Schools

Restraining order served on Berkeley High counselor

A counselor at Berkeley High School has been issued with a restraining order, following allegations that last year he harassed a student who is now a senior at BHS.

Anthony Smith was accused last year of sexually harassing a student, according to court documents. Smith has denied the accusations. The school district, according to a July 12th letter to the student’s parents from Interim Director of Personnel Services Cliff Wong, found Smith “engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior contrary to District policy.” The letter further stated that the district “will be taking appropriate personnel action” against Smith.

The accusations made by the student in April under penalty of perjury and cited in the court documents included:

  • In April, Smith “spanked” her buttocks. Two weeks before that he said, “Maybe we can be in contact outside of school so I can share some feelings with you.”
  • Smith asked the student what she wore to bed and responded, “Oh, you don’t sleep naked?”
  • The student said, “He always hugged me goodbye and… would put his face in my chest and/or rub my back.”
  • Smith came to the student’s classroom at different periods of the day, or had a student proctor send for her to visit his office.

According to Stephen Rosenbaum, the student’s lawyer, the district has never explained what disciplinary action has been taken. Smith is still working as a counselor at BHS. Because of this, Rosenbaum applied to the Alameda County Superior Court for a temporary restraining order on the basis of civil harassment, which was granted on September 2. It requires Smith to stay at least 100 yards away from the student. A hearing to make the order permanent will be held next Tuesday.

Rosenbaum applied for the restraining order following a September 1 letter to the parents from Delia Ruiz, the BUSD’s assistant superintendent for human resources. Ruiz was responding to an appeal on behalf of the student, against the district’s decision to keep Smith at BHS. Ruiz stated:

Mr. Smith is a high school counselor, and there is only one comprehensive high school in the District. In addition, we must comply with the collective bargaining agreement between the District and Berkeley Federation of Teachers (the teachers’ union) which includes restrictions on the ability of the District to transfer teachers. We also took into consideration the size of the high school (both in terms of student/employee population and geographic size), and the ability to minimize contact between Mr. Smith and [the student] using other means. Finally, we took into consideration all other relevant factors, including the best interests of all students at the high school, the rights of the individual teacher, and the District’s obligation to maintain a safe environment for all students. Taking into consideration all of the relevant factors, we made a decision to retain Mr. Smith at BHS. However, please be assured that he has been given a directive to stay in the counseling area, minimize the need to be on other parts of the campus, and avoid any contact with [the student], both verbal and physical. We believe that with these precautions, there is little or no chance that any additional offensive contact between the two will occur.

Ruiz’s decision was confirmed in a letter to the parents from BUSD superintendent Bill Huyett on September 8. Huyett wrote, “It is the District’s policy and practice to remedy any potential sexual harassment immediately, in order to prevent any sort of illegal harassment. We believe that the actions we have taken to date will be sufficient to prevent and deter future harassment.”

The Berkeley Unified School District declined to comment on the matter, citing their policy of never commenting on personnel issues. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers also declined to comment. Cathy Campbell, president of the BFT, said in response to Ruiz’s point about the difficulty of transferring teachers to another site, “We have an obligation to uphold our contract. There are some circumstances under which a teacher can be involuntarily transferred.” Article 8.5.10 of the BFT contract with the BUSD does state that “involuntary transfers shall not be used for punitive purposes”.

The parents of the student have widely circulated a flier about the issue to BHS parents. It concludes:

We are supporters of the Berkeley public schools. This year closes out our 21 years of having children enrolled in the Berkeley public schools. We share this information not to spread gossip or to cause problems for the Administration, but because we feel an obligation to warn other parents about this situation and to try to determine how many other BHS students may have been subjected to the same behavior. We are informed and believe that our daughter was not the first to be victimized.

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  • Thomas Lord

    Why are the contract’s restrictions on transfer of concern here? Either the allegations are false (or deeply misleading) or else there are grounds for dismissal.

    This notion that you sexually harass a kid and therefore get “punished” by being transferred to a fresh batch of kids who don’t know you seems like something a hierarchy of clerics might dream up, if you know what I mean.

  • Jane Tierney

    I understand the issue of due process, but this is not a case of imprisonment if the charges are found true. This is a case of all students’ safety and well-being. The process of HOW the school will handle the complaint should be a matter of public record. They don’t have to detail the findings; just the process. If the same process if followed for all students with behavior complaints against teachers and administrators, the union should have no issue. This is not a case of a teacher giving a bad grade and a possible retaliatory student. This is not a teacher. This goes to the very heart of a counselor’s privileged position of trust with students. Without an open process, the system is flawed.

  • laura menard

    It’s an absolute shame that parents of school crime have to go public to resolve serious problems.

    Parents have long advocated for missing systems to improve school safety aligned with best practices recommended by the CDE and CA Attorney General partnership for Safe Schools.

