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Violence against Teens
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There have been nine assaults that I know of in the past few months on and near Berkeley High School. Some are three to five kids surrounding one student to take his IPOD or cell phone. They have punched the student in the face in three cases. Other have been hit hard in the face or head by a random punch by one person in a group of ten or more gang members for no apparent reason. This is known as popping and as the perpetrators have their hoods up and are in a large group and they scatter after hitting, it is hard to pinpoint the one hitting. This is very dangerous and all students and parents should be aware of this problem. It is happening at all times of the day and night.
Feb 2004 Willard School neghborhood
My son and a friend, both high school students at Berkeley, were walking past Willard Park at about 3:30 in the afternoon one day this week. They were suddenly approached by a group of about 20 middle school age boys, one of whom viciously punched my son in the head. This attack was both unexpected and unprovoked; he had never seen any of these kids before. Choosing not to retaliate, he was then followed by the group with commands to ''break your pockets...'' Fortunately, a Berkeley cop drove up and the group dispersed, although one that was collared - not the attacker - identified the kids as Willard students.
My son does not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, so I will keep this anonymous.I'm posting this because I would like to know if this is an ongoing problem in the Willard area. My son is vehemently opposed to my calling the school, but if this is a pattern I think they should know about it.
Thomas Orput Willard Middle School Vice Principal (A-L) (510) 644-4561 thomas_orput AT berkeley.k12.ca.us http://willard.berkeley.k12.ca.us/
All of the Berkeley Middle Schools will engage in a ''Respect for All'' campaign involving teachers, students and parents that will feature a film ''Let's Get Real'' put out by the Women's Educational Media which raises the issues and negative impacts of teasing, bullying and violence. The goal is to provide earlier intervention and a safe school environment. Karen
We get a report from our teen at BHS about blatant robberies at the bus stop at Games of Berkeley on Shattuck nearly every other day. For now, there is a group of boys targeting white male freshman. It doesn't seem to have spread to the girls yet. We have been talking with BHS Administrator MaryAnn Valles, and Ms. Maten. Also we have talked to Sgt. White at Berkeley PD-Youth Services Division. So these people are aware of the situation. If this has been happening to your teen or any other child, please encourage the parents to contact Sgt. White and AC Transit. We believe the more people that have been affected by the youth perpetratiing these robberies that call to notify the authorities, the more likely they will take some action. This has been going on for nearly a month that we know of so far and we have not seen stepped up police or any other security presence at that particular bus stop, despite calls to the police and BHS administrators. OUR CHILD FEELS HELPLESS TO HELP HER FRIENDS THAT ARE BEING ACCOSTED! NO CHILD SHOULD FEEL THAT THEY CANNOT BE ON A BERKELEY STREET WITHOUT FEELING SAFE AT ANY TIME OR HAVING THE ABILITY TO GET HELP FROM OUR COMMUNITY SERVICE PEOPLE OR DOWNTOWN MERCHANTS, INCLUDING GOING TO AND FROM SCHOOL. Please help by reporting incidents like these so we can stop the escalation of crime on youth by other youth. http://www.actransit.org/customer/customerfeedback.wu They should also call Sargent White at BPD at 981-5715.
My advice is to make a report, but definitely tell the police of your concerns of retaliation. Initially we were concerned, too, but then we got tired of the continuing low level - to high level harrassment and felt they had to be stopped. In our situation, we felt these boys were not going to do anything violent - they knew enough not to go too far in public - but they were doing their best to intimidate our son and make him afraid. anonymous
Our son (Jr at BHS) was mugged when he got off the AC Transit bus at 6th and University. The man who accosted him is also a student at BHS. After my son gave him the $6 he had, the person continued to accost him as he walked down 6th street toward our place. My son feels shaken up by this and afraid about further incidents. He won't let me report it to anyone in authority for fear of retaliation. I would like to know how to help my son respond in the future to such events. Any suggestions?
