In response to the recent shootings, the Charlottesville School Board reviewed safety and security measures in the division but did not call for specific changes at its Thursday meeting.
However, a group of Charlottesville High School students want to see increased responsibilities and training for division care and safety assistants, a new role created this school year to replace armed police officers in buildings.
“We want our CSAs to be prepared if something happens,” said Nya Bryant, junior CHS.
Bryant is one of the founders of The Voice, a new youth advocacy group that formed before the Buffalo shootings. She said the group is currently focused on keeping students of color safe.
Bryant said she sometimes felt safe at school, but she knows that’s not the case for many of her peers. In a recent divisional survey, about half of students said they felt safe at school, although 17.2% said they did not.
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The Voice hosted a discussion last weekend on school safety ahead of the board meeting.
Bryant said students want CSAs to be more visible during the school day, especially when transitioning between classes. Charlottesville High School has four assistants, but Bryant said she regularly only sees one in the hallways during these transitions.
Additionally, The Voice wants more safe spaces for students of color in schools across the city. Bryant said safe spaces would be places where students of color can go to get information and talk to someone who isn’t a required reporter. State law designates some school employees as mandated reporters, which means they must report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
Bryant said the group wanted a space where students could talk without child protective services being called.
School board president Lisa Larson-Torres said Thursday that she attended The Voice’s kick-off discussion and was looking forward to learning more about the students.
“As sad as it may sound, their main purpose or reason for meeting this weekend was to talk about safety and whether or not they felt at school and what that would like,” he said. she stated. “It was a very thoughtful group with a lot of good points.”
Larson-Torres also acknowledged the toll recent events have had on school staff and “everyone in school buildings, grocery stores and hospitals since yesterday.”
“It’s unfortunate and terrifying that this is happening everywhere, but our goal and our job here as a council is to do everything we can to support and continue to improve safety and share it with community members or parents, anyone who needs to hear it, and as many times as they need to hear it.”
On Thursday, Kim Powell, the division’s chief operating officer, reviewed current safety and security measures with the board.
The school system has installed security door locks on all classroom doors. The locks allow doors to be locked from inside and outside and are considered best practice, Powell said.
All schools in the division also have controlled visitor entrances, which means someone in the building must buzz in for visitors. The division is working to reconfigure entrances to school buildings so that visitors must enter through the main office.
The division has also implemented an access control system that allows administrators to quickly see which doors are unlocked. Powell said they were working on an audio alarm and if the door wasn’t fully closed.
The security system is also supplemented by video cameras. Other building improvements include an extra layer of film over new glass doors and windows. Powell said the film does not make glass bulletproof, but a bullet takes longer to pass through glass.
The division also holds 21 different drills with students throughout the school year. They include 11 fire or evacuation drills and four intrusion or lockout drills.
Powell said when affected families reach out to her, she shares resources on what to do in the event of a mass attack.
“These are hard things to think about,” Powell said. “It’s also hard to see it in the news. It can be useful for people to know the recommendations.
The third component of safety and security measures relates to the school climate. This includes care and security assistants; social-emotional supports for students and staff; and encouraging students and families to speak up if they see anything of concern.
“That’s what Charlottesville prioritized,” Powell said of the climate component.
School board members asked about video cameras, whether first responders could unlock classrooms — the answer is yes — and for more information on the various measures to control visitor access to buildings. .
“It’s not normal,” said board member Lashundra Bryson Morsberger. “This should not be acceptable. It’s normal to be worried and stressed.
Larson-Torres echoed that sentiment in his comments.
“I think it’s OK for us to say we’re not okay with the way things are, but what are we going to do about it?” she asked.