    We created systems such as the Incidents Reporting System, identified in the 2003 WASC report as a safety reform but no where is the Incident Reporting procedures or protocols implemented either in substance or the spirit intended.

    Frustration has lead a group of concerned parents of school crime victims to request the Berkeley Alliance to host a meeting inviting Supt Huyett, Chief Meehan and a few key staffers to discuss the implementation of standard protocols in reducing school crime and in particular protecting victims rights.

    We chose the Alliance because it’s mission and funding make it appropriate to support our work. From their website:

    “We bring policymakers, institutional leaders, and community representatives together to create solutions and city-wide change. As the steward of this unique partnership, the Alliance builds capacity to ensure that all Berkeley children, youth, families and households benefit from the wealth of resources in their city.”

    The Alliance director was at first highly supportive, since this is not the first year we have requested such an opportunity, and new people are in key positions within both agencies. We were pleased that finally progress might be possible. We learned yesterday from the Alliance director Nicole Sanchez that the city and district leaders would not meet with us. They reneged.

    Stonewalled again.

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com Lance Knobel

    Thomas, I only cite the issue of transfer in the contract because it was raised by the letter from Delia Ruiz.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Lance,

    Yup. I wasn’t complaining about the reporting. This time :-)

    On the other thing – the Kapor thing (sorry to mix topics) – you have any neutral advisory council? I don’t see why any filings in that matter (and surely the initial petition is not the only filing) aren’t public documents (and therefore, you should have a lot more information).

    I’m also curious on this angle: City is sued, Kapors are respondents — is it literally just that Kapors foot the bill while the case is directed by the City? Or what? How does that work? How much is this costing taxpayers and who is calling which shots?

  • Roxanne

    The way this is being handled presumes that this one situation, this one girl, is the issue. But a counselor who has molested one student is a danger to other students. What about the other students who are sent in to his office? Is it up to children to protect themselves? The system is not supposed to work this way. Can a union contract be more important than a child’s safety?

    This is a very dangerous situation. A teachers’ union that cares more about employment than it does about the safety of the children is doing a disservice to everyone – the children, the parents and even their own teachers who will lose credibility in the end. As I read the accusations, I thought that the physical issues described are legally sexual assault. They would have been so at my old school. We were told to avoid all touching and that is not so hard to do once you define it that way It was only hard for me when a student was crying but that did not happen very often.

    We all have to remember that no one is saying this counselor is innocent. If he is guilty then no child should ever have to be in an office with him. Counseling is a one-on-one activity. It is more intimate than teaching. This is very bad. This is not about a restraining order for one girl. It is the job of a school district to make each school a safe place for learning and a school cannot be safe with a molester working there, particularly in a closed office. Something is very wrong here.

  • Porcelina Grout

    In her letter to the family, after Mr. Smith had been charged with “inappropriate and unprofessional behavior”, BUSD’s assistant superintendent for human resources Delia Ruiz wrote “We also took into consideration the size of the high school … [when] we made a decision to retain Mr. Smith at BHS”. It seems to me that the size of BHS is a very good reason to NOT retain Mr. Smith. With 3200 students, and not enough counselors to go around, Mr. Smith will have many more opportunities to sexually harass students than he would have at a smaller school. Ruiz also cites “the best interests of all students at the high school” as a reason for retaining Mr. Smith. Does that mean there are students at BHS whose best interests are served by having a counselor like this? This kind of logic from our school district is very disturbing.

  • Linda Epley

    Since schools are mandatory reporters, I’m wondering if BUSD communicated with the Berkeley Police and reported this incident. Regardless of the employment issue and the very obvious need to protect our school children…this is at least a criminal sexual battery. Shouldn’t there be a parallel criminal case here?

  • Peter Kuhn

    This is evidence of monumental incompetence on the part of the District and the union. They should have immediately done everything possible to resolve whether the allegations were true, and taken appropriate action. Instead, they dithered and now they look like a molester’s best friend. They look like they are shielding criminal employees, and allowing those employees to molest students. That may not be the truth, but it’s what’s apparent. That’s no way to help staff or students.

  • Elmwood Neighbor

    San Jose Mercury News has more information:

    “Allegations that a Berkeley High School counselor caressed a female student’s inner thigh last year, spanked her and asked her if she slept naked were not sexual harassment, a school district investigation found over the summer.

    Counselor Anthony Smith’s behavior was, however, “inappropriate and unprofessional,” the district said. And Smith remains in his job counseling other female students at the school.

    Following the investigation and findings of the complaint, which the student and her lawyer found lacking, the student obtained a temporary restraining order against Smith and is seeking to have it made permanent.

    The order, obtained in Alameda County Superior Court on Sept. 2, tells Smith to stay 100 yards away from the student and her home.

    In her April complaint against the counselor, the student alleged Smith put his nose against her neck and told her she smelled good, stared at her chest, put his head on her chest and his hands on her waist, talked about her hair and called her out of class to discuss non-school related topics.

