Berkeley releases safety plan to reduce guns at schools

Berkeley safety officers Steven Saunders and Diesel Sutherland wear logoed uniform

The Berkeley Unified School District released a plan on Tuesday to improve security at the high school, but didn’t address one of the major recommendations made by the police – to put security officers in uniform.

The district will pay to have a police officer on campus five days a week instead of four; accelerate training for security officers; hire an independent agency to examine the district’s security procedures; create an ad hoc committee to examine whether to partially close the campus and require students to display identification badges; and install internal locks on classroom doors, among other changes. The measures will cost the district $89,000, according to the report.

But the long list of changes do not address concerns raised by the Berkeley Police Department in a letter sent to Superintendent Bill Huyett on March 31. In the correspondence, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said his “top recommendation” for the security program is to put safety officers in uniform.

“We recommend all security personnel have a visible, uniformed appearance,” wrote Meehan. “Visible security personnel are a deterrent to non-students attempting to enter campus for unauthorized or illegal purposes. Additionally, this increases security personnel safety by ensuring responding police officers can easily recognize and coordinate with staff during incidents.”

Meehan’s letter also suggests that the security officers be equipped with handcuffs or plastic flexcuffs to restrain students. That point wasn’t addressed in the new plan either.

No top officials at the school district could be contacted to comment on the report or police letter since it is spring break. The report will be presented to the school board at its April 13 meeting.

The question of uniforms for school safety officers has been an issue for decades at Berkeley High. For years the officers refused to wear a uniform, but in recent years have started to wear blue jackets and white or black polo shirts with a Berkeley High logo on it.

Still, the uniforms so closely resemble normal street attire that it is often difficult to distinguish the safety officers, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, a spokeswoman for the Berkeley Police Department. When there is a brawl, for example, and safety officers are trying to break apart a group of fighting students, the officers are hard to tell apart from the students, she said.

“At the present, there are times when Berkeley police personnel don’t know the difference between the safety officers, who are full grown men, and students, who have the appearance of full grown men,” said Kusmiss.

In addition, if the safety officers were wearing uniforms while patrolling the high school, non-students who might be thinking of entering the campus might think twice, she said.

The police department also said that the number one safety step the district could take would be to close the school campus at lunch. In his report to the school board, Huyett said he would appoint an ad hoc safety committee made up of six staff members, four parents, and two high school students to consider the proposal. The group will also examine the idea of ID badges, look at the protocol for visitors on campus, and review the third-party security assessment of the campus. The group will also examine the idea of a community school for students who have been expelled. Huyett’s letter to the school board did not detail what this means, but the district is considering establishing a school at the Adult School campus.

Seven students have been arrested in recent months for bringing guns to Berkeley High and B-Tech, along with a number of other gun-related arrests nearby. The latest incident was Friday, when a Berkeley High student was held up by a gun on Shattuck Avenue near the high school. The alleged assailant, a former high school student, had been released from jail just a week earlier after serving time for a house burglary, according to sources who asked not to be named.

The spate of gun incidents has prompted the district, school board, and high school officials to examine current safety policies and come up with new measures to improve security.

As part of this effort, Huyett is planning to hire a third-party organization to review the district’s policies, according to the report. The organization will use the standards set by the National Crime Prevention Council as a benchmark.

In the last two weeks, the district has added two safety officers to the staff, bringing to 14 the number of officers at the high school. They have been instructed to do hourly sweeps of isolated areas like bathrooms. The district has also made permanent the additional safety officer stationed at B-Tech. The high school will hire a part-time administrator to coordinate all these efforts, according to the report.

Huyett also detailed the training instruction currently scheduled for security staff. This includes two one-hour sessions with Berkeley police in April; a 40-hour training on conflict resolution for four safety officers; and a three-day workshop for safety officers in all of the district’s middle and high schools in June. That will be led by the Institute for School Safety.

UPDATE April 6, 12:20 pm Susan Craig, the director of student services, called in from vacation to say that the district will be examining the question of uniforms in the coming weeks. “We are considering upgrading the uniform so it is more professional-looking and more visible.”

