Virginia Public School Security – the Disturbing Data

by James C. Sherlock

Does Uvalde Texas seem far away?  It really is not.

All of the problems encountered in that tragedy exist in Virginia schools.

I credit the work of everyone in every school district to keep the schools safe. But given the scale of the dangerous school security-related incidents that occur despite their efforts, there is no reason other than chance that Uvalde or Sandy Hook has not happened here.

I share here a compilation of state data that show the scope of Virginia’s school security issues.

For reference to the numbers presented, there were slightly less than 1.3 million students in Virginia public schools pre-K through 12 in 2018-19 in something like 2,200 public schools in 132 divisions.

Perfect security is unattainable at that scale, but we can do better.

I have used the data from 2018-19 because it is the last year for which available data are useful due to COVID disruptions in school attendance.

The data are arranged to show reported incidents across the Virginia public school system by offense category. I have deleted from the full state incident data some categories like smoking violations that I do not consider relevant to this discussion.

Some lowlights:

  • 80 arsons actual or attempted;
  • 260 bomb threats;
  • 31,041 reported fights;
  • 3,557 reported drug violations;
  • 124 incidents of gang activity, more than a third of which were in Fairfax County schools;
  • 87 incidents of inciting to riot, more than a third of which were in Richmond schools;
  • 1 kidnapping (Fairfax County);
  • 12 forced robberies;
  • 2,714 sexual offenses;
  • 193 reported incidents of trespassing; and
  • 2,103 weapons incidents.

There are more categories on the spreadsheet, but that is enough for this discussion. Use it to find facts about your children and grandchildren’s school division. They might surprise you. These data can be broken down by individual school, but this particular sort is good enough to point out the macro problem.

And these are the incidents that were caught and reported.

The data are obviously impacted by the choices of individual principals of what to report and how to categorize what happened. When I have looked at this at the individual school level, it is clear that whatever reporting standards are required are not uniformly applied or enforced. So, these data represent the minimum number of incidents actually dealt with at the school level.

I also do not know how many of these incidents reported to VDOE resulted in criminal charges, thereby populating a record that can later prevent the purchase of a gun by someone who should not have one.

But, again:

  • 2,103 weapons incidents;
  • Repeated gang activity in the schools of Fairfax County and elsewhere;
  • More than 2,700 reported sexual offenses;
  • nearly 3600 drug violations; and
  • 31 reported incidents of inciting to riot in Richmond schools alone.

In one school year.

Now pare that down to consider what we can do to prevent weapons and trespassers from getting into our schools — the most common scenario for mass tragedies.  Certainly most of both can be detected and blocked from entry.

And then assess how we can better protect the children, teachers and staff from mayhem inside the schools, and from the fear of it.

I strongly reiterate that there are good people working these problems every day.

But we can hope the actual numbers, when publicized, are bracing enough to drive additional state and local action to help them.

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18 responses to “Virginia Public School Security – the Disturbing Data”

  1. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Apparently you missed the latest a fight at TC Williams in Alexandria where students had a massive brawl and one was stabbed to death.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I saw the story.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Captain I saw so much nonsense that was never reported, swept under the rug, and business continued as usual. The numbers you report are likely much lower than the reality of modern education security issues.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Because that was off school grounds, it might not show up in the data for this year.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Correct. It won’t.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          It should! That violence occurred between the 2 campuses of ACHS and Executive Principal Balas should be held accountable.

  2. killerhertz Avatar

    We had a pretty bad fight here at a middle school in Fauquier a few weeks ago. Problem child w/ known issues. The school principal was transferred to another school to “lead”. What a crock. This is the result of yet another monopoly.

    The police, which is apparently now just the billy club of the state are NOT to be trusted. They let cities burn during BLM riots. They enforced unconstitutional lockdowns. And they have no obligation to intervene in a school shooting it seems. The thin blue line is a farce. Conservatives are morons to believe otherwise.

    The solution is simple. GTFO public schools if you can. Send a damn message that the state doesn’t own your children.

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      Waiting for Conservatives to castigate you for daring to say cops are not to be trusted… we all know it won’t happen… hypocrites every one of you…

    2. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

      You said that the police cannot be trusted. What do you mean?

      1. killerhertz Avatar

        You cannot trust the police to protect you during a crime. As evidenced during blm riots, uvalde shooting, etc. They’ll do what the state tells them, however.

      2. killerhertz Avatar

        The SRO failed at Parkland and Uvalde. That’s what I mean.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    This data summary is useful. Thanks for compiling it.

    To put it into perspective, however, much more detail is needed. For example, how serious were the assaults and fights? One student pushing another could be catagorized as an assault. My daughter told me, sort of matter of factedly, that there was a fight in her high school almost every day over thirty years ago. She said that mostly it was a matter of girls fighting over a boy.

    The weapons incidents are most worrisome to me. Again, however, more detail is needed. What sort of weapons? When I was a kid in elementary school, it was not unusual for boys to bring pocketknives to school. I am sure that is not allowed now, a pocketknife is much less dangerous than a semiautomatic handgun. How many of these weapons charges were a result of weapons being detected upon the student entering school/

    Security inside the school is, of course, important. But, after Columbine, the three mass school shootings were committed by outsiders with semiautomatic weapons either walking or shooting their way into the school.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I absolutely agree with your quest for detail. It is the job of the VDOE to understand those details statewide and the school boards to get the details in their divisions. I wish I had them, including how many of these resulted in arrests, criminal charges and convictions.

      The convictions are the key to the effectiveness of red flag laws and background checks. That in turn returns to the enforcement philosophy of the prosecutor, which has been a lively subject here.

      I don’t think the progressive prosecutors wish to talk about the link between their refusals to prosecute and the negative effects of that failure on the red flag and background check programs they support.

  4. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    31,000 fights actually seems pretty low given a total population of 1.3 million.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      31,000 fights reported to the state. That distinction is important.

      1. Indeed. The bureaucratic incentives are to report fewer incidents and impose fewer sanctions in order to shut down the schools-to-prison pipeline.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          I cannot emphasize enough the differences among:
          – incidents;
          – incidents reported to VDOE;
          – incidents reported to law enforcement;
          – arrests;
          – arrests that resulted in prosecution or referral to mental health professionals; and
          – convictions or mental health records that block gun purchases.

  5. One more observation: If you thought the 2018-19 data were bad, just wait for the 2021-22 data… assuming the reporting of incidents has been repressed.

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