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Gun incidents at Berkeley High

May 2011

so, what is the deal? is there a gun problem at berkeley high or not?

it seems to me from what i have seen/heard in the last few weeks that the campus has become a VERY unsafe place. and an unsafe school cannot teach our youth.

so, dear community... time to get tough on the ''learning environment'' on the berkeley high campus. metal detectors? i don't know how that would work. also, it seems that violence is coming from kids that really aren't in the community, not living in berkeley. i don't want to exclude kids because they live elsewhere... but really, this is getting a bit out of control.

one idea: the coaches, counselors and various aware teachers likely know who some of the scoundrels are. so step up and do the right thing Tired of Political Correctness


I had two daughters attend Berkeley High, graduating classes of '01 and '03. During their tenure there, the school newspaper, ''The Jacket,'' ran a survey - ''What percentage of students have actually seen a gun on campus?'' I remember being astounded and horrified at the number - it was something like 75% of students had seen a gun at B-High (though my daughters both insisted they never had.) That was ten years ago; I can only imagine it has gotten worse since then. I have a daughter starting high school this Fall and she will not be attending Berkeley High until and unless they institute some more safety measures and get serious about keeping guns off campus! anon
The online newspaper Berkeleyside (http://www.berkeleyside.com/) has covered this quite extensively so you might want to check out the articles on their site from the past few weeks. I thought the comments from readers were particularly illuminating.

Also, I see that the Berkeley Voice had an article yesterday about a school board discussion about this: http://www.insidebayarea.com/crime-courts/ci_18146428?source=rss

I don't have a student at BHS anymore so I don't know whether this has been addressed on the BHS e-tree but it is possibly that more news about this is available there too. Berkeley mom


The response asserting that safety at Berkeley High has gotten worse since 2002 is totally ridiculous--on what basis was that statement made? I have a son finishing junior year at BHS, have been an active parent volunteer, and have tutored in BHS English classrooms for the past three years. My best friend had two children in BHS during 1995-2003. My son, a bit of an odd duck, and I have never experienced any incidents raising serious safety concerns.

In fact, BHS had a difficult period with multiple principals and safety issues in the late '90s' early 2000's followed by the past seven years under Principal Slemp--not perfect but quite transformational re stability. Principal Scuderi, the current principal, appears to be doing an outstanding job--with much more publicity and openess around issues of such as guns--that doesn't mean there is an increase--it means the school is acknowledging and engaging the community in how to deal with the issue. Yes, the student body is extremely diverse, and the school, as does society, has to address the insane fixation on guns to solve problems. My older son went to an elite small private schools--very different--but with serious problems also--lots of drug issues, and a pervasive intensely materialistic culture (despite the school's rhetoric). And the teachers my son has had at BHS are at least as inspiring, caring, and engaged as the ones at the private school.

BHS is not perfect--but to obsess about the guns issue, or avoid it for that reason is ridiculous. real world solutions please


I was the recent poster asking about guns at BHS (Berkeley High School).

My question was not to call out BHS as a bad place... my point was to obtain some perspective from other parents. Some excellent points were made.

As mentioned, this isn't a BHS problem, but a larger societal. But, there are guns on campus and that stinks. Are the guns coming from berkeley or are the guns coming from??

I too, have had my own kids at BHS and also a local elite private high school which had it's own issues.

I think BHS is a good place, tough, but overall good. Thanks to all for perspective and context.

It takes a village to raise a child. signed: one of the a villagers


How does BHS handle violence on campus?

Oct 2009

I would like to hear responses from any parents that have experience with how BHS handles issues of violence on campus. A very reliable friend of mine told me about an incident that happened 2-3 weeks ago at BHS. My friend heard it directly from someone who was there when it happened. The story is as follows: A freshman student at BHS (who my friend knows well and describes as a gentle boy) walked out of class and without warning was basically beat to a bloody pulp by a senior who was a complete stranger to him. He had substantial injuries and was taken to the ER at Children's Hospital. The police were called and the senior who committed the assault was taken to Juvenile Hall and released later that day. The senior student was suspended from BHS, though apparently not expelled. I recognize that I've only heard one version and the situation may well be more complex. My questions are: How are students who have committed violent acts on campus evaluated and by whom? How can parents get accurate information when violence happens on campus? What can we do to ensure our kids safety, and that learning remains the top priority? We have all heard of too many tragedies when violent impulses are not kept in check and I would like to know that appropriate guidelines are in place at BHS to keep all of our students safe and focused on learning. I appreciate having a forum like Berkeley Parents Network where this can be discussed intelligently. Thank you BPN. A Concerned BHS Parent


''How are students who have committed violent acts on campus evaluated and by whom?''

