they don’t get sent to professional conferences. Regardless of the relative quality of their teaching. They can be Master Teachers in some divisions, but that was an afterthought.)
  • That system worked for both the teachers and the kids, both their own and those they taught.
  • It worked for the schools, because they could fill their classrooms with qualified teachers, who did not burn out and quit.

There is a professional approach to returning the job of teacher to a lower stress condition. First, insist on it. Then re-architect the school and thus the profession of teacher to make it happen. Continue reading

Equal Time: American Federation of Teachers on Teacher Retention and Discipline in Schools

by James C. Sherlock

To balance my reporting on discipline in schools and teacher retention, it is only fair to go to the best progressive source of ideas.

To give them equal time.

It is a close call, but the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the most progressive and militant of America’s major teachers’ unions. They are proud of that.

But that does not imply that they are ignorant of what is going on in schools. I read their reports and recommendations regularly, and find some interesting ideas there. Some worth considering.

Many of those ideas unfortunately prescribe solutions that require an avalanche of new money and new hiring. More money than they are willing to estimate. More hiring of specialists than are available in the workforce. But a few do not.

One concludes from reading the dozens of resolutions and reports of the AFT that on the subject of student discipline:

  1.  The union recognizes that student discipline and teacher safety are linked and constitute a major problem;
  2. It wants to double down at breathtaking expense on current multi-tiered systems of supports like Virginia’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to solve the problem; and
  3. It does not want students suspended or expelled.

The tension among those three bullets is not explored, but it is unfair to AFT to imply that is all they have to say.

Get a refreshment and we will review some of their ideas. Continue reading

School Discipline Issues Meet Unshakeable Progressive Dogma

by James C. Sherlock

Moral 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. Continue reading

Why are Teachers Quitting? In Virginia Beach, It May Not Be “Mean Parents”

by James C. Sherlock

In the latest installment of “Why are Teachers Quitting,” I have come in possession of a summary copy of the 2020 responses of Virginia Beach teachers to a survey conducted by the Virginia Beach Public Schools (VBPS) administration relating to school discipline.

Survey results were forwarded by Dr. Donald Robertson, Chief Schools Officer. Remember when you read it that this is Virginia Beach.

The PBIS system of discipline implemented in Virginia Beach and referred to in the survey is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.  To see what is expected of school systems implementing PBIS, see here.

There is, of course, a 27-page PBIS blueprint. From that blueprint:

The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Implementation Blueprint is to guide leadership teams in the assessment, development, and execution of action plans. The outcome is the development of local capacity for sustainable, culturally and contextually relevant, and high fidelity implementation of multi-tiered practices and systems of support.

PBIS is our old friend MTSS – sorry, VTSS (Virginia Tiered System of Supports) – in the commonwealth. The holy grail of the progressive left.

Let’s see how PBIS is working in Virginia Beach. Continue reading

An Innovative Initiative from UVa Shows A Way to Increase Low Cost Housing

Courtesy UVa

by James C. Sherlock

In July I published a series of reports here on the lack of sufficient low-cost housing.

The University of Virginia is addressing that problem head on in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The innovation at the core of the program can be applied by Redevelopment and Housing Agencies (RHAs) across the state.

The idea came from the fact that 30% or more of the cost of developing housing is land cost. If a government, university foundation or any landowner would lease — long-term — underutilized land to a private property developer at a negligible land rent, the developer can make a profit with rents that are 30% below market.

This is how the University is building workforce housing for police, firefighters, nurses, school teachers and university blue collar workers. The idea, introduced by Jim Murray, a member of the Board of Visitors now also on the Affordable Housing Advisory Group at UVa, has been around for at least six years.

The concept will soon be reality.

The University program details can be found here.

Every city and county has an inventory of land, some of it forfeited in lieu of tax payments or seized in civil or criminal proceedings. In combination with zoning actions, it can be used for low-cost housing.

The UVa program is replicable. I hope the RHAs will consider it.

Virginia Pre-Trial Release: the True Risks of Recidivism and Failure to Appear for Trial

by James C. Sherlock

The goals, good ones, of Virginia’s Pre-trial Services Agencies (PSA) is

  1. to advise courts on pre-trial release risks;
  2. to supervise the population on pre-trial release to reduce recidivist crime and failures to appear (FTAs) and
  3. through both efforts to help assure public safety.