    The student’s lawyer, Stephen Rosenbaum of Berkeley, said the school district investigation included a three-hour interview of the student with school district lawyers. In denying the complaint of sexual harassment, the school district sent a letter to Rosenbaum on July 12.

    “For the most part, there were no witnesses,” the letter said. “Mr. Smith denied most of the allegations and said he did nothing wrong. With regard to the uncomfortable hugs, it could not be determined that Mr. Smith’s conduct in this regard was unprofessional or inappropriate because you approached him.”

    Go here to read the entire article” http://tiny.cc/e3xyt

  • Concerned Parent of BHS girl

    The memo being circulated by the girl’s lawyer also notes that there was a prior incident involving Mr. Smith. I agree with Porcelina – the safety of this individual girls is important but so is the safety of all the other students that are assigned to Mr. Smith, including my daughter. It’s not only about one student – clearly, given the prior incident. I think it’s outrageous that he has not been dismissed. The BHS Parent Handbook just came in the mail and it clearly spells out the District’s Sexual Harassment Policy. I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds to me like what has been described meets the definition. The Policy says that if an employee is found to be in violation – which the District seems to say that he is since he acted inappropriately and unprofessionally – then disciplinary action will be taken, including dismissal (in compliance with local and state laws and contracts).

    I would at least like to know what disciplinary action has been taken? It seems like nothing – he’s in his same job, doing his same thing.

    I intend to ask for a change in counselor and will not allow my daughter to interact with him.

  • laura menard

    Last year Smith was asked by safety officer Billy Keys to be a member of the BHS Safety committee. I knew about Smith inappropriate conduct towards young ladies a few years ago, so did BHS administration.

    In 2001-2003 I provided evidence of two safety officers inappropriate conduct with students, in those cases the Supt dismissed their employment.

    Linda’s point about mandated reporting is critical. The “new improved” partnership(Lance’ story about last night PTSA meeting) with BPD youth services needs to address other long standing legal failures starting with obtaining and enforcing restraining orders.

    Peter said is best:
    “This is evidence of monumental incompetence on the part of the District and the union.”

  • laura menard

    Concerned parent wrote
    “The BHS Parent Handbook just came in the mail and it clearly spells out the District’s Sexual Harassment Policy.”

    The publishing and distribution of the Parent Handbook was the result of my advocacy over several years, eventually I succeeded in this project by attending the state compliance review process. BUSD’s primary area for non-compliance was failure to distribute policy and UCP compliant process information to all BUSD families. At the time most school secretaries did not even know what a “green form” for formal complaints was. The school board and district still do not conform with the UCP process consistently.

    The sexual harassment policy was revised back in the mid 90s along with staff training in an informal resolution following my formal complaint regarding the long term intense bullying/harassment of my son. The district solution was to move my son and send us to independent study year after year rather than address the problem, students and staff who created the hostile environment.

    CHKS self reported data shows BUSD schools have an huge problem with intimidation and harassment in addition to the AOD disparity when compared statewide. BUSD has been remiss in addressing climate and culture improvements because they adhere to policy driven fractionalism rather than developing community standards.

  • GaveUpOnBUSD

    Situations like this are precisely why people leave the BUSD. The Union is in COMPLETE control, to the detriment of students. My 1st grader was being regularly bullyied, spit on, hit, etc. and after letters, meeting with teachers and principal NOTHING was done, NOTHING AT ALL! We finally decided to leave and were told, “We were doing the right thing.”
    We send our children to school with the expectation that they will be safe. Their well being is paramount here. This counselor should be removed from the school and put to work in a district office, behind a desk, where his access to students is eliminated UNTIL the charges against him are resolved. This politically correct, union pandering position is outrageous. If this counselor is found to be guilty this family has every right to sue the district. Who will be on the hook? Berkeley taxpayers.

  • Liz Scherer

    Last year when Anthony Smith was assigned to my son, I quickly took action and requested Brenda Wong. She is excellent, by the way. There is no way I feel that Anthony Smith is qualified to be a high school counselor and college adviser. My older son was assaulted after a BHS dance by ten kids. It was a very frustrating experience dealing with the administration. But one thing which stands out is Anthony Smith’s behavior when I was on campus volunteering on the first day of school, for registration of freshmen including my younger son. I noticed two older boys hanging around by the gate. I asked Mr. Biondi who was a safety officer at the time to check them out. He responded quickly, and told me that they did not belong there and he would deal with it Anthony Smith, on the other hand, went ballistic and pushed to get me removed from campus rather than deal with the safety problem.