Initial response and action in cases of violence are, I believe, handled by the Administration. Don't know if they actually do any ''evaluation'', per se, other than to determine what immediate action to take. However, I do know that at least some expulsions and suspensions from school, for violence and other disruptive bahaviors, are reviewed by the School Board. During the October 14th meeting that I attended several cases were reviewed and voted on, though no details of the cases were revealed to the public. anon


Recently Parents of Teens (a non BHS list serve) posted an anonymous report on violence at Berkeley High. It was upsetting so here are the facts. There was a fight on campus a month ago and one of the students needed medical attention. The Health Center was there within minutes to provide first aid and then the hurt boy's parents drove him to Children's Hospital. He was home that evening (Friday) and in school the following Monday. He suffered no major injuries. The perpetrator was apprehended and was recommended for expulsion. The proceedings are confidential.

The boy who was hurt was a member of CAS. While the information was not sent to the whole school, the CAS families were briefed in detail about the incident.

Fights are not common at Berkeley High but those that do happen are not treated lightly. The consequences for the perpetrators are serious. Finally the anonymous poster queried if there is a forum to discuss issues of security. Yes, the School Safety Committee meets regularly. Parents who are not regular members are welcome to attend. In addition parents who have concerns about security and safety should contact our school Safety Officer Billy Keys at billy_keys@berkeley.k12.ca.us Janet H


Our personal experience with violence at BHS has not been positive. Our kid was threatened by a student, who was overheard by a teacher bragging about bringing a gun to school, was seen carrying one on campus - and the school never pursued the allegations. They were extremely reluctant to take action with this child, who had a history of disruptive and violent behavior. We were kept very much in the dark about what was being done, being given the implicit suggestion to keep our mouths shut. Eventually, only after he refused to stop the threats, and then threatened a teacher, did the school take it more seriously - he was suspended for two weeks. The school had no protocol in handling it. BHS should have a zero tolerance policy for this behavior, and they do not. Kids need to know what is expected of them. I see this latest incident as another wasted opportunity to express a zero tolerance policy. BHS, you can do better, the kids need it and so do the rest of us. anon
The BHS PTSA website says in the right margin, ''Berkeley High officials promise to report school crimes.'' This policy was approved last year by the SGC and BHS should live up to it. Some of Janet's facts appear to be wrong. This was not a fight; this was one boy lying in wait for the other to leave class. Kids saw this attack and came home with stories. This is exactly why the school is supposed to use the e-tree to post information, but instead they let us wonder and rumors spread. Janet said, ''The School Safety Committee meets regularly.'' As of this posting, the school is still trying to determine which parents will serve on the Safety Committee. We need this committee as a forum for discussion. BHS is not very violent but we need information and a safety committee. BHS needs to honor its commitments. anon
My daughter witnessed this unprovoked attack by a junior on this freshman and was visibly shaken at the violence exhibited by this kid. She is a sophomore and has never seen this kind of incident before. It is unacceptable that this kind of violence occur anywhere, especially in school. As parents, we should know about what is going on at the school and be part of the solution. Concerned parent
Thank you so much for your post! I have been a parent member of the Berkeley High Safety Committee for the past two years. Last year, we drafted, and the School Governance Council adopted, language in the school's Safety Plan that explicitly calls for the Berkeley High community to be notified when a violent incident occurs. Ever since your post, parent members have been working to determine why that notice did not occur in this case. This year's Safety Committee has not yet been convened by the School Governance Council, so it cannot act as a formal body, but the parents will pursue this in the meantime. Part of the reason the incident took so long to come to our attention is because the families most directly affected, those in the CAS small school, were notified immediately by one of the lead teachers there. Predictably, this reduced the stress associated with the event and slowed the spread of misinformation about it. Unfortunately, since the rest of the community was not notified, we were all vulnerable to finding out the version you shared and being very upset. At last week's School Governance Council meeting, parent reps raised the failure of notice issue, and your post clearly gets the credit for resulting in last Friday's notice from the school to both Parents of Teens and to the school's etree about the incident. The Safety Committee reviews incident data each year. Violent incidents on campus are rare. The problem is that when they are not reported and explained, most parents have no way to judge how large or small a problem exists. Your call for a BHS version of ''Parents of Teens'' for parents to communicate effectively with each other is on targe. I agreed to serve as this year's PTSA secretary because I wanted to help make that happen. I'm hoping to meet with the moderator of this web site to get advice on what would be involved. Margit
I wrote the original post about violence at BHS. I appreciate the responses I received. Creating transparency is important so we can understand context & evaluate whether our teens are safe. We need real information to do that. Thank you to Margit -- it's reassuring to understand the process & know that this is being actively dealt with on multiple levels. I also understand that transparency can have the unfortunate effect of negative publicity for BHS, which was not my intent. Our teen has had positive experiences at BHS, generally feels safe and is happy with the social scene and most teachers. I have found Janet H. to be an intelligent, hard working and well informed volunteer coordinator. Lastly, I am grateful to the parents who wrote the stories about how their teens have been affected by violence. Airing those stories can help prevent more disturbing violence in the future. A BHS Parent

