VEA Wants Better Student Discipline – Dismisses Progressive “Reforms” as Unhelpful

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes unions work for members.

They always back higher pay and benefits. I back that position of the Virginia Education Association (VEA).

On the other hand, I have opposed some things the VEA has backed in Virginia public schools — the list starts with excessively long denial of in-school education during COVID.

But the VEA knows what is going on in Virginia classrooms, and represents their members with consistency in insisting on the need for better student discipline.

Crucially, VEA offers a distinctly different view of the importance of student discipline than does the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers. The socially liberal views of the VEA stop short of ignoring chaos and fear in the halls and classrooms of the schools in which their members work.

NEA and the AFT do not even acknowledge a school discipline problem affecting teacher retention.

Pay and benefits, increased diversity of the workforce, eliminating standardized tests, lowering class sizes, reducing paperwork, and expanding collective bargaining are the solutions to teacher resignations that NEA and AFT share.

I suspect that the VEA is on board with most of those. Encouragingly, it has not taken a position on SOLs in particular or standardized tests in general that I can find by searching the VEA website.

Both the NEA and AFT reject the legacy disciplinary policies that are featured by the VEA.

So I suggest that Virginia progressives take note of the VEA position when insisting:

  • that student discipline is not an issue in deteriorating learning environments and increasing teacher departures; and
  • that social emotional learning, restorative justice practices, trauma- informed care, and discipline equity measures introduced in Virginia during the Democratic interregnum in Richmond are working.

The VEA website describes its stances on issues in education. Here is their position on student discipline:


Throughout VEA Resolutions, the Association’s position is clear in insisting on safe school and work environments for both student and public education employees and for discipline policies that are developed, implemented and applied in a non-discriminatory manner.

  • The VEA believes that consistent discipline policies which respect and safeguard the physical and psychological rights of students and education employees should be established and followed in each school division in a non-discriminatory manner….”(VEA Resolutions: E-30).
  • The VEA believes that all education staff, students, parents/guardians, communities, and community agencies must work cooperatively to establish safe and orderly schools. Students and staff must be safe from physical, verbal, psychological violence, and all forms of harassment….(VEA Resolutions: D-30)
  • The VEA believes that a safe and orderly environment, in which students are treated with dignity, will provide a positive learning experience. Effective discipline enhances high expectations and quality instruction, promoting self-control and responsible behavior while ensuring the right of all students to due process and an orderly learning environment. It is incumbent upon school boards and administrators to support teachers in this pursuit…. “ (VEA Resolutions D-32) (emphasis added)

The NEA and AFT would not touch those words with a ten-foot pole.

Under the issue of student discipline, VEA notably and tellingly provides a link to the Virginia Board of Education Student Code of Conduct Policy Guidelines, January 2015 (the pre-progressive one).

It offers links neither to the Model Guidance for Student Code of Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension produced by a radical Board of Education in 2019 nor to its 2021 revision.

The 2021 model guidance as described by VDOE requires:

The Virginia Board of Education has approved the revisions to the 2021 Model Guidance for Positive, Preventive Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension, a blueprint for school boards in revising local policies, systems, and practices related to student conduct and school climate. The Model Guidance represents another initiative to embrace Virginia is for Learners.

It focuses on ensuring equity and establishing prevention and intervention in a tiered system of supports. The 2021 Model Guidance also provides references to relevant Code of Virginia statutes and includes resources for developing alternatives to suspension. (emphasis added).

Not “relaxed discipline,” but rather a “tiered system of supports.” Good to know.

On the subject of the relaxation of student discipline measures passed by the General Assembly and resulting model policies of the Board of Education, the VEA writes:

The VEA Legislative Committee has consistently opposed bills that would remove local school and school system discretion and control of discipline and bills that would seriously weaken protections and assurances of safe learning and working environments for students and school employees. (emphasis added).

So, I recommend that advocates of the “reforms” imposed by a Democratic General Assembly, Governor Northam and his woke BOE drop the pretenses:

  • that they have worked to improve student discipline and learning environments in Virginia; and
  • that they have not contributed to teacher resignations here.

But I am absolutely sure they will not drop it. It would be admitting error.  And dogma cannot be acknowledged to contain error.

They will instead attack the VEA for heresy. Or attempt to compel it to “restate and clarify” its positions that “some may misconstrue.”

Or both.

Virginia teachers, on the other hand, can pick which union has their best interests at heart.