  • Maureen Burke

    Liz,

    I am so saddened by your story. And I am so saddened by what the handling of Anthony Smith means for the high school and the district, although maybe BFT will learn a much-needed lesson. I wanted to chime in on your comments about Brenda Wong. She was my son’s counselor and always responded to phone calls and emails. That in itself is a minor miracle. And she always did the tasks she needed to do on behalf of my son, even when she was overwhelmed, which was most of the time. She did her best to correct the snafus caused by the VPs and the principal.

    Re Delia Ruiz, I emailed her last year and asked her to please review the Academic Choice redesign plan that set out guidelines for new hires, specifically: “The recruitment of more teachers of color hired for AND assigned to AC, in conjunction with the distribution of teachers whose instructional vision and performance evaluations are not based in serving all students in an equitable fashion.” Surely the latter part of this statement is an ideological litmus test required of new hires as well as existing teachers. It’s hard to believe any human resources agency would let this happen. Ms. Ruiz never responded to my request for review of this BHS policy, nor did she ever respond to my email. That is small potatoes to this latest failure of policy culminating in this counselor incident. I am so ashamed of our school district.

  • E. Scherer

    I was Secretary of the Safety Committee at BHS so I saw things up close and personally. As a concerned parent, I attended a forum on Safety and there I met Laura Menard . She was the ONLY help I received with the assault on my son which occurred a block from the school after a MORP dance. She is the greatest asset our high school community has and yet the Administration does not take advantage of it. Laura always had more information than the BHS Staff had on what was happening, the correct steps to be taken, and the data. She wrote the handbook on safety now in place but not being followed. In fact, the Administration from the Safety Officers, the Dean, the Vice Principals, the Principal, the Superintendent, and the Board did not address our safety problems, nor did they follow up on our suggestions such as the safety officers wearing identifiable uniforms and the community being informed about assaults as they occur so as to be better prepared to protect our children. They addressed the huge theft problem at BHS by setting a goal of reducing theft on campus by 20% a year rather than bringing in a zero tolerance program. They tried their best to discourage the input from the community by moving meetings at the last minute, claiming they were closed when they were required by law to be open, and canceling meetings. Those of us on the Committee trying to make a difference were viewed as a threat. I was on the committee for three years and was appalled at the stonewalling and the acceptance of being out of compliance They spent more time trying to manage us than dealing with safety. The State supported our efforts but the District would not review our concerns and complaints correctly. Two years ago when parents, coaches, students wrote about the gang-like atmosphere of the basketball team, there was no response from the Administration. I can only hope that the complaints about the counselor are taken seriously and that appropriate action follows.
    The System has to change and it has to start with the Board, to the Superintendent, to the Principal in order for changes to be implemented.
    The Community members can make a difference by looking carefully at the people they elect to the Board.

  • Cathy Campbell

    I am the President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the union involved in this case.

    In looking at this situation, it is important to know the exact facts about the Union contract that govern voluntary and involuntary transfers of teachers. It is also important to know the laws about counselor credentials and job placement.

    The BFT/BUSD contract allows for the involuntary transfer of teachers, at the discretion of the Superintendent, “when irreconcilable staff differences exist; when a critical absence of a learning environment exists; when abuse or danger to students exists; or in emergency circumstances.” It was a District decision not to invoke this section of the contract in this case. The union doesn’t have the prerogative to initiate involuntary transfers.

    In addition, counselors at the high school AND middle school level require the exact same credential under California law. The fact that we have only one comprehensive high school is irrelevant given that we have a continuation high school and three middle schools, all of whom have counselor positions that require the exact same credential as a comprehensive high school counselor.

  • Foster Boondoggle

    Ms. Campbell’s reply begs the question raised earlier of why the discussion is of transfer and not dismissal. And if there is indeed a restraining order requiring Smith to be more than 100 yards away from the young woman, how can he continue to operate at BHS without violating the order? Every time the student goes anywhere near C building, he’s going to be in violation.

    This is completely outrageous and shocking. Clearly those with longer involvement in the community see it as just part of a long-running pattern of BUSD being more concerned with self-protection than with carrying out its mission.

  • Diane

    The more I hear about how BUSD is run, the less competent it seems. This guy should be out of there, period. Whether it was sexual harassment legally, or just inappropriate is beside the point – this guy has no business being around kids.

  • Maureen Burke

    Here’s the BUSD definition of sexual harassment from the BHS PTSA website:

    “…have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an indi­vidual’s education or work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational or working environment….”

    And now we have the superintendent blaming the union contract for not preventing this guy having contact with students, and we have the BFT president blaming the superintendent. This is so horrible. Does anyone at BUSD care about finding out what happened to this girl?

    Seems like this Anthony Smith is receiving preferential treatment from the district. Does anyone know whether he has special ties to district personnel?

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Ms. Campbell (et al.),

    I believe we are now to understand that fairly specific allegations of sexual harassment were made (e.g., certain kinds of touching and remarks).

    And we are to understand that these allegations were (mostly?) denied by the accused.

