The Fruit of School Disciplinary “Reform”?

by James A. Bacon

If your son came home saying that a bully had hit and strangled him on the school bus that morning, and if you saw images circulating on social media confirming what he told you, how would you have reacted?

Like Taylor Brock, mom of a 7th grader at Walt Whitman Middle School in Alexandria, you likely would have gone to school authorities, reported the incident, showed them the video, demanded that the school keep her son safe, and call for the expulsion of the bully from school. Like Brock, you also might have posted a video (from which the photo above was taken) on your website and sought justice in the courts.

School authorities suspended the girl but allowed her to return. Brock was assured that her son and girl would not attend the same classes, and the two students were instructed to walk apart in the hallways. Brock was not satisfied. Reports the New York Post:

[Brock] said that when she asked school officials why they merely suspended the girl, they replied, ‘We have protocols we have to follow and execute punishment according to the School’s Code of Conduct.’

‘From what I have been told, she is known for bullying but mostly bullies my son. He is an easy target as he is one of the shortest and skinniest children in his grade which was true for me growing up as well,’ Brock wrote.

‘This child committed a felony under adult standards and suspension was the ‘correct form of discipline?’ she added.

Brock went to court to get a protective order. A local judge ordered the girl to stay at least 50 feet away from her son for two weeks. The school never notified teachers about the order, however, and at least on one occasion the girl sat behind her son at lunch. To Brock, neither the girl nor Whitman officials took the protective order seriously, and she pulled her son from the school.

A few observations and questions arise from this incident, which you will never hear about from The Washington Post, National Public Radio, or any other news outlet aligned with the New Ruling Class until it becomes too explosive to ignore.

It is extraordinary that a student could commit such a violent attack on another student and be allowed to return after a brief suspension. (No details on how long the suspension lasted). What the heck is going on?

Schoolyard bullying has existed as long as there have been schools. Violent bullying is universally decried, and every school district has policies that proclaim the behavior to be unacceptable. A basic question is whether the incidence of bullying has gotten worse or better in recent years in response to efforts to make disciplinary policy more “equitable.”

It’s hard to know. The official figures reported to the Virginia Department of Education are probably underreported because the bureaucratic imperatives to minimize the published number of disciplinary infractions is intense. Conversely, it’s easy to exaggerate the extent of the phenomenon by highlighting incidents that have vivid video to dramatize them. That’s exactly what the ruling-class media have done by highlighting rare examples of police killings of unarmed African-Americans to push the narrative of systemic racism. And now something similar appears to be happening as alternative, conservative media push an image narrative of black-on-white crime.

My sense is that bullying has gotten worse. As we have documented on this blog, the year-long absence from school caused by the COVID-driven school shutdowns resulted in a marked deterioration in student behavior across the board. The COVID shutdowns coincided with: (1) efforts to end the so-called “school to prison pipeline” by reducing referrals of students to law-enforcement; (2) propagation of rhetoric decrying “white privilege” and “systemic racism;” and (3) institutionalization of a “restorative justice” disciplinary system that downplays harsh consequences for horrendous behavior.

Suspicions driven by anecdotes are not proof, of course. But a thorough and objective analysis of Virginia’s school disciplinary policies is way overdue.

Correction: This post had been corrected to reflect that the school in question was Walt Whitman Middle School in Alexandria, not Walt Whitman High School in Fairfax County — as I should have immediately surmised from an incident involving a 7th-grade kid.