How is the current environment at Berkeley High?

August 2009

I've seen much on this already on this forum, however, most of the comments are very dated, so I wondered how the current environment is and if measures have been taken to improve safety. I am moving from Cincinnati to Berkeley by fall of 2010, and am concerned about my two sons attending BHS from what I have been reading. For example, it seems unbelieveable that a school would have such lax security that non-students could have random access to the halls and be shaking down kids and/or assualting them. Has anything improved as far as basic safety is concerned at this school? Thanks.


I have two sons who graduated Berkeley High w/o serious incident (2007 and 2009). There was a bit of hazing that they experienced when they were freshmen. But in general it is much improved over past years (or even when I attended 30 years ago). I think there are other greater challenges given the size and learning disparities amongst entering students. This can be polarizing and there is a tendency for the school to forget about students who are not either stars or academically challenged. But if your kids have some initiative and can find their niche it can be a great real world learning experience. BHS alum
I don't have a good grasp on the timeline but more than 3 years ago the BHS campus was reconfigured, there was some new construction, and the upshot is a closed campus. All day you can only enter right past the front office. There is a lot of security. There are few instances of people being on campus who don't belong there. all parents who come have to sign in and wear a nametag. Of course it is a large urban high school. Cell phones get stolen. NO ONE leaves their pack lying around. You carry your stuff, lock it in a locker, etc. I don't hear of many instances of physical harassment. I have seen a few fights but they were amongst kids who were in conflict and I saw security break it up quickly. I was on campus for the inauguration - all 3200 kids in the theatre at one time. It was fantastic. No incidents. I know that the Safety Committee works hard and wants to clear things up. I don't mind being there at all. Main point to you - there are not strangers on campus, at least there are not supposed to be and they do a pretty good job of that. virtually no one is roaming the halls. if anyone is roaming, security is called. my daughter has never felt unsafe there and she is very small (5', 100 lbs.) It is probably more threatening for a boy but I don't know, since I don't have one. Will your older boy just be at BHS one year only? That might be hard, but I am thinking socially. that would be hard for anyone. BHS mom
Except for lunch time, Berkeley High has a closed campus. People coming to the school while classes are in session need to sign in at the front desk and get a visitor's badge. Non- Berkeley High students are not allowed on campus. The school has safety officers and I think they do a pretty good job keeping the school secure, though the system isn't perfect. My youngest is a senior there this year, and has never expressed feeling unsafe. Most students learn how to read people and can avoid troublesome people or situations that they notice. For example, if my daughter sees a fight brewing, she goes the other direction (all schools have the occasional fight). Any trouble on campus is usually stopped quickly. BHS Fan

Bullying and theft at BHS

December 2006

On Monday, my daughter (a freshman at BHS) was accosted by a group of teenagers at the bus stop after school. One girl grabbed my daughter's iPod out of her hand and passed it off to a boy while another girl distracted her by yelling in her face. My daughter was with a large group 7 or 8 kids. When she turned to them for help, they refused to get involved because, they told her, they didn't want to ''get beat up.'' My daughter didn't recognize any of the perpetrators, but her friends later told her that at least one goes to BHS; some had even had things stolen by this same group before but never reported it to the police for fear of retaliation.

Granted, she shouldn't have taken her iPod to school, and we could have chalked the whole thing up to lesson learned, but we felt it was important for the police and the school to know about this activity so we filed reports. Now I'm wondering if all we've done is set up our daughter for further bullying.