By the government’s own evidence, those goals have not been realized.

A major Virginia Crime Commission study reported the PSA program made no difference at all compared to courts and pre-release populations not served by PSA. It’s overall success rate was no higher than 62%. The other 38% represent a danger to the citizens of Virginia.

This article is written for two reasons: (1) to get the Youngkin administration as an urgent public safety issue to improve the PSA system or try something else; and (2) to expose that the DCJS annual reports to the governor and General Assembly have been at best wrong.

The evidence of PSA ineffectiveness submitted by the Virginia Crime Commission is scientifically derived by external review. The reports of DCJS are derived from internal data to support budget requests.

The very large gaps in assessment of PSA effectiveness between the two are impossible to rationalize.

In order to make those two separate cases, I will  introduce evidence of both issues. Continue reading

A Teacher Safety Perspective on Teacher Shortages

by James C. Sherlock

We have discussed here teachers shortages in Richmond and some of the other larger school divisions in Virginia.

When the issues of teachers being physically afraid to continue teaching because of behavioral chaos in the schools is brought up, it is ignored or dismissed by the left in favor of its “mean parents” narrative.

The facts do not matter to that narrative. But they matter to nearly everyone else except, for some strange reason, the teachers’ unions. I have no explanation for that.

Let’s look at high school teachers’ (and students’) fears for their safety from student assault. Continue reading

Triumphs in Criminal Bail Reform and Restorative Justice

by James C. Sherlock

George Soros wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday July 31.

Title: “Why I Support Reform Prosecutors.” Subtitle: “Justice or safety? It’s a false choice. They reinforce each other.”

Mr. Soros proudly proclaims he has

supported the election (and more recently the re-election) of prosecutors who support reform.

And will continue to do so.

His right, but we need a little more information. Continue reading

Virginia Needs Better Information Sharing to Provide Mandated Public Services to Illegals Efficiently and Effectively

by James C. Sherlock

I am on record as a persistent advocate of improving the quality of both schools and medical services for poor and minority citizens. It has been the main focus of my work for years.

In a directly related matter, we read, with different reactions depending upon our politics, of the struggles with uncontrolled immigration on border states on the one hand and D.C, New York City and Los Angeles on the other.

We are treated to the public spectacle of the mayors of sanctuary cities deploring massive new influxes of illegal border-crossers and asking for federal assistance. It provides one of the best object lessons in being careful what you ask for in recent public life.

All of that is interesting, but Virginians know that the problem is increasing. They know Virginia can’t fix it, and they want to know how Virginia will deal with it.

By law we owe illegals services. And we need to provide them efficiently and effectively both for humanitarian reasons and to ensure that citizens are not unnecessarily negatively affected.

There is work to do. Continue reading

Social Theory vs. Science in K-12 Discipline in Virginia – Fraud or Just Wrong?

Both fraudulent and wrong?

by James C. Sherlock

American school children have in my lifetime been the subject of widespread experiments in theory disguised as breakthroughs in education.

Consider the “new math” and the “reading wars” as prominent examples.

Now we have social theory on school discipline created by federal civil rights lawyers piggybacking on what may or may not prove to be successful academic practices for children with disabilities. That social theory has been promulgated as state policy guidance in Virginia.

A Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) has been used successfully in some instances to help teach academics to the learning-disabled.

This system was extended by lawyers from the aspirational left to school discipline and social-emotional learning without evidence. Now it has been published by the Virginia Board of Education for use by every school division in Virginia as a potential cure for “systemic racism” in discipline.

The 2021 Model Guidance for Positive, Preventative Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension (Virginia Model Guidance) may be fraudulently referenced. It is certainly incompletely referenced. Continue reading

Bad News for Governor Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin addressing the Nebraska Republican Party convention. Photo credit: Nebraska Republican Party by way of the Nebraska Examiner.

by James C. Sherlock

The New York Post has a story by Dana Kennedy that has put Governor Youngkin in a tough spot.

It recounts nasty business transactions by Carlyle Group Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman David Rubenstein.

The story links Mr. Rubenstein to the trashing of two founding fathers by tour guides at Monticello and Montpelier, the Virginia homes of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The Governor’s service at Carlyle was not mentioned in the article, but that won’t help.

It is a story linked to Virginia monuments that will need to be dealt with. Continue reading