Layered supports and investments, informed by experts, to promote the health and safety of our students and staff
At Charlottesville City Schools, our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff. Experts from the fields of school security, mental health, and public safety agree that the foundation of school safety is a commitment to wellness and a positive school culture.
Through a committee and community engagement process, in 2021 the Board approved a new safety plan focusing on:
- Strengthening our community and relationships
- Growing our mental health supports (we doubled our mental health staffing in 2021)
- Hiring and training care and safety assistants – community mentors who are trained school security officers, with skills in areas such as de-escalation
- Partnering with the community, including situations when police will still come to schools to promote safety
- Investing in upgrades to building security
Brief Overview of Safety Model
- Review the slides from our Family University event about school and community safety (December 2022).
Full Script for Video
- English: read on
- Español: Información
- Arabic: تعليق
- Dari: نظر سنجی
- Pashto: سروې
- Swahili: Habari
Overview of Proposed Model for School Safety in Charlottesville City Schools (March 2021)
In June 2020, Charlottesville’s School Board and Police Department agreed that we need a new model for school safety, one that does not place School Resource Officers, or SROs, in our schools. This decision supports our equity work and reflects current trends in school safety.
Safety remains our top priority, and there are many models for safety. Data does not indicate that having an SRO on site leads to better outcomes for either day-to-day events or emergencies.
What data does show is effective are many areas that Charlottesville has already committed to, such as:
- Mental wellness
- Intentional community-building and strong relationships
- Common-sense building upgrades
- Threat assessment teams and de-escalation skills to evaluate and manage situations as they arise
- Restorative practices to restore good relationships, teach interpersonal skills, and minimize engagement with court systems
The Safety Plan for Charlottesville Schools
In the fall, the Superintendent convened a committee of staff, students, family members and community members, many with relevant expertise. They were asked to research and recommend a new safety model.
As the committee worked, one model rose to the top. In Toronto, Canada, they removed school resource officers in 2017 and found success using school-hired safety monitors. In many cases, these safety monitors were already working in the schools or the community. These safety monitors are “more mentor than muscle.” They keep an eye on the facilities to make sure that doors are secured, and they walk the halls of the schools to offer a helpful hand as needed. They are trained in de-escalation, mental health, and safety procedures. In Charlottesville, the training of the safety monitors would be directed by the division, and they’d report to the building principals at Buford, CHS, and Lugo-McGinness Academy.
In addition to safety monitors, this model also increases focus on mental wellness and student supports. Due to a recent grant and the planned budget for 21-22, Charlottesville City Schools will add mental health or social work professionals on every level.
Following a revised memorandum of understanding, police will still come to schools when needed. We’ll also continue to partner with community organizations in Charlottesville because we work better together. We’ll keep upgrading facilities with a focus on door access control. Again, the foundation is positive school culture and building relationships. We’ll train staff in key areas such as restorative practices. And we’ll teach the social-emotional skills our students need to self-regulate and help support their peers. Everyone has a role to maintain a positive school atmosphere.
So the big ideas are —
- Strengthening our community and relationships
- Growing our mental health supports
- Raising up community mentors to be an extra set of hands in the hallways
- Partnering with the community, including clearly defined situations when police will still come to schools to promote safety
Read below to learn more about specific ways we work to promote the safety and wellbeing of our school communities.
Safety Programs at Charlottesville City Schools
A System of Supports
A System of Supports: VTSS and PBIS
Charlottesville City Schools has implemented a framework for creative a positive, consistent school culture using the models of Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) and Positive Behavorial Intervention and Supports (PBIS). The school division has won a trailblazer’s award for the way we have included attention to mental wellness in our implementation of VTSS.
Mental and Physical Wellness
Social, emotional, and physical wellness are foundational to life and learning
Charlottesville City Schools recognizes the strong link between a child’s social, emotional, and physical health and their ability to learn. Schools also play an important role in teaching children about wellness.
In 2016, our school division won a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award in recognition of our policies in place to promote healthy choices for our students and staff. We have also won national recognition for our attention to mental wellness through social and emotional learning programs and our systems of positive supports.
Our 2017-23 Strategic Plan places a strong emphasis on “Safe and Supportive Schools,” with specific goals for social, emotional, and physical wellness. One outcome of this plan was to double the number of mental health practioners in our schools to meet our students’ needs in 2021.
The School Health Advisory Board—made up of health professionals, community agencies, parents, educators and students—advises the School Board in the development and evaluation of our state-recognized Wellness Policy and programs that support the health and well-being of students, families, and school staff.
- Charlottesville City Schools Wellness Policy (Policy JHCF)
- CCS Wellness Policy Brochure (2017) — distributed to all families
- Physical Fitness Programs at Charlottesville City Schools
- Social-Emotional Learning
- Counselors, Social Workers and Psychologists including Bullying Prevention and Peer Mediation
- Employee Wellness Benefits and Overview of Programs
- Green Initiatives at Charlottesville City Schools
- Safety Programs and Planning
- School Community-Building Programs
- School Health Advisory Board
- School Nurses and Student Health
- Information about student insurance for qualifying families (FAMIS)
- School Nutrition at Charlottesville City Schools
- School-wide Positive Supports (Virginia Tiered Systems of Support and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports)
Sample Partners and Related Programs:
Fostering School Community and Relationships
One of the goals for Charlottesville City Schools is to promote a positive and inclusive culture in our learning communities. Relationships are at the heart of a thriving community and are also key to promoting safety. We strive to encourage strong relationships among and between staff, students, and families through mentoring and other initiatives.