Does anyone else have experience with this kind of thing at BHS? Concerned mom


In Dec. 2005, my son, then a senior at BHS was mugged by four males in the stairway at lunch in Bldg. C. At first he was not going to report it, but after immediately speaking to his 4th period teacher, he did. The then prinicipal sort of blew it off. I went in the next morning and was appalled at the ''political correctness'' of not following up. (I feel uncomfortable explaining this in this forum, but will discuss with you if you call me @ 527-6020.) So we as parents went further and contacted the Berkeley Police Dept. and again, it was a joke and the onus was on us as parents to persist. Finally, the dean at that time reviewed videotapes of Bldg. C exits at the specific time of the incident and identified the four perpetrators as non-students. (I won't even begin to tell you what I felt about four non students roaming the halls of BHS!)

So after the dean found the perpetrators on tape, she then asked the Berkeley police to follow up with my son. So get this, the police come to the class and call him out of class with no respect for confidentiality or his safety! Nothing like trying to protect BHS student who is trying to do the right thing!

Long story short, nothing was resolved, but I was very angry how the administration and the police handled it. I think and hope things have improved. My younger son just graduated from BHS and I never heard of any problems for him.

That being said, we as parents must protect our children, teachers and staff from this type of intimidation. How in the world can your daughter return to school knowing that at least one BHS student did this to her and her friends were scared to intervene? There needs to be consequences. Otherwise the intimidation won't stop. If nothing else, school security and the police must be aware of this and be more vigilant at times when this may be happening.

Good luck and thank heavens no one was hurt. In my son's case, he tried to run and the kids slammed him against the wall, but again he wasn't hurt. There have been incidents, mostly I think with boys, where BHS students were badly hurt, requiring medical treatment and/or hospitalization!
A concerned parent who has been there


Your daughter was assaulted and robbed of her property by a group of kids, at least one of whom was a Berkeley High Student.

You did the right thing by reporting the crime to the Berkeley Police Department. If a BHS student was involved, you should also report it to the school, which seems to take such things a lot more seriously if a police report has been filed.

Not reporting the crime spreads the message that iPods are fair game to be stolen because they aren't valuable enough to prompt a response... A better message might be that NOTHING is worth stealing, because of the likelihood of being caught and punished. Any of us who refuses to file a report, out of fear, is complicit in the victimization of the NEXT kid who is bullied or robbed. Our safety is in numbers.

My sympathies to your daughter -- who deserves better friends than those who would stand by and watch her victimized. Perhaps they should agree as a group how to behave next time, if there is a next time.
Heather


Sorry about your daughter’s loss of property, but even more sorry about the personal assault nature of the theft – glad no one was hurt. My daughter suffered the loss of her backpack and all the contents when she was a freshman – and although the property value was minimal, the sense of vulnerability made an impression on subsequent behavior. I insisted on reporting it to the administration, just for the record - she didn't know who stole the backpacks, it seemed like a crime of opportunity. Nothing was found or returned, and I told her if this the worst thing that happens to you at BHS, we’ll take it. She became very aware of her surroundings after that incident, and savvy about when it was safe to leave your belongings (never), and when it was smart to put stuff away and stand tall (even for a short person) and walk with purpose. She goes to college in a large city now and is better for the experience. I hope your daughter can take it as an urban merit badge, dang.
Cathy
Thank you to the parent and the student who reported this incident of theft/aggression. I can't speak to your concerns of retaliation, but I would take them up with Mr. Slemp, the Berkeley High Principal.Recently, I have heard of several incidents of violence, especially in the downtown Berkeley area, involving Berkeley High students. I think that it is very important for students and for us as parents to speak up, file incident reports, speak to the appropriate Berkeley High staff and to break the silence that seems to surround this issue. The more we do this, the better our chances of creating a more respectful school climate.

Our silence and fear in regards to bullying, theft, and aggression only sends the wrong message to the perpetrators of these acts and does nothing to mend a victim's wounds. And the troubled kids who think that they can act in an aggressive manner need our attention, not our apathy or fear.

