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Violence against Teens

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Violence against Teens


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Parents' Reports of Incidents 2001-2006

May 2006 BHS vicinity

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.

Concerned mom


I am REALLY sorry to hear about what happened to your son. My daughter attends Willard and has never mentioned to me anything like this happening, but I doubt she would know about it anyway. I would strongly advise you to call the school. They would WANT to hear about it. Willard and the other Berkeley middle schools are in the midst of forming an ANTI-Bullying program. This is exactly what we are trying to prevent! Shoving it aside will not help to change it. I can understand your son's feelings about retaliation, but there must be a way for you to talk to the principal at Willard and your son remaining anonymous. Do you know if there was a police report filed? If so, maybe the school knows already. Good luck and please tell.
concerned Willard parent
To the parent whose son was assaulted at Willard: You absolutely must talk to the school. Call Mr. Orput, the Vice Principal, or John Williams, the student supervisor. They will ask your son to identify the students from class pictures and follow through. They are very concerned - as we all are- that students are safe and behave responsibly in the community. We have called them and the administrators at Longfellow from the local elementary schools when their kids have been involved in incidents on the playground after school and they will follow up. I'm surprised the police have not already done so, but you definately should call.
teacher
Please call me so we can talk. I will keep strict anonymity so please call me so I can help. Thanks
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/

I wanted to respond to the incident in Willard Park with the group of middle schoolers. I have not heard additional details regarding this incident but have observed more police presence around the park in the afternoons. As a parent of a child at Willard I have not observed frequent large groups or incidents of this nature. However, once a month the Middle Schools have a early out Wed. (1:30) and these days seem particularly troublesome with large groups of kids and nowhere to go.I would like to add that my daughter is enjoying her experience as a 6th grader and my 9th grader had 3 happy and stimulating years at Willard Middle School.

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


Nov 2002 downtown Berkeley bus stops

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.


I was wondering after reading the article on the bicycle theft at Berkeley High and stun gun use by BHS students around Willard Neighborhood, if anyone also knows that the BHS students waiting at AC Transit bus stops in downtown Berkeley have been accosted and robbed by a gang of BHS students who are using intimidation? Our daughter (BHS freshman) has several friends who have been robbed in front of Games of Berkeley by the same individuals for several weeks and she continues to witness the same individuals doing this. Yesterday she came home and told us that it is still going on and that kids were being hassled at the bus stop. Typically no adults intervene. Yesterday it happened again and this time a woman tried to intervene. She was called a "b----" and threatened until she walked away. We have gone to the BHS principal and talked with BPD about these incidents and have yet to see anything being done to change the safety issues at this particular bus stop. Apparently it is going on at BHS too. If this is happening to anyone else please contact Sargeant White at the Youth Services Division of the Berkeley Police Department. Also, does anyone have any suggestions on how to move forward on getting this type of behavior stopped or these individuals removed from the area or banned from bus use somehow? Thanks for your help. Linda
My son was one of the ones mentioned in a previous Parents of Teens newsletter. He was shaken down for money after school at the bus stop at Center & Shattuck, in front of The Games of Berkeley store. After the third encounter with the two perpetrators, he made a police report. Twice over a period of several weeks he was taken out of school and taken to the police department to look at pictures. He identified both of the boys (who were not officially BHS students, and dropouts from their other school assignments - altho seen on campus and in the hallways of BHS). The police asked him to put his initials by the pictures. Evidently they had enough evidence against these boys from other incidents, - so I'm not sure what my son's initials mean. He was not asked to identify them in court. He thought the police told them both boys would be ''going away'' (to juvenile hall, I guess). Anyway, he has only seen one around (the sidekick) - the main perpetrator is gone - so he has been able to relax a little more.

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


I hope you strongly encourage your son to contact the Berkeley Police. They are trying to catch these robbers, but they can't do it unless people report the crimes. I know a family that has been working with the BPD after their son was robbed, and the BPD have been very helpful. They have found and arrested one of the perpetrators already. So far, there has been no retaliation. Also, I hope that AC Transit has been notified; this should concern them. Louise
Nov 2002 West Berkeley bus stops

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?