- A strong sense of community is at the heart of our division-wide framework for supporting students’ academic, behavioral, and mental health needs (Virginia Tiered Systems of Support and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). Both Johnson Elementary and our alternative learning center, Lugo-McGinness Academy, have led the way as we establish practices that build community, encourage good behavior, and deepen relationships.
- From school-wide meetings at Venable to Fun Fridays at Clark, our elementary schools promote a positive sense of community. Need another example? How about the “welcome back” field days at the start of each semester at Burnley-Moran.
- We believe in mentoring, whether that means Buford eighth-graders serving as reading buddies at neighboring Johnson Elementary, upperclassmen at CHS welcoming ninth-graders through Link Crew, or teachers, coaches, and community leaders guiding students at every step of the way.
- Our school counselors foster social-emotional health in a variety of ways. They offer classroom lessons, such as Walker students guiding their blindfolded partners to solve jigsaw puzzles. In 2021. we doubled the size of our mental health staff. Social-emotional learning is also part of our curriculum, and trauma-responsive practices are in place in all our schools.
- Relationships (and reading skills) can deepen even during the summer through our teachers’ and librarians’ Books on Bikes program! The BoB team visits neighborhoods to deliver free books, popsicles, and smiles. (A therapy dog even makes the rounds!)
- Parents are a big part of our school communities, whether through staying connected, volunteering, or attending events such as Doughnuts with Dad at Johnson. We are proud to have a Family Engagement Coordinator and are so grateful for the good work of our active PTOs!
- Clubs, athletics, and our amazing fine arts programs also build relationships and community.
- An award-winning and comprehensive commitment to wellness — from mental health to outdoor gardens — lays the foundation for our community-building.
Care and Safety Assistants
During 2020-21, Charlottesville City Schools convened a committee to gather feedback, research options, and make a recommendation for a new plan for school safety. As part of the new model, in August 2021, Charlottesville City Schools hired and trained a team of Care and Safety Assistants with deep relationships in the community to be an extra set of hands in the hallways and oversee safety practices. The CSAs are certified school security officers trained in areas such as de-escalation, teen mental health first aide, safety procedures, and more.
The new model for safety also places more mental health professionals in our schools. In addition, the plan calls for schools to engage in intentional community-building to foster good relationships, which safety experts say is the most foundational and impactful tool to promote safety. Finally, the plan relies on community partners such as the police to promote safety. Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols – MOU (2021).
School safety is not limited to the school day. We are a model of community partnership for areas such as mental health (partnering with Region 10 to provide no-fee counselors at CHS, Buford, and Walker); trauma-informed practices (co-founding and partnering with the Charlottesville Trauma Network for staff training and agency consistency); and community policing (working with the Charlottesville Police Department). Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols – MOU (2021).
Safety and Emergency Planning
School leaders work throughout the year evaluating security measures and planning for crises and emergencies. Safety is our top priority. We work with local first-responders, develop building-specific security procedures, and participate in emergency management training and activities.
Our plans include:
- Training for all employees
- Encouraging a culture of “see something, say something”
- Routine safety drills
- Building-specific security procedures and annual safety audits
- A team of care and safety assistants who build relationships with students, staff, and the community and who promote a safe school atmosphere
- Strong and expanded school-based staffing of counselors, social workers, and psychologists (in 2021, we doubled the number of mental health professionals in our schools.)
- Threat assessment teams at all schools
- Surveillance cameras, screening procedures for visitors, buzz-in entrances, lighting/locking upgrades, and standardized exterior door signage to assist first responders
- Continued awareness of local or national events and their impact
- Participation in local emergency management activities and drills with government, school, and public health officials
- Attendance at school safety conferences to stay in step with best practices
- Partnering with the community, including situations when police come to schools to promote safety.
- Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols (2021)
These emergency plans complement our larger goals for promoting safety by building systems of supports for all students, promoting wellness, and creating a positive school culture.
What Can Families Do?
There are concrete steps you can do now to make sure you stay informed and to help create a positive community.
- Keep your contact info up-to-date. Has your telephone number or email address changed? Contact your school!
- Customize how you hear from us – choose phone, email, or text! Log in to PowerSchool and click on “School Messenger.”
- For help creating your PowerSchool login, call your school secretary or registrar.
- Click here for detailed instructions about how to edit your contact settings.
- Stay connected with your school’s PTO!
- Talk to your children about school safety, particularly when there has been a national incident. Click here for tips from the National Association of School Psychologists.
- Follow the national conversation on school safety and gun violence. Advocate as you see appropriate. One resource is national researchers’ multi-disciplinary call for action to end gun violence.
- Safely store your medicines and guns. Region 10 offers information and free equipment.
- You may wish to talk to your children about situational awareness, whether they are at school or elsewhere. One example is Run, Hide, Fight on the federal government’s ready.gov website.
Superintendent Committee on School Safety/Security Resources
In the fall of 2020, then-superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins appointed a number of superintendent committees to provide recommendations in three areas (COVID-19, school names, and school safety). The committee for school safety/security resources was prompted in part by the schools and the Charlottesville Police Department jointly ending our 2016 Memorandum of Understanding for School Resource Officers (SRO’s). The committee’s goal was to recommend the best path forward.
Thanks to our community members and all those who shared your feedback. You can still find the committee’s materials on this page.
The final recommendation was to establish a team of care and safety assistants (CSAs) with deep relationships in the community to be an extra set of hands in the hallways and oversee safety practices. The CSAs are trained in areas such as de-escalation, teen mental health first aide, safety procedures, and more. The plan also places more mental health professionals in our schools. And finally, the plan relies on community partnership, including situations when police will still come to schools to promote safety. Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols – MOU (2021).
Recent Updates to the School Board on New Safety Model
- May 5, 2022
- June 2, 2022