This issue was somewhat recently (in August) discussed on the Yahoo listserve for Berkeley High School Academic Choice. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BHSAcademicChoice/

Best of luck to you and your daughter, Diana


I was sorry about the student that was bullied at the bus stop but I was worried that the responses make it seem as if BHS was an out of control place. Just a few words on the bigger picture:

I had four children attend Berkeley High (from 1990 to 2005) and am currently working part time as the Volunteer Coordinator. Today the school is SIGNIFICANTLY calmer than it was in the nineties. When my children first attended the schools there were staircases where gamblers hung out, non BHS students wandering on and off campus, bathrooms that were not safe, and tension between student groups. Today I see none of this. I walk in and out of student bathrooms all over campus all the time, up and down any staircase I want, and work at the front desk where I hear and see a lot. The school feels calm and secure. I attribute this ambient to two factors: personnel and buildings.

In the spring of 2004 the new administration building on the corner of Allston Way and Milvia was inaugurated. The building is magnificent. In addition, it completes the perimeter which in essence has created a closed campus. It is now possible to lock gates from 2nd period on and stop non students from wandering on campus. Students walking the halls must have large red passes clearly identifying them as BHS students with hall passes. Non BHS students are not allowed to wander unsupervised. Underage drop ins are not allowed. Finally, Mr. Slemp, now in his fourth year as principal, has been at the school long enough to set in place safety policies and make sure they are implemented. Our security officers know their job. Mr. Ramos is a really good dean. Mr. Smith who runs the On Campus Intervention is awesome.

Statistics back up my impressions: Over the last four years the number of students facing disciplinary action has fallen each semester. In the fall of 05 there were 15 assaults, 220 disruptions. In the fall of 2006 there were 3 assaults, and 147 disruptions. Now keep in mind that Berkeley is a VERY large school. There are 3,200 students. The number of discipline problems is very small.

These are the problems I DO see. For one, the school has done such a good job handling discipline and safety some fighting has been pushed off campus. The school safety officers are currently working with the police and merchants to do a better job making sure the downtown area is a safe place. The biggest problem however is thievery. Many students lose items from their backpacks—especially freshmen who arrive without street smarts. During the first fire drill any number of kids walked away from their backpacks only to come back and find they had been rifled through. The librarian just had her wallet lifted as did an office worker. It always makes me sad but kids (and grownups) do learn to watch their stuff and leave easily lift able items home.

Janet Huseby


Janet - Thanks for taking the time to post your valuable perspective, the statistics and other facts about berkeley high safety and about off-campus efforts. It is so good to hear this news. It is important that someone gets this info out (on a regular basis) to parents of junioir high and elementary school kids if BUSD wants kids to stay in or move back to public school. Otherwise, all we hear about are the bad things. Perhaps Slencamp and/or Lawrence want to down-play bad incidents on and around campus and thus don't tell the broader community about progress and new efforts with the BPD, if so...all that us parents of younger kids will hear about is the bad stuff. Hmmm. Parents will send their academic kids to Berkeley High, cuz they know they will likely do very well academically - even with BHS'wide range of achievement levels; but they WON'T send them there if their kids won't be safe (i'm not even talking about typical urban theft of stuff from unattended back packs and purses). Anyway, thanks Janet for taking the lead on community outreach and telling us for the most part that kids are safe and that BUSD and BPD are working on off-campus issues. BUSD should pay you for this, cuz no one else is doing that job! Mom of a young BUSD teen

Entering Berkeley High in the fall - staying safe

June 2006

What advice would you give to a 13 year old girl entering Berkeley High on how to stay safe on and around campus? Would like to hear from other parents of teens about their daughters' experiences. Thanks
dd


My daughter just finished her freshman year at BHS!! Whew!! I'm not sure what you mean by staying safe? Is she afraid of older kids picking on her? Being harassed by the crazies on Shattuck? These are things that can happen, but I'm assuming that she is going in with friends and and they usually travel in a pack. I didn't hear any reports from my daughter being hasseled by older kids. They pretty much ignore the freshman. I think she will learn how to handle herself after a while. What people on Shattuck to stay away from, where she's comfortable hanging out, etc. It takes several months to adjust to the largeness of the school, being jostled in the halls (not on purpose), and figuring out the fastest routes to her classes. I coached my daughter to keep her head up, eye's open, walk with a purpose, and know what's happening around you. We both had some adjustments to make as far as the open campus. They can leave school for lunch. It's an amazing freedom for most kids who didn't have that in the Berkeley public middle schools. Mostly everyone goes to Shattuck Ave or the park (btw, they don't smoke pot in the park, it's too close to school). The problem is getting back to school on time for 4th period. That was a BIG problem in the begining of the year, but slowly she got it through her pretty head that the school calls home for every tardy and absence and I would hear about it. I made several trips to the attendance office to have her attendance report printed out to figure what classes she was absent or tardy for (the attendance people are VERY nice). I never felt she was unsafe as far as being beat up or hurt in anyway. But the best way to insure against that is to have friends and to be respectful to others. There are security guards on campus, and during lunch there are other administrators around. There are evening events at the theater throughout the year, which a lot of kids want to go to with thier friends, just be sure to be there when it's over to pick her and the friends up. Unless she's been a cloistered child up until now, she will be fine.
made it through 9th grade!!