If your son doesn't want to report it, and I understand why, there is virtually nothing you can do about that. None of the kids ever seem to want to report the thugs who are terrorizing them at BHS, and thus those thugs continue to rob and beat them. It's an unfortunate failure of the system, as well, that the thugs are usually known abusers, and the school system looks the other way as long as they possibly can. These kids generally act out at school, as well as on public streets. Obviously, the school has no jurisdiction at 6th and University, however, as the adult, you can and should report it to the police department, even if your son refuses to identify the individual. If your son was robbed, then others are being robbed as well, and at least notifying the police that that bus stop is a potential area for thieves to rob people -- and they know it's a student at BHS -- they will be better able to serve that particular area. It's hard to convince the kids that they aren't the only victims of any particular thug, but the truth is, whoever hit your kid, is doing it to others as well, so it's unlikely he'll be targeted as the "snitch." In the meantime, I'd advise your child to take an alternate route/method of transport home, assuming he's afraid of further problems with the thief. Heather
Oct 2002 Willard School neighborhood

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]


Oct 2001 downtown Berkeley

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.


Once again I carry my old torch for the same frustrating issue. I am deeply sorry that another of our sons was attacked while going about his business in our city. I send my condolences to the boy and his family. And how kind it was that a stranger put himself in harms way and helped him. My deep frustration is that in all the years I have been a Parents of Teens subscriber EVERY LAST POSTING about a mugging mentions Berkeley High, no matter where, when or how the attack occurred. It's like the question "Do you still beat your wife?" The association is there and word will be out-- another mugging at Berkeley High. It's easy to seek answers where there sometimes are none. I ask that we all be careful not to perpetuate misguided beliefs and erroneous assumptions. Lord knows enough challenging stuff goes on at the High School. I simply suggest we remember that all things evil in this world are not necessarily spawned there. Wfred
I've read for about a year continuing reports of BHS students and non-BHS students getting beat up at the high school and around the area (actually, this has been going on for years in Berkeley, but nothing can be done to prevent it, so we're told). What's missing is a response from the BUSD, the police, and the high school administration that addresses the escalating violence. I feel as though the powers that be are hiding their heads in the sand. Useless excuses like our hands are tied because the attackers are juveniles, or we just can't catch them resolve nothing. Are these attacks racially motivated? Are roving groups of black males (either within the high school or outside) beating up lone white males? Are roving groups of white males beating up lone black males? What about the attitudes the students come to school with that splits the high school courtyard into racial blocs--blacks in one area, whites another, asians another? It's time to address these racial issues, and I have an idea that's over 30 years old.

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.


May 2001

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


"...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!..."

How do we as parents make our outrage clear to the district attorney? Angela


A purposeful blow to the head is an assault with the intent to do grave, permanent bodily harm, especially when evidenced by unconsciousness and coma. Who should we email this story to to make sure that such crimes are treated with the seriousness that they deserve (I couldn't find Mas Morimoto's email address)? Is it because the victim is (just) a kid that this was treated so lightly? If Chris Worthington was the victim, you can imagine that the outcome would have been different.

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


If in fact, Mr. Morimoto commented claimed that there was no great harm done, since the boy only had a mild concussion, and only missed a few days of school, that is outrageous. I don't know where to go with it. Letters to Mr. Morimoto? Letters to his superior (to whom does her report?). Letters to the mayor??? Frankly, I would also like to know if there is any history between the boy who was assaulted and the perpetrators. What's the story behind the story? Meg
Reply to Meg re the history behind the assault on the BHS freshman:

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 am truly sorry that after what your son experienced that the Berkeley DA could be so soft. I think this is one of the mosr destructive sides to the "polical correctness" found in Berkeley. I'm sure some in the DA office wouyld like to have given these youbng men from Richmond a grant so that they could straighten themselves out.