    And we are to understand that BUSD’s investigation could not resolve a “he said v. she said” contradiction.

    And yet the counselor in question was found (in the eyes of BUSD) to have engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.

    Therefore the question arises:

    What factual findings support the support of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct?

    In other words, what specifically did the counselor do that both sides of the dispute agree he did?

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com Lance Knobel

    One other quote from the BUSD’s findings in the case, stated in its letter of July 12.

    “For the most part there were no witnesses. Mr. Smith denied most of the allegations and said he did nothing wrong. With regard to the uncomfortable hugs, it could not be determined that Mr. Smith’s conduct in this regard was unprofessional or inappropriate because you approached him. However, with regard to the remaining allegations, the investigation determined that you were the more credible witness.”

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Lance:

    Yeah, so, what’s the official word on whether that does or does not mean that BUSD believed the allegations of spanking, neck sniffing, nude-sleeping-comments, etc.?

    If they found that as fact, and then didn’t dismiss and indeed considered the question of transfer…. I am wondering what taxpayer liabilities they are racking up here for their negligence in maintaining a safe environment.

  • Tamlyn Rawls

    The lack of action to transfer or terminate this counselor is a disgrace. Since it has been determined that he was guilty of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, he HAS been found to have commited a fault, whether civil or criminal. If I were the young woman who was harassed, I would be horrified to know that my tormentor is still there on campus, free to try out his creepy behavior with other students. I went to Berkeley High, and it was a tough environment because of my fellow students. If a student cannot rely on the staff to have his/her back, it is intolerable. I am appalled.

  • Concerned Parent of BHS girl

    Cathy Campbell’s comment does not address anything about why this counselor was not dismissed. This counselor should not be transferred to another school and endanger children there. It appears from the letters from the District that there is an admission that this counselor violated the District’s policy and that there was “inappropriate and unprofessional conduct”. Why is this NOT grounds for dismissal? Not just transfers. Cathy Campbell has often stated in public that parents and teachers should come forward, register complaints, etc so that BHS and BUSD can improve the quality of teaching, so that teachers can receive training, or be put into the probation program, or have peer oversight or whatever. So, in this case, the family *did* come through and file a complaint and there was a full investigation. It appears that there is enough evidence for the court to issue a restraining order. And yet nothing is done! So, why is the District and the Union protecting this counselor and not protecting the safety of students?

    Huyett’s statement that “this is enough to deter future sexual harassment” – isn’t this an admission that harassment has occurred in the past?

    I really don’t get it. There is no accountability.

    Clearly they can fire staff when they want to – they fired a BHS Biology teacher last year.

  • shorty

    That’s just it…there is NO accountability withing BUSD! At the least, pending investigation, Mr. Smith should have been placed on probation.
    On another note, something seems amiss. One report says lawyer is S. Rosenbaum, yet a letter is circulating from same saying he is the parent of alleged victim.
    And I can’t make sense of what Cathy Campbell was referring to. Anyone else?
    This matter seems more a matter of the law than one of collective bargaining.

    This district and school are bound to providing a safe environment for all students.

  • Elmwood Neighbor

    I think what Cathy Campbell was saying is that it is the Union’s job to represents the employees in discipline cases to make sure the BUSD follows the terms of the collective bargaining agreements (Due Process) It is the District that is responsible for hiring and firing of the employees.

    She is also saying that if the District wanted to move the counselor to another site, they could have done.

    “BFT/BUSD contract allows for the involuntary transfer of teachers, at the discretion of the Superintendent, “when irreconcilable staff differences exist; when a critical absence of a learning environment exists; when abuse or danger to students exists; or in emergency circumstances.” It was a District decision not to invoke this section of the contract in this case. The union doesn’t have the prerogative to initiate involuntary transfers.”

  • Voxhumana

    It seems the only option left for this student was to obtain the TRO. A sad thing to say the least. It appears that in the eyes of a judge, there was enough evidence to suggest the TRO be instated. It’s a shame for all involved that the school district and the administrators at the high school did not and will not take further action to neutralize the risk inherent in having this employee (I won’t call him a teacher,) having contact with students. Frankly, I think he should be dismissed. They should learn something from the Catholic church. Immediate and firm action, openly and transparently, is the only cure.

  • shorty

    To LK: And Mr. Smith hugs everybody!!!! Staffers in the office, mothers of students, and apparently students, too. Hang around the office enough and you will witness such behavior. I’m not sure hugs are inappropriate, but the comments sure are.

  • Peggy

    Shorty said, “And I can’t make sense of what Cathy Campbell was referring to. Anyone else?” This drove me to read the BFT contract, or at least parts of it. I had thought that the whole discussion about transfers was cockamamie,
    considering that this situation was one of potential endangerment to other students besides the girl who has the restraining order.