Is Berkeley High School Dangerous?

March-April 2001

I have a daughter beginning BHS as a 9th grader next fall. I have been told by two "credible" sources that there is a particular hallway on the BHS campus where white kids are not welcome and have been jumped if they stray there. Would someone please comment? Please don't use my name. Thanks


RE: THE PROVERBIAL HALLWAY
I've got two whiter than white children at BHS, and one African American daughter there. I've heard from ignorant people about the "hordes of children from Richmond and Oakland" come to Berkeley so that they can flunk out and terrorize their classmates and, etc. etc. Berkeley High is an active, supportive school that offers a lot to different kinds of students, but offlimits hallways ain't part of it. There is some racial tension from time to time, as there is anytime that ignorant racial stereotyping is alive and present, but the school and all of its people deal with it. I'd love to know who the "credible" sources of this balderdash are. There's lots to criticize BHS about and lots that needs to be done, but to spread garbage like this is sad and silly. KC
Hi. I read your email in "Parents of Teens" that said it isn't really dangerous at BHS-- that this is just balderdash. My daughter is going to be at BHS next year, so I am interested in this issue. I really hope you're right, but I have heard parents say that their kids have been "egged" and "stuffed" (into trashcans), and the Principal and Vice-Principal told the 8th grade parents at several different presentations I attended that there were emergency room-level injuries during spirit week. A BHS parent told me that his daughter's boyfriend was attacked and was badly hurt (his head was cut open and required stitches).in front of the school. A friend of mine discovered a hallway at the school where there were broken bottles, used condoms, and a heavy smell of marijuana. The administration didn't know about the area, but were grateful to be told, and are now trying to deal with cleaning up this area as well as trying to work with parents to make the school safer. I'm grateful to them for taking action. It seems to me that if this is "garbage", then they might be wasting their time. But if there is any truth to it, I think you'll agree that it's worth their time and ours to make sure the high school is safe for all students. It sounds like your kids haven't experienced any violence at BHS. That's great, and I hope we don't either. But I feel better about my kid being there knowing that steps are being taken to ensure that BHS is a safe campus for all. Cynthia
"There's lots to criticize BHS about and lots that needs to be done, but to spread garbage like this is sad and silly." What is sad and silly is that 5 students were beaten at Berkeley High because they were white. What is sad and silly is that even though I saw a drug deal on campus in the Channing corridor the Chief of the Berkeley Police department states there is absolutely nothing he can do. What is sad and silly is that during a meeting about the renovations to the Old Gym (http://www.busduse.org/oldgym/) one of the teachers made the statement that the alley way between the Donahue Gym and the old gym is not safe and even the security guards will not go there. What is sad and silly is that there are students out of class and no one -NO ONE- is telling them they need to be in class. What is sad and silly is that when I walked around campus on April 5th I only saw security near the administration building until we asked them to come over and talk to the students out of class. What is sad and silly is that someone think it is punitive punishment for the school to require a meeting with a parent after there has been 6 unexcused absences. What is sad and silly is that this community is doing a great disservice to its students in the name of racial equity. What is sad and silly is that the Berkeley community is sticking its proverbial head in the sand. Angela
From the BHS Students' Daily Bulletin April 24: "Dear Parents, Students, and Staff, We are aware of the recent assaults on campus. We are shocked and dismayed, but we will put a halt to what is taking place. Perpetrators are being arrested and prosecuted. The school district will be expelling these students. Additional Police Officers and Security Officers will be on campus between now and the end of the school year. In the meantime, please report any suspicious behavior to any adult on campus. Additionally, there will be assemblies dealing with this issue starting next week."
Kudos to Angela and her letter regarding the many issues around security/truancy/race/violence at Berkeley High. I've written letters regarding some of these issues and have had it suggested to me (by the keepers of the BHS newsletter) that I refrain from mentioning race in discussing the incidents of truancy, vandalism, drug taking, etc. that I've witnessed in the campus vicinity. I've called the Berkeley Police Dept. I've called Berkeley High's on-campus security.....all to no avail. Thank you, Angela, for calling attention to these very important issues. Perhaps if we keep pressing, those in positions to take some positive action, will finally realize the disservice that's being done to our community. Lisa
Report on April 27 meeting between BUSD and City on BHS Safety: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/news/04apr01/042701BUSD.html
I would like to add a bit of observation to the discussion of the conditions at Berkeley High School.