Principal Patterson reported at the Willard PTA meeting on Tuesday evening that there is a group of Berkeley High kids using a stun gun to rob younger kids. Apparently, a Willard student was attacked on route home the other day and they used the stun gun 3x on him. Ms. Patterson will be updating this information about the locations and I'll forward it. The Berkeley Police Dept. and the BUSD are looking into this but in the meanwhile please do not let your children walk to or from school alone. Adults should also proceed in the neighborhoods with caution. Lisa [e-tree co-ordinator at Willard]
It is with great sadness that I am writing to report what happened to my son on October 16. Given the kind of disbelief that I have seen in other postings, I am trying to report this as clearly and factually as possible.
My son is almost 16 years old, and was skateboarding down Kittridge toward Shattuck at about 4:45 pm. He passed a group of six to seven kids, 16-17 years old, some of whom "jumped" him, and beat him in the head. Another man (over 30, according to my son) intervened, and as they started to attack this man, my son ran away. At that point, one of the kids in the group asked my son if he was okay, and chastised the other kids who beat him. My son circled around the block, saw that the other man was gone and the attackers were gone, and skateboarded home. He arrived at home about 10 minutes later, sobbing, bloody, and completely devastated that someone would attack him "for no reason." We called the police, who said they had arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, and were unable to catch the attackers. The officer with whom I spoke said that this occurrence was not unusual, that there had been an unprovoked attack in the park across from Berkeley High several days earlier, and that the police do their best to catch the kids. My son, who doesn't attend Berkeley HIgh, had never seen the kids who attacked him before. He said the kids were high school age, but who knows whether they were Berkeley High kids?
Since this just happened, I'm not sure what the repercussions will be. This morning, he didn't want to take the bus to school, and wanted us to drive him. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to go to the Y in downtown Berkeley today, where he often goes in the afternoon.
That's it for now. To protect my son's privacy, I would like to post this anonymously.
After reading the last post, it occurs to me that I should share my son's experience. On a Saturday afternoon in September, he and a friend (ages 14 and 15) were riding bikes past the Rockridge BART station. They were encircled by 3 boys on bikes who demanded money, pagers, etc. They gave up the contents of their pockets and were not harmed. They returned home and called the police, who took a detailed report. Later that evening, the boys were apprehended after another theft had been reported. The thoughtful officer went through all the neighborhood reports from the day, pulled my son's, and confronted the suspects, who admitted to the theft. On Monday they asked my son and his friend to I.D. the kids from sets of photos, which they were able to do. The kids did not need to testify in court. We did get a letter from the perps' probation officer.
Though these boys were not physically harmed, they were intimidated by boys larger and older than them. They did not know whether or not the kids who'd mugged them went to their school or not. The Oakland police treated them with seriousness and respect. Even before they knew that the other kids had been arrested, they were feeling stronger for having done something. I myself am proud of how they conducted themselves and furious that they had to go through this!
I didn't post this earlier because I thought I'd be adding fuel to the fire, but now I realize that we need to speak out about what's happening in our community. My 14 year old ninth grade son was assaulted on his way home from BHS this year (on a Friday at the end of Sept.) The boy followed him from BHS and ultimately attacked him--the kid is a student who my son sees on campus but doesn't know. We made a police report. My son's first words were "I'm not going to school on Monday." They were familiar words to me--I'd read them on this list before. He did go to school with the caveat that we pick him up at 2:40. He's fine, but it was a very sad event for all of us. The BPD officer said that this happens frequently. He told my son not to walk alone or engage with strangers, no matter how old. I understand that safety is one of the new superintendent's priorities. Maybe we should send her the archive of assault stories.
It was 1968 (I was there and it made quite an impression on me). San Francisco high schools participated in a Race Symposium after racial tensions causing riots and gang violence occurring regularly at dances and athletic events made the authorities take notice. It was held at Kezar Stadium and students attended from high schools all over the city. The teens were allowed to speak out, yell, vent at each other and at adults in authority. They vented as one, no matter their color, expressing their anger at the adult world and at each other, all saying the same thing--they wanted respect and to be heard. The facilitators made sure the teenagers had their say and that they introduced themselves to each other. The point was made that if you really wanted to get along, you had to give each other respect and space to be yourself. The symposium had a purpose--to make teens realize they were more alike than different (the mix of students in San Francisco of color in 1968 was as vast as today's mix).