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


I spoke with Mas Morimoto (Alameda County Asst. District Attorney, 644-6683) about what I've been reading on this listserver about the 14 year-old who'd been assaulted by a Richmond 18 and 19 year old at lunchtime outside the Berkeley YMCA.

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.


This is in response to the parent who spoke with Mas Morimoto (Alameda County Asst.District Attorney) about the light sentences given to the 18- and 19 year-olds who assaulted a 14 year-old boy outside the Berkeley YMCA. This parents summarizes Morimoto's response: "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." I'd suggest that Mr. Morimoto and Judge Brosnahan sharpen their perceptions. Berkeley may have problems, but any community that believes 18- and 19-year olds aren't old enough to know that they can't beat up children (or anyone else, for that matter) is pretty far gone. I don't believe Berkeley has such a problem. I believe the problem is with "authorities" such as Morimoto and Brosnahan. Those who enforce the law may reflect community standards, but it is also their responsibility to help establish standards of decency, without which our social structure breaks down. What does Morimoto mean by "the perception" of Berkeley's community standards? To whose perception is he referring? Yours? Mine? I don't think so. Aren't people in Morimoto's and Brosnahan's positions supposed to serve the public? Are we getting our money's worth? --Anonymous
I spoke with Assistant DA Mas Morimoto on June 6. His direct line is 644-8875. He told me that his office didn't realize that the 14-year-old student was as seriously injured as he was. I am sending the following letter to the head of the Berkeley office of the Alameda County DA. If more people contacted them, it would probably ensure that they take this matter seriously. --Juliann

LETTER TO DA's OFFICE

John Adams, Assistant District Attorney
Alameda County
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.

Juliann S.


July 2001

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


I find vague and anonymous reports about muggings to be very counterproductive. When there are no specific details about times or places or any information to make such reports more than rumor or hearsay, all that can happen is that anxiety is provoked and imaginations run wild. Were these muggings reported to the police? Is that how the person sending the message to Parents of Teens knew about them? Did the police state that these may "be the same boys who were beating up kids at BHS?" Or is this all word of mouth and gossip? If we're going to stand together as a community, sending such posts can only help to divide us. Joan
[Editor: the following is from the person who posted the original message]

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


Every time there is any violence against teens, no matter where it occurs there's somehow a mention of violence at Berkeley High School. This just occurred in a posting about recent muggings at BART and elsewhere. It seems that one of the assailants had been associated with the rash of violence at the H. S. this spring. (I believe he was not a student). And though it's only cited as the source of information regarding the attacks, the writer mentions s/he spoke to a BHS administrator about safety at BHS, which for many readers makes a link betweeen the H.S. and violence. When that boy was attacked near the Berkeley Y this spring, by young men who were not BHS students, it was still talked about as "muggings at Berkeley High". We have had children at BHS for many years and, yes, there have been sporadic incidents of violence. There is sometimes violence amongst high school students, on campus and elsewhere. I wish to encourage people in this community to give and have an accurate picture of what goes on there. BHS is not a breeding ground for violence, nor is it some sort of minimum-security penitentiary (even though right now it looks like one!) It's a huge, multicultural, economically diverse, urban HS and though it has all the attendant difficulties associated with such, when I think of the HS I primarily think of great kids and dedicated teachers doing great things. For some reason, it's not uncommon for people in Berkeley to think that everything bad on God's earth as regards to teenagers is related to or derived from BHS. Let's try to both talk and listen responsibly so that what gets said is based on fact. Anonymous
Early last spring one of my 15 year old sons was also "mugged' on his way home from St. Mary's Highschool. It was not quite dark. He was riding his bike along McGee near Cedar when a group of boys jumped out at him, hit him hard enough on the side of the head to make his teeth loose and his lip swell up, and stole the bike. Other people I spoke with at the time said it was pretty well known that there was some group of troublemakers around this neighborhood (which happens to be our own). He was reluctant to talk about it, but it was too obvious to pretend nothing had happened. Anon.

How Do I Respond to My Child's Violent Incident?