    This is what I found:
    http://www.berkeleyfederationofteachers.org/documents/2009/bft-final-contract-200810.pdf
    8.5 Involuntary Transfers:
    8.5.6 Teachers shall be transferred at the discretion of the Superintendent,
    with as much advance notice as is practical, when irreconcilable staff
    differences exist; when a critical absence of a learning environment exists;
    when abuse or danger to students exists; or in emergency circumstances.
    This provision operates separately from Sections 8.5.1 through 8.5.5 and
    8.5.12.

    Yes, that’s what it says – a teacher “shall be transferred…when abuse or
    danger to students exists.” And yes, I do believe the Catholic Church got into an awful lot of trouble for doing exactly this. Even “when abuse or danger to students exists,” a teacher cannot be terminated but only transferred. They cannot even be “reassigned” (which could move a counselor over to a job that did not involve student contact.) That looks like a serious flaw in the contract.

    The words dismissal or termination are not in the contract in any case that
    involves abuse or danger to students, only transfer. I presume if the certificated employee were to lose his/her state certification then they would no longer qualify for employment. The state provides the opportunity to report misconduct at http://www.ctc.ca.gov/educator-discipline/public.html but in the current state of the state economy I don’t know if they read their mail.

  • Elmwood Neighbor

    I believe the BFT-BUSD Contract reflects California Education Code:
    I’m not going to copy and paste all sections but here are some that relate to dismissal:

    44932. (a) No permanent employee shall be dismissed except for one
    or more of the following causes:
    (1) Immoral or unprofessional conduct.
    (2) Commission, aiding, or advocating the commission of acts of
    criminal syndicalism, as prohibited by Chapter 188 of the Statutes of
    1919, or in any amendment thereof.
    (3) Dishonesty.
    (4) Unsatisfactory performance.
    (5) Evident unfitness for service.
    (6) Physical or mental condition unfitting him or her to instruct
    or associate with children.
    (7) Persistent violation of or refusal to obey the school laws of
    the state or reasonable regulations prescribed for the government of
    the public schools by the State Board of Education or by the
    governing board of the school district employing him or her.
    (8) Conviction of a felony or of any crime involving moral
    turpitude.
    (9) Violation of Section 51530 or conduct specified in Section
    1028 of the Government Code, added by Chapter 1418 of the Statutes of
    1947.
    (10) Knowing membership by the employee in the Communist Party.
    (11) Alcoholism or other drug abuse which makes the employee unfit
    to instruct or associate with children.
    (b) The governing board of a school district may suspend without
    pay for a specific period of time on grounds of unprofessional
    conduct a permanent certificated employee or, in a school district
    with an average daily attendance of less than 250 pupils, a
    probationary employee, pursuant to the procedures specified in
    Sections 44933, 44934, 44935, 44936, 44937, 44943, and 44944. This
    authorization shall not apply to any school district which has
    adopted a collective bargaining agreement pursuant to subdivision (b)
    of Section 3543.2 of the Government Code.

    44933. A permanent employee may be dismissed or suspended on
    grounds of unprofessional conduct consisting of acts or omissions
    other than those specified in Section 44932, but any such charge
    shall specify instances of behavior deemed to constitute
    unprofessional conduct. This section shall also apply to the
    suspension of probationary employees in a school district with an
    average daily attendance of less than 250 pupils.

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  • Tanya

    I realize that after reading BHS’s announcement about Anthony Smith and the (lack of) action from BUSD, I spent an hour reading newspaper articles, comments on this site, and talking with a few other BHS parents about how outrageous and horrible this situation is. Is that all we can do–complain? I want things to change. I want that poor girl to feel believed, supported, valued, and safe. I want Anthony Smith out of Berkeley High and far away from all students. What can we, as parents, do besides kvetch? There must be some way to act and show our support for this family without violating their privacy and exacerbating the agony of this brave young woman who came forward. Are there other parents, students, teachers, alumni, and residents of Berkeley who can suggest a meaningful way for us to band together and tell BUSD that allowing Anthony Smith to remain a counselor at Berkeley High is unacceptable? What can we do?

  • HJacobsen

    I remember the assault on Liz Scherer’s son, and the School’s unwillingness to take action because the assault “took place off campus”. At the time I asked a Berkeley Police Department officer what should be done. His response was that BPD should ALWAYS be contacted about criminal activity, because they “don’t care where it takes place.” In the cases of other assaults against BHS students who were my kids’ friends, the ones where police reports were filed were handled better – by the School, too. The District yields to an impulse to cover up behavior that reflects on it badly — our job as parents and citizens is to insist that they admit bad behavior where it occurs, and disavow it strongly. Lets insist on honest behavior, from the professionals who deal with our children.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    We’re all against child abuse and we’re all against sexual harassment, that’s a given.

    I’d like to remind the mob that is forming here that we don’t have any clear public record of the facts of what occurred. Nor are we judges or juries.

