CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A school board in Phoenix adopted the "Charlottesville Guiding Principles" to handle threat assessments and safety in its schools last month.

"It is gratifying to know that other schools are looking and learning from us," said Beth Cheuk from Charlottesville City Schools.  

Those principles are creating a collaborative relationship with the police, having age-appropriate interventions with students, and minimizing student involvement with the justice system.

If someone walked into Buford Middle School four years ago, they would've seen school resource officers (SRO). The death of George Floyd in the spring of 2020 caused an overhaul.

"Having the police there was seen as a first step to surveillance, and for our students that have had some bad experiences, they felt like school should be sort of a safe space," Cheuk said.  

So, now, they have mental health professionals and care and safety assistants (CSA).

"They walk the grounds every morning throughout the day, they walk the halls, they check the bathrooms, they're out at dismissal sometimes serve as crossing guards. They handle buses, but they also spend time building relationships with students. It's a friendly face now," said Buford Middle School Principal Rodney Jordan.  

Another one of those friendly faces at Buford is eighth-grade counselor Tessie King, who is on the new wellness team with CSAs, social workers and nurses.

"Assessing our students, figuring out what their needs are, and then developing different programs, different activities for them to provide support that allow them to just release their stress and just give them coping skills," King said.  

Much like in Phoenix, CCS researched other schools when making its model.

"I personally looked on a whole bunch of other schools’ websites just to see. I did a lot of reporting about schools who are finding new safety models. There was one in California, there was one in Michigan," Cheuk said.
Charlottesville has been a leader in school safety for more than 20 years. A University of Virginia professor developed the pilot for threat assessments in 2001, and almost all 50 states and parts of Canada have since adopted those methods.

"One of the beautiful things about public schools is that we're always here to learn from each other," Cheuk said.  

CCS leaders admit they don't have all the answers, so they'll keep tweaking the model as they learn, and maybe more schools will follow.

"Improve the model and work on the model, maybe even survey some students and some parents," Jordan said.