Sept 2001

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 am sorry to hear about your son's horrible experience. When a violent incident happended to my friend's daughter in an Albany school, she made a police report and threatened the perpetrator's family with a lawsuit if there were any further violations. If your son can be convinced that thoroughly documenting the incident with the school and with the BPD will be to the benefit of all, then it would be my suggestion to do that. In my friend's case, an Albany police officer visited the home of the perpetrator and spoke with the parents and there was no retaliation. There were precautions taken though, such as picking her daughter up on a "safer" side of the campus and trying to stay away from the perpetrator as much as possible. As a mother of a teenager, I, too, am confounded by the jailhouse mentality of not wanting to "snitch" on peers. This behavior is very evident in Albany as well, and it is detrimental. I wish your son the best. What a shame that this happened to him. Switching schools may be the best if this experience hurts his feeling of security at BHS. Best wishes. Anonymous
"...Principal Lynch claims he will bring up security on that side of the campus..."
It surprises me that security was not present on the MLK side of campus. Last year this was a problem area and we were promised that the security presence would be increased. What happened over the summer to change this? Is it now time to find a new head of security? It appears that security is increased as a reaction to problems. We need someone in charge of security that is pro-active in protecting the students. No one should be in this situation and until someone who wants to protect our children heads the security team more students will face these problems. Anonymous
BHS has the Independent High School at Derby and MLK, at the site of the Alternative High School. That could be an option for him for this year if he is extremely self-motivated, and he could still take a class or two at the high school. Principal is Carl Brush. Things seem to get a bit more civilized in grade 11 again, so it might work for him to return next year. Dana
Perhaps you may want to consider psychological care for your son, whether or not he bounces back to his happy self quickly. I know from second-hand experience that unprovoked violence against a young person at school can have long-lasting effects on their well-being. Besides the support of family and friends, they may need someone to talk to who has worked with these issues... And, in response to your third question, yes there are private schools in the Bay Area that are safe places to be and to learn. Safe, beautiful, demanding, fun. The one I know best is so small compared to Berkeley High, it would be a totally different experience, but the school does reach out to the Bay Area and to the world. The sophomore class of the East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante has 21 students, including several exchange students. It is a 'pioneering' class, the lead class of the high school, with an rigorous academics, artistic disciplines, and practical challenges. My youngest daughter is in this sophomore class. This past summer she worked at a 'Pentathlon for Peace' held in Olympia, Greece with fifth graders from 12 countries at war with each other. She said the students were happy to be there and got along with each other, but the grown-ups got into serious arguments. They will hold the event again next summer, and work for better results, I am told. --Bonnie
My son was hit from behind also last year. Similar situation, a group of boys, and one of them punched my son in the head. This was not at BHS, but involved students from King. Neil Smith, King's principal insisted that the perpetrators be identified. Neil Smith's attitude was that if the perpetrators are not identified, then they feel they can continue with impunity. Also, this gives the wrong message to other kids. It is obvious in all these situations, that the perpetrators are cowards and are bullies, to strike from behind. For some reason, which I don't understand, there is a male code that demands that one not rat. I think it is another form of fear, that if one tells there will be retribution.