I too have been reading about the "dangerous halls" and "disgusting grounds", so I decided to see for myself. I have to be honest, as a 35 yr resident of Berkeley and BHS graduate, I was truly disappointed to see the conditions under which our kids have to pursue their education in academics and life. The atmosphere is not pleasant, and the attitude is meaner, but there is still good work going on in spite of the conditions.

There are far too many kids roaming the halls and grounds during class times, and it is difficult to determine which kids are students and which have come onto campus through the numerous un-monitored entrances. Truancy is a huge problem, but so is scheduling. When I've asked kids why they were not in class at various times, they say they have a "hole" in their schedule. So why don't they fill it, well they are teens, and a hole means "free" time.

The attitude of the parents and administrators needs to change about how to "guide" these potentially great kids, and not just "let it happen", because this is what you get.

Finally, I would like to say, IF YOU ARE REALLY CONCERNED, please take an hour out of your day and come down to the campus and join the effort of the Parents and Guardians on Campus to help "keep an eye on things". Believe me, every teacher I have encountered is very grateful that parents are getting involved. After all, isn't it more effective to start a conversation off with, "I've seen", rather than, "I've heard". Thanks for listening, I hope you heard. Ed


Yesterday I was told something that was very disturbing. A young man at BHS said that when he intervened in a fight on campus, suggesting the older kid pick on someone his own size and age, the older kid picked up his shirt and revealed a gun in his pants. Could this be true? Are there metal detectors?
I just want to throw this out there: no one is disputing that there are problems with rough kids at BHS. It's a big urban school and it has the same kinds of problems other big urban schools have. I do think that problems like truancy and loitering and assault deserve our attention and action. But the original question was whether there is a particular hallway at BHS that white kids can't go in. So far we haven't heard from anyone that there is such a hallway, and several people have written in to dispute it. There is a history of non-BHS parents "hearing things" about BHS that either worry them about their child's safety or turn them off to BHS altogether. Often the "things" are not true, or they are greatly exaggerated, or they are incidents that happened a long time ago. The great majority of students at BHS never experience any kind of violent behavior at school. It is a pity for Berkeley parents to not even consider BHS because of unfounded rumors and diehard exaggerations, a pity for them and a pity for us. So let's try to keep this discussion in perspective. --- a BHS parent
I have heard that quite a few kids have been "jumped" and robbed of their wallets the past few weeks while in various hallways at Berkeley High. This has got to stop. Has anyone else heard about this? Is anything being done? Also heard a group boxed a kid (placed a box over a kids head) while he was in the stairwell and beat him up. This is an outrage. Students are told to always be with a friend or a group, but this is not always possible. Do other parents have stories? My son was jumped recently by a group of students right after school, his wallet taken. There was no security around. We reported this to the school. But then I heard it has happened to quite a few students. If this is so, then this is insanity. The school must crack down on this and BHS must become a safer place to be. I don't remember feeling this way last year, and last year was incredibly tumultuous with all the fires and arson going on. I feel in a way it's gotten worse instead of better, or else I'm more aware of it. I don't know but I don't like it. Anonymous
Editor Note: since the above letter was received, BHS Principal Frank Lynch has sent out informationals about this on the BHS e-tree.
To the BHS parent who thinks that the violence issue at Berkeley High needs to be put into perspective, consider this:

About ten days ago, my son entered the second floor H building hallway and saw the passageway "blocked" by twelve boys. Realizing that he could not pass through them, he walked casually up to two boys whom he did know who were standing close to the group of twelve. He said hello to one of the two boys, talked for a minute or two, and then stood with both of them, since he felt "safer" with them than alone. Suddenly, he told me, the larger group got excited and a boy about 6'2" raised his hand high in the air. Then, without warning, the boy with the arm raised turned 90 degrees to the boy my son had been talking to, and swiftly, powerfully, smashed his fist into the boy's jaw. My son said that he could hear this boy's jaw crack as he fell to the ground. The larger group of boys stood over him as he lay on the floor, laughed at him, called him names and then walked away. The boy got up, his nose bleeding, and walked down the hallway in a daze. A teacher came along who helped him.