The cowardice and viciousness of groups of angry kids beating up lone kids is extremely serious as it happens over and over again, in the midst of this bastion of the ultra-liberal and tolerant City of Berkeley. Why not start something that gives every teenager a voice; let them dialog with each other. Get experienced and neutral adult facilitators who will listen and ask the right questions, involve other high schools in the area--El Cerrito, Richmond High, Albany. Let's not live in denial but realize that race plays a large part in how we perceive ourselves and "them." Let's realize the differences between people of color, the "haves" and the "have nots," as well as look at what we all have in common. Let teenagers express how they feel about themselves and the world they live in. The response may not be what you want to hear, but it must be said and heard. There was a lot going on 30 years ago as there is now, but the message is still the same--we need peace and understanding now more than ever. Let our young people have a voice in creating peace and understanding beginning with each other.
My son's friend, a freshman at Berkeley High, was recently assaulted. (I will not name him, because he is worried that his peers will ridicule him for being a victim -- a serious issue which deserves its own forum.)
As he walked back to school with a friend on Tuesday, May 15, at lunchtime on Allston Way, across from the main Post Office, in front of the YMCA, without any warning, eye-contact, or verbal exchange, two young men came at him from the side and bashed him in the head, knocking him unconscious. He fell to the concrete. His friend stepped between them before the boys could kick him as they had planned, and there was enough hubbub that the two young men then turned and fled.
Miraculously, a bicycle policeman was in the area, saw the boy down on the ground and the two young men running. He chased and apprehended them. These young men, ages 18 and 19, from Richmond, were arrested, pled guilty, and -- without the mandatory conference with the victim's family -- the Berkeley D.A., Mas Morimoto, agreed to a sentence of only 5 days in jail and a $100 fine. Mr. Morimoto claimed that there was no great harm done, since the boy only had a mild concussion, and only missed a few days of school!
I do not find this acceptable. We cannot live in a society that condones random violence against innocent children, which condones hate crimes. What kind of message is sent by this slap on the wrist?
These two perpetrators are NOT children: they are adults. Do we honestly think they will be deterred at all by this experience? Rather, I am certain they are emboldened by it. Maybe next time they'll use a lead pipe instead or a gun. If our community merely turns away and winks, why not?
Must one of our children be permanently damaged or even killed before our legal system will take these assaults seriously?
Students at Berkeley High are learning to brush off these attacks as if they are an acceptable and normal part of everyday high school life. They have learned that we adults don't take these daily assaults seriously, so why should they -- when to do so risks retribution from the unpunished (or minimally-punished) assailants?
How as parents can we accept this? How can Mas Morimoto accept this? How can he believe that he is adequately performing the job of protecting his community?
Finally, how can the school board and administration not only accept this environment of fear but also actually conceal from the parents and the community the frequency and seriousness of these assaults? What is their purpose in this cover-up? Lucy
How do we as parents make our outrage clear to the district attorney? Angela
I quote "As he walked back to school with a friend on Tuesday, May 15, at lunchtime on Allston Way, across from the main Post Office, in front of the YMCA, without any warning, eye-contact, or verbal exchange, two young men came at him from the side and bashed him in the head, knocking him unconscious. He fell to the concrete. His friend stepped between them before the boys could kick him as they had planned, and there was enough hubbub that the two young men then turned and fled.
Miraculously, a bicycle policeman was in the area, saw the boy down on the ground and the two young men running. He chased and apprehended them. These young men, ages 18 and 19, from Richmond, were arrested, pled guilty, and -- without the mandatory conference with the victim's family -- the Berkeley D.A., Mas Morimoto, agreed to a sentence of only 5 days in jail and a $100 fine. Mr. Morimoto claimed that there was no great harm done, since the boy only had a mild concussion, and only missed a few days of school!"
Looking forward: Alan
There was NO history between the assaulted boy and his assailants. He never ever saw them, as they came at him from the side, and he never saw them afterwards as he was unconscious! They didn't know him. They picked him at random, perhaps because he and his friend are small. There was absolutely no history behind this attack. Just random vicious violence.