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


There is counseling available at the Health Center on our campus. If you cannot convince your son to report the incident, please try to get him to talk about it with someone in the health center. His visit will not be reported to the administration. He will need a pass to go to the health center during class time- does he have a teacher he trusts who can write him one? -Laura Leventer, BHS VP
I don't know what BHS has to offer in terms of counseling help for your son, but there is an excellent counseling community available in the Berkeley area. There may also be funding available to him as a Victim of Crime (VOC program through Sacramento). Georgia
Your son is not alone in suffering attacks from groups of kids. It happened to my daughter, it happened to a friend of mine's son. It will continue to happen UNLESS the victims report on them. My daughter was intentionally struck from behind when leaving a classroom her sophomore year - hard enough to knock her flat on the floor and spew her books everywhere. No one offered to help. She went directly to her counselor to report the incident, her counselor sent her to the head of security. The head of security called in the attacker and warned him that he was to keep a 20 yd radius between himself and my daughter at all times. If he didn't do so, he would be disciplined at the very least by suspension. He was told that if my daughter wanted to file charges, she could, it was considered battery, and the school, as well as the police department, took it very seriously. When these incidents go unreported, the harrasment not only continues but get worse for the victim. They get trampled. Ironically, because my daughter chose NOT to prosecute, she was appreciated and never bothered again by this bully or his friends. Anonymous
This doesn't address the overall very upsetting issue of violence at BHS, but to the mom of the boy who was hit on the first day of school--EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapuetic tool that is very effective for dealing with trauma (in my experience, especially effective with one recent episode.) You might ask if anyone at the counseling center at BHS has been trained in it, and if not, I would volunteer there to do it on a short term basis. Mary Ann
I was filled with concern when I read what had happened to your son. I cannot recommend too highly (and she has been mentioned here before) giving a call to Dr. Lisa Hardy at Children's Hospital. She is wonderfully skilled with adolescents and very warm, and shares herself with kindness and humor. There is absolutely nothing stuffy about her. You might write her and tell her about the recent incident and perhaps she could at least meet with your son and he might be able to put some of the trauma into words. Anon (parent of teen)

Spring 2001

My son was jumped from behind at BHS last semester while in the H building corridor by three students. He reported it to security via phone right after he got home,but at the time he didn't know who the perpetrators were. Now, however, 4 months later, he sees them all the time on campus. It ends up they are in his class. Needless to say it makes him very uncomfortable. There have been no further retaliations, but I know it's changed him, he's now much more paranoid and uncomfortable, and he doesn't feel safe at school. I've talked to Security. Security said the students may have already been delt with, perhaps they were even expelled for a week, but we don't know. The students who jumped him are still at the school. We know one of the students names. He's even in one of my sons classes. It freaks him out. It's a shame, because otherwise, my son likes Berkeley High, and is doing well there. He doesn't want to leave it for another school. But I also don't know what to do about it. He deals with it day to day. Anonymous
"The head of security called in the attacker and warned him that he was to keep a 20 yd radius between himself and my daughter at all times. If he didn't do so, he would be disciplined at the very least by suspension. He was told that if my daughter wanted to file charges, she could, it was considered battery, and the school, as well as the police department, took it very seriously."

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


This is an indirect response to the parent of the boy who was recently assaulted at Berkeley High--and particularly to other parents of teen boys. Kidpower is giving a rarely scheduled "Teenpower Full Force Workshop for Boys" class in Berkeley on Sunday, October 28, from noon to 5:30 p.m. The class description is: "Teen boys learn how to deescalate potentially violent confrontations and how to protect themselves physically and emotionally from assault." My daughter took the girls' version of this excellent class last month, which includes everything from strategies for dealing with peer pressure to practicing escaping from an attack from in front and behind by a fully-padded, 6+ foot tall male instructor. The girls' class is offered to the public at least several times a year in Berkeley (and groups can arrange their own class with Teenpower).

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


This is an ongoing problem that goes way back. I know of two similar unprovoked sneak attacks. When my daughter attended BHS as a freshman in 1990, one of her male friends was hit from behind and knocked out by an unknown male. Four years ago, a friend's son was knocked down with a punch hard enough to break his jaw by another unknown male. There was a crowd of males there, but none of his friends were nearby, and nobody attempted to help him in any way. Unbelievably, this boy was able to continue attending BHS with no apparent long-term detrimental effects. But because of this, his younger brother refused to attend when he was old enough and instead attended a private high school. These are only the cases I know of first-hand. It makes me wonder how often these assaults actually occur that I don't know about. I do think more security is in order. Perhaps a publicized zero tolerance violence policy or some kind of consciousness-raising on the issue would help. I really don't know. Wish I did since I have a son who will probably be going there in three years. Judy

December 2001

Dec 2001

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


Jan 2002

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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