    What we have right now are fuzzy details and lousy reporting from a “future of the news” source — and a mob gathering. Good work, Berkeleyside.

  • HJacobsen

    Tanya – presuming he’s guilty is no better than presuming he’s not. Part of what’s galling is BUSD making their own assumptions and thinking no one will argue. Nasty stuff, all around, but I agree that we mustn’t form a mob.

  • laura menard

    Heather,

    Important correction, the question of jurisdictional responsibility in incidents such as the assault of Liz’s kid leaving a school dance or during lunch downtown was finally clarified during Supt Huyett first year, in either case BHS is responsible for student safety. Parents have asserted such repeatably using CDE resources. Slemp was routinely dishonest in such matters, in his last year he finally acknowledged the error when confronted at a safety meeting.

    Repairing the partnership between city and schools post Slemp is a priority that appears to be started with the civic center patrols. The main reason for the truancy sweeps is the high number of robberies and violent crime. It is just easier for Berkeley to accept the notion of truancy sweeps than acknowledged how much teen crime occurs behind city hall and across the street from the principal’s office.

    As to Tanya’s question “what can be done”, if you want sustained improvements make sure every school has a functioning Safety committee and that all staff members attend the CDE training and use the accompanying workbook to guide the process as per state law.

    Don’t even get me started about how long it is taking to implement the earthquake response plan.

    And I will leave out the gory details about how many years it took to get BHS to remove the teen offender (known WSB gang member) from hanging out in the center quad at BHS after he was identified in the assault of Liz’s son. Did I mention he had been expelled the prior year.

    Community members can push back against the “manage the community” politics and demand both agencies serve the community’s best interest.

  • Gail Saari

    My son had Anthony Smith as a counselor at BHS in grades 9 and 10 (probably around 2006), and he needed some changes to classes. Mr. Smith refused to even schedule a meeting with me–he told me he was too busy to take 15 minutes, that I had to see all of my son’s teachers first. When I asked for another counselor, I was told it was impossible. My son dropped out of school. Eventually, he was admitted into the Independent Studies program where he was successful, but I said at the time and have said many times since that if Anthony Smith is representative of the faculty at BHS, I will not have my younger son attend the school.

  • Elmwood Neighbor

    Put down the pitchforks and torches, folks. Due process is still the law of this land.

  • Roxanne

    Thomas that is rude and unfair.
    I think the reporting of this story has been very even and fair on this site.
    I don’t know what the BHS announcement was but I can tell that people are unhappy with how the school district responded to this situation. I would be unhappy if my granddaughter had to see this counselor. I am not sure I would let her do that if I was her mother.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Roxanne,

    My concern is that (to my eyes) the discussion has drifted dangerously close to possible libel. Libel is a nasty liability for the site or commentators to take on and, also, it’s obviously a moral wrong. Defaming of Smith’s character, calls for his dismissal, all based on assumption of guilt. You yourself wrote:

    The way this is being handled presumes that this one situation, this one girl, is the issue. But a counselor who has molested one student is a danger to other students.
    [….]
    We all have to remember that no one is saying this counselor is innocent.

    Actually, apparently, a whole lot of people are saying exactly that regarding the most serious aspects of the accusations leveled against him.

  • Tanya

    Thomas, I agree with Roxanne that you’re being unfair in making your “lousy reporting” comment. I was under the impression that this was a blog and a forum. The comments you label as mob-inciting are from those of us who are expressing their opinions and concerns.

    As to your comment “…a whole lot of people are saying exactly that regarding the most serious aspects of the accusations leveled against him.” I’m not seeing that at all. That young woman spent hours in depositions, which couldn’t have been easy for her, and was deemed a credible witness. The only voice I’ve heard that counters her accusations is Smith’s, whose job is the issue here. Of course he is going to deny the charges. Who are you referring to when you say “a whole lot of people”?

    As for the negative portrayal of forming a mob, I would hope you’re not implying that anyone is asking that he be strung up or even criminally prosecuted. I ask only for what is reasonable given the circumstances: that Anthony Smith be dismissed from his position, a position of authority and responsibility that he no longer deserves, having crossed a line repeatedly. Again, the specific charges are not in dispute. The question remains: are we willing to pay the man’s salary when he has behaved in a way that undermines our faith that Berkeley High is a safe place to send our children?

    Anthony Smith is still the counselor for many students. But if none of those students were to show up for appointments—and I have a hunch that many parents will forbid contact with this man—what service is he providing? He’s a visible blight on the staff of BHS, which brings down the whole school. If he had any dignity at all, he would resign, move far away, and start over somewhere else, hopefully having learned important lessons about what is and is not appropriate.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Thomas, I agree with Roxanne that you’re being unfair in making your “lousy reporting” comment. I was under the impression that this was a blog and a forum.