Yes, I think letters are warranted. I do think public outcry is warranted. The attack was bad enough in the first place, the legal outcome was just as outrageous. I can't believe that Judge Brosnahan thought 5 days in jail and a $100 fine would serve to rehabilitate these young men, even if the Judge believed that to be the will of the people of Berkeley.
Contact Mas Morimoto , Alameda County Asst. District Attorney, 644-6683 and Judge Brosnahan (who decided this particular case) at Alameda County Superior Court, Berkeley Branch, 2120 MLK,Jr. Way, Berkeley 94704. Lucy
I think you should tell everyone you know. You should talk to the top DA, to your council person, the mayor, write to the newspapers and let them know that it is NOT ALRIGHT to assault someone and then get a tap on the wrist. Although I don't think Chrs Worthingtom will ever figure it out-many people in Berkeley need to hear about this to understand what needs to be changed in this city. AB
He said the Richmond teenagers got the sentence they did from Judge Brosnahan because of the perception of Berkeley's community standards--which hold that teenagers (18 and 19) are not yet old enough to understand that they can't beat up children.
He told me if people want stricter enforcement of the laws in these cases and stricter sentencing, they should make their views known to him and the judges. He said there is a perception that Berkeley residents are tolerant of the people who commit these types of violent acts and prefer rehabilitation rather that punishment.
People with other viewpoints can make their views known to him at the above number and to Judge Brosnahan (who decided this particular case) at Alameda County Superior Court, Berkeley Branch,2120 MLK,Jr. Way, Berkeley 94704.
LETTER TO DA's OFFICE
John Adams, Assistant District Attorney
2120 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Room 105
Berkeley, CA 94704
Dear Mr. Adams:
Mr. Mas Morimoto recommended that I write to you concerning a recent attack on a 14-year-old student of Berkeley High School. I understand that this incident occurred on May 15, 2001, in front of the downtown Post Office during lunch period. Two older teenagers punched a 14-year-old freshman in the head, and the freshman lost consciousness.
I am very upset to learn that the two perpetrators, ages 18 and 19, were given only 5-day sentences. Mr. Morimoto said that not all of the relevant evidence had been obtained by your office, and that if your office had known that the 14-year-old victim had suffered a head injury with some lasting effects, you would have sought longer sentences.
Any attack like that on a child is very serious. It does not matter that the perpetrators were only teens. Physically, they are probably grown men. The severity of the injury shows the severity of the attack and the suspects' intentions, and it should have been investigated. This was a horrifying incident.
I urge you to take steps to ensure that your office fully investigates and prosecutes every incident involving children as victims. This should explicitly include all incidents of teens attacking children or other teens, and it should include violence against students during school hours.
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
During the past two weeks there have been at least three incidences of muggings of individual and small groups of teenage boys in broad daylight. The two muggers are the same boys in all three cases. They are believed to be the same boys who were beating up kids at BHS. Please report any muggings to the police. It is important to our community that we stand together against this form of bullying. Anonymous
Three muggings did occur. Two of the muggings occured in North Berkeley in daylight and the third occured at the North Berkeley BART station. I know 5 of the boys who were mugged. When I asked a [senior] administrator at Berkeley High about the muggings, he said that the primary mugger, who was identified by the police, was the same boy who has a restraining order on him preventing him from going on the campus of BHS because of violence there. This was not information I went looking for. I was asking about safety at BHS. In all cases the kids who were mugged were boys in their early teens who did not expect trouble and were just walking down the street. In all of the cases the kids did not tell their parents afterwards. There is a victim mentality going on - thinking it was somehow their fault and/or fearing retribution. As parents you will understand why I do not want any names used.
I hope this is enough information to take seriously without over-reacting. If you see kids fighting on the street, call the police. If your child has been robbed or hit, report it to the police. There are not a large number of bad kids in Berkeley. There are a few with serious problems. Somehow they have reached into the neighborhoods and created fear among young teens, especially boys - just like bullies did when we were kids. Anonymous
It has been some time since safety at BHS has been noted on these pages, and even when it was discussed, I was a quiet bystander since my son had had a very successful and fear-free freshman year.
