They say bad news comes in threes.
With Loudoun County Public Schools, we've seen a lot of threes.
A peculiar email from Woodgrove High School Principal Sam Shipp last Friday night started things off. The message, which arguably led to more questions than answers, notified the school community that a student had brought a gun to school.
But the incident didn't happen earlier in the week, nor was it earlier in February. It wasn't even this year. Nope, it was last October.
We appreciate the principal coming forward with the bare-bones information, but a few pertinent details would be appreciated. We sought answers to basic questions like how this information came to light and what kind of disciplinary action was being considered. Maybe even something simple like why did the student bring the gun to school? We were met with the expected and sure stonewalling from the Loudoun County Public Schools administration. Shipp didn't return our call. The public information office said the principal's statement is all they would be saying on the matter.
Par for the course here at Pleasantville Public Schools.
Shipp's email included the phrase “commitment to transparency,” something we've seen popping up from LCPS lately. Has the unofficial policy become to say it enough and people will believe it's true? Sadly, we've witnessed and experienced enough run-ins with the school system to know that's not the case.
Moving on to Tuesday, when a reader tipped us off to an email from Independence High School Principal John Gabriel, who reported that a long-term substitute at the school used a racial slur in a classroom on Feb. 20.
The teacher reportedly heard a student using the slur and then repeated it. We don't fault the teacher, whose identity was not disclosed, for seemingly attempting to use the incident as a teachable moment. But he or she should have known better than to repeat the word to the class. (Again, the Loudoun County Public Schools public relations machine wouldn't privately disclose what was said, but obviously the word was something significant enough to warrant an email from Gabriel.)
The incident is just another black eye on Loudoun County Public Schools when it comes to racial and cultural literacy. This is a school system that one year ago garnered national attention after a gym class lesson wherein students acted out a “game” portraying slaves escaping through the Underground Railroad. It's also one the Virginia attorney general's office is investigating for alleged discrimination.
And on that note, we arrive at Tuesday night, when two members of LCPS' Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee condemned School Board member John Beatty (Catoctin) for “racially insensitive” comments he made at a committee meeting.
The public pillorying of Beatty appears warranted. While there doesn't seem to be any recording of Beatty's controversial comments in full, the new School Board member did not dispute he said the following during the meeting: "It was worse for African Americans after Reconstruction because they did not have the patronage of a master."
Yes, as Beatty said Wednesday, context matters. Indeed, history is a mess of contradictions and revisionism. But the appropriate scenario for a public official to utter those words escapes us.
We'll stop short of calling for Beatty's resignation as one MSAAC member did, but we agree with MSAAC as an entity that there should be repercussions for Beatty's comments, which no doubt offend countless Loudouners.
Indeed, it was another week to forget for the Loudoun County Public Schools chiefs. Fortunately for them, it's easy to forget scandalous situations when so few facts are disclosed.