    Berkeleyside’s affiliations with Bay Citizen and the NYT, their presence in Google News listings as a Berkeley news outlet, their field reporting, their frequent presentation of wire story mash-ups: aspirationally they appear to me to consider themselves and want to be regarded, in part, as a news outlet.

    As to your comment “…a whole lot of people are saying exactly that regarding the most serious aspects of the accusations leveled against him.” I’m not seeing that at all. That young woman spent hours in depositions, which couldn’t have been easy for her, and was deemed a credible witness.

    The more credible witness to what, exactly. To some form of improper or unprofessional conduct the district seems to agree, but apparently not to conduct as lurid as the rehearsal of accusations in the article would suggest. There are questions of specific conduct, context, intent, reception, reaction, and so forth to which are not currently privy.

    If Berkeleyside has stronger evidence from the documents in their position they ought to back up what they are implying. In the absence of that, you are leaping to conclusions.

    Who are you referring to when you say “a whole lot of people”?

    District officials but also….: I presume that the family’s attorney is not accepting the district’s finding and is a proper advocate for the family, but if he or she felt guilt had been more clearly established, I would be very surprised by the current choice of legal strategy, at least as reported.

    As for the negative portrayal of forming a mob, I would hope you’re not implying that anyone is asking that he be strung up or even criminally prosecuted.

    Calls for dismissal. Statements to the effect he is a clear and present danger to young people. His name dragged through the mud for other reasons. No, I don’t think anyone is calling for him to literally be “strung up” or criminally prosecuted. The mob is brushing up against libel, though.

    The question remains: are we willing to pay the man’s salary when he has behaved in a way that undermines our faith that Berkeley High is a safe place to send our children?

    Unless you know something I don’t, we don’t have a very clear picture of how he behaved other than that people closer to the situation judged him to not be the kind of threat you describe him as.

    Anthony Smith is still the counselor for many students. But if none of those students were to show up for appointments—and I have a hunch that many parents will forbid contact with this man—what service is he providing?

    And what if all of that happens while, as a matter of fact, he’s done nothing to merit such an outcome? That is precisely why libel is a concern here and why the word “mob” is cautionary, not rude.

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  • Nora

    I’d like to say that I agree with Thomas Lord. Reading through these comments the pitch gradually raised higher, without any new information being produced. From the newspaper description, it is *not* clear who is telling the truth in this he-said/she-said situation. Although I have no idea what really happened here, it is certainly possible for young people to be unreliable witnesses, and to accuse teachers or counselors unfairly.

  • http://dianarossimosaic.com Diana Rossi

    I have one child attending Berkeley High School, with another to enter next year.
    I am completely dismayed by the way this school and especially this school district is
    handling this case. If the counselor in question is not guilty of any of these charges, then
    the administration for this district and this school need to publicly exonerate this employee.
    Yes, as stated above, counselors and teachers can certainly be accused unfairly. I am married
    to a teacher, and am very sensitive to this issue. And if that is the case, here, then it would
    be right and just for those in power to clear this counselor’s name.

    However, at this point, BUSD has said in writing that this counselor did not act appropriately and they are not elucidating how this is so. What kind of position does that put us parents,
    students, other teachers and counselors? I certainly do not want to engage in libel, or gossip.
    I just want to make sure that those we entrust our children to, deserve that trust. A high
    school counselor works in a critical, sensitive position and can only operate effectively if given our community’s trust. I am losing faith in Mr. Huyett and the School Board.

    In the meantime, the student who filed the complaint is pursuing her truth via the system. Her father, who is her attorney is filing a Title IX Complaint with the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. And I give her and her family credit for looking beyond their own remedy to this mess and seeking a solution that would benefit all the students.

    I don’t think it behooves anyone to pretend that this issue has vanished or been resolved in any way, but I have to admit, that at this point, after one letter and voice mail message to
    the Board of Ed, I have no idea how to hold our elected and appointed education officials
    accountable.

    Any ideas, out there…..?????

    Sincerely,
    Diana Rossi

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  • The Sharkey

    Do you really think the family would be going to this much trouble and expense if there wasn’t some truth to her accusations?

    Most 16 year olds aren’t very good liars and aren’t savvy enough to work the court system. If she was making all this up, her story almost certainly would have fallen apart by now.

  • Guess Who?

    As a former Berkeley High student I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt ANTHONY SMITH IS A CHILD MOLESTER! He has been having sex with female students of BHS (majority Black) for years now, and bribes them with money and gifts. I can name students who have openly told fellow classmates he had intimate encounters with them in exchange for things. I don’t want to air out their business, but some of these females need to step up and make it be known that Smith is a pedophile. There are some good people out there without jobs who would suffice as a better counselor, minus molesting female students. Honestly, I could pursue this issue and really expose Anthony Smith but I’d rather sit back and watch how it plays out. Only reason I have interest towards the subject is because most the females he seduced were actually sexy, and I’m jealous I didn’t hit first. :)