On the first day of school this year, he was hit on the side of his face from behind by someone he didn't even know. The broken glasses were minor compared to the emotional damage it has had on this once happy, peaceful kid. It occurred on the MLK side of the campus. A group of students were bullying an old acquantance of his, but his friend wouldn't fight. My son kept a distance, because he was too afraid to intervene. As he was walking away to meet me, someone hit him from behind, in front of a lot of other students, then stood there waiting for him to fight back. He didn't and no one intervened to stop the guy. The rest of the day was spent in a catatonic, depressed, seclusionist state.
I spoke with Principal Lynch, who insisted that he should report it right away. He won't, and I can't break through the fear aspect of "ratting" on someone. He claims he doesn't know who did it, but he could find out. All he wants to do is sleep and be left alone "to forget about it." We all know that this isn't possible when he is returning to the campus every day.
1. Is there counseling for issues like this - in the community or at the school?
2. Principal Lynch claims he will bring up security on that side of the campus, but what are the consequences, even if they caught the guy? Are the perpetrators kicked out of the school for good? What a tragedy that a few soul-less kids should cause so much damage.
3. If the fear seems to affect his school work, and general well-being, I am going to move him out of BHS. Are there alternatives, public but will consider private, in the Bay Area that are without the same safety issues?
Any thoughts greatly appreciated. Anonymous
I want to say, that I think Neil Smith's approach was correct. my son has seen the kids who hit him, and nothing further occurred. If your son won't identify the perpetrators, then maybe his friend will. What I think is worse, is to not take action, then your son may feel this fear for a lot longer. it is always best to confront bullies. As I understand the information from Michelle Lawrence, BUSD and BHS will not be tolerating physical violence. Let them them have a chance to carry out their directives. A mom
According to the "Berkeley High School Disciplinary Consequences" in the 2001-2002 Gold Book Battery, no injury requires a 3 day suspension at the minimum. Why was this person not disciplined? What is wrong with the head of security? Doesn't he know the school rules? Anon
Why is the boys' class rarely scheduled? The East Bay Director told me that often they have to cancel because no one at all signs up. This class was scheduled around a core of my son and two of his friends, as she considered three as enough of a core to make scheduling the class worthwhile! She said the common PARENTAL perception is that their sons don't need this sort of thing.....
Does your teen think he/she needs this class? Usually they complain bitterly--they already know everything! For both of my kids, I have made attendance a condition of increased independence in increasing their permitted travel range without a parent or other adult. Almost all kids--including my daughter--are glad they took the class afterward, and feel more able to deal with dangerous situations that may arise.
The East Bay contacts are: 510-881-2262, eastbay AT kidpower.org; central office (in Santa Cruz), 1-800-467-6997, safety AT kidpower.org. The cost is $110, with both an installment payment plan and financial need reductions available. Joan
Unfortunately my son is now another statistic for being attacked at BHS. The attack was completely random and anonymous. As he was riding his bike to watch the men's varsity soccer match he was roundhouse punched in the face by a large male passing on foot who could have been a student. No provocation whatsoever. This was by the Milvia gate where it's quite dark at 6pm. There was also a girl's basketball game in progress so there was quite a bit of activity on campus. Isn't there anything that can be done to protect the few entrances to campus, at least during sports and entertainment events? This has happened so often now that it seems prudent to stand behind claims of safety at BHS by posting security or Berkeley Police at these entrances. Wendy
My son was beaten by a group at school 12/13/01, suffering bruises and 5 cracked teeth. I am beyond disappointed at BHS' complete lack of response. Wiggan and V.P. Ron Lee will tell me nothing about why the head of the attacking group is not being disciplined. I presume the members of the attacking group act as alibi witnesses. I am an attorney and I would like to talk to anyone who has undergone similar trauma at BHS, who has gotten poor response from Wiggan and the administration. I am meeting with a group in my Berkeley office Thursday afternoon starting at 5:00 to assess if legal action may be fruitful. email me if you want details of the meeting. David
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