A week later when my son saw the boy who had been hit, the boy asked my son if he knew who hit him and why. The group who did it could not be identified.

None of the hallways at Berkeley High are safe. The violence is random and perpetrators go unpunished. There are thugs who go to school every day to prey on unsuspecting "targets" who don't know who hit them or why. Most students don't report being robbed, mugged or threatened because they are afraid. And they have reason to be.

Let's put this into perspective, BHS parent, and others who think because their kid hasn't been victimized, that the safety issue has been overblown. Last year it was fires; this year it is unwarranted assaults. Berkeley High School IS unsafe. Thirty two hundred students are crammed onto this campus and there are only "three escape routes" and no abundance of security. I tell people who ask me about Berkeley High that this safety issue is not rumor. It's real. And it needs to be addressed. NOW. Another Berkeley Parent


From: Shirley Issel (Shirley Issel is on the Berkeley School Board)

I would like to post this in the discussion section in response to parents concerns about violence at BHS

From: "Laura Menard"

Superintendent Steve Goldstone and Principal Frank Lynch have been meeting with City Manager Weldon Rucker, Mayor Shirley Dean and the BPD Youth Services to develop practices and procedures to meet security needs and develop truancy solutions. Frank Lynch explained his intentions to promote a respectful, safe learning environment with this extraordinary mutual support.

Some of the remedies being implemented are: revised security plan, increased personnel, BPD supported training for safety officers, new vests identifying BHS Safety officers, improved student identification cards in the fall and increased reporting practices. When students who have experienced or witness violence report the incident to Principal Frank Lynch, security manager Barry Wiggan and/or the police youth services division, consequences can be given to those responsible.

Walk your Talk Join in! We have been walking the campus in pairs or threesomes. When we encounter a problem, we call BHS Safety Officers via radios. Currently we only have a handful of folks, we need more. Primarily after lunch, noon 3:00. You can volunteer by calling Laura Menard 849-4319 or Frank Lynch 644-4567. Drop-in is fine, red windbreakers and radios are available from Frank Lynch.


From: BUSD Public Information Officer

Mayor Dean is greatly concerned about the violence and physical assaults at the High School. She is working with the City Manager and the School District to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of all students at Berkeley High School. One piece of her efforts to solve the problems at the High School is the attached item that she has submitted to the City Council, for consideration on Tuesday, May 8th. The Mayor believes that all students should be in class between 2nd and 6th periods. Students should not be roaming campus, the building hallways or the Civic Center Park. The Mayor requests that parents who support her suggestion to the School District and who want the violence ended at the High School should come to the City Council and voice their concerns. There is a 30 minute public comment period at the BEGINNING of the Council meeting at 7 p.m. Ten cards are selected at random from those submitted by people wishing to address the Council. If you are not able to come to the meeting, you can send an e-mail to the Mayor and Council members by directing it to clerk@ci.berkeley.ca.us The City Clerk will distribute your message to the Mayor and the Council members.

Maintaining a parent presence on campus all day long for the remaining weeks of school is the principal's number one priority at this time for parent involvement. At the General PTSA Meeting on May 1, Principal Lynch asked that every parent, guardian, grandparent, and significant adult in our children's lives take time to walk on campus. He described a campus situation that has become "critical" and needs all of our immediate attention.

To help out, please go to the front desk of the administration portable any time between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. You will be given a red jacket and be sent to walk about the campus in pairs. Drop in is fine, but you may also sign up in advance by calling Principal Frank Lynch at 644-4567.


Regarding BHS:
> Most students don't report being robbed, mugged or threatened
> because they are afraid. And they have reason to be.

This is true -- my son sees the people who jumped him almost everyday at BHS. They are apparently students at the school. He is reluctant to report them, but has described them to security. What is needed but very hard to accomplish is a way to identify these people without fear ot being "discovered" or sought out by those committing the crimes -- how do we accomplish this and insure our kid's safety?

Kids are jumped or robbed at all hours of the day on and off campus -- Last year one of my son's friends was robbed as he was walking to lunch with a group of friends -- he disappeared for 10 minutes and came up to his group and said "I was just robbed" -- this is broad daylight at lunch time near Shattuck Avenue -- lots of people around.


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