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  • Anonymous

    No, that isn’t what I was saying at all. It’s just that many of your comments seem to be fueled by personal vendettas. For me, that undermines what you have to say. And with that I’m going to end my comments on this thread.

    Well, except that I would like to say that Janet Huseby (who, I believe had four children go through B-High) does not deserve to be smeared by inuendo in this forum.

  • lauramenard

    Exactly.

    As the parent advocate who received phone calls from distressed parents as well as school and city personnel, I too, know just how broken security operations are at BHS.

    The list of recommendations from both agencies is a fine place to start. If the district approved advanced data analysis opportunities will open up that have been ignored.

    1. State Grants to fund the recommended three SROs.
    2. Early intervention in middle school
    3. Gang intervention

    I could go on……

    But mostly I want to remind folks that the only reason the city/schools is taking corrective action is because the gun incidents were public.
    None of these recommendations are new, we have been listing these same measures for years.
    And none are complicated to implement or cost much.

    Two things stand out as missing.

    Individual response plans for students identified at risk for RETALIATION. This requires the high school to obtain a restraining order against non-students or expelled students who are hanging out on the perimeters of the school lying in wait with their partners to beat down those who report crimes.

    This is real and critical, if you truly intend to see a cultural shift as well as provide police and school staff with the necessary and reasonable tools to do the job well.

    Second, a system of tracking parent, guardians concerns and formal complaints, with an emphasis on satisfactory resolving formal complaints.

  • Bruce Love

    bravo.

  • lauramenard

    Just stating facts that happen to be relevant to the requirements for cultural change.

    Accusing me of a vendetta is an attack, I have repeated presented the solutions to serious problems and been undermined by those protecting the status quo.

    That would make me a whistle blower.

  • lauramenard

    Exposing the fact that the administration attempted to control parent knowledge of gun incidents and AOD problems on campus is an example of the cover-up the DA referred to.

    I have many more examples of cover-ups.

    In my experience if the organization does not admit its errors and develop a culture of INTEGRITY, all the buzz words compliant list will not deliver results.

    Janet could have chosen to not post her criticism, and then I would not chosen to shed light on yet another way the school has manipulated the community.

  • The Sharkey

    I believe he is self-employed, which explains a lot.

    The Berkeley Daily Planet seems to accept Tom Lord as being his real name, so it’s probably accurate.

  • The Sharkey

    Yeah, that comment sounds a lot like the kind of comment that Bruce Love/Tom Lord would tear into someone else for making.

  • The Sharkey

    I wish I could like this comment 100 times.

  • deirdre

    Mr. Fox, thank you very much for keeping in touch with Berkeley on this particular issue. All historical details are helpful in this discussion.

  • Szunderwood

    Good sleuthing, all. But it is a real leap of faith to assume that because the Berkeley Daily Planet accepts his name as “Thomas Lord that there’s any implied accuracy to that.

    I don’t know how his start ups are prospering (I wish him well), but in his earlier incarnation, he claimed to live in a tightly rent contolled apt. on San Pablo Ave. in southwest Berkeley.

    He became quite (uncharacteristically) emotional when a rent control issue cropped up on Berkeleyside and stated that he would probably have become homeless if he had not won his lawsuit against the landlord who was attempting an “illegal” eviction.

    So, take comfort while you labor today, that some of the collective’s wealth is going to subsidize his free time to filibuster this website…

  • Anonymous

    Really, Berkeleyside — you edit my comment that is expressed as an opinion but you let others slander people with inaccurate and unfounded statements presented as facts?

    Interesting.

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com lknobel

    We edited all the comments that related to a Berkeley High volunteer. We’re trying to maintain a civil discourse here. Your comment, Elmwood Neighbor, was edited because it referenced something else that had been edited.

  • The Sharkey

    The fact that he has suddenly stopped posting once his previous identity was revealed makes me think that “Tom Lord” is his real name. Either that, or he got re-banned from posting.

    If it’s an assumed name he’s been using it for at least half a decade. I’ve found postings of his on GNU programming forums from as far back as 2003.

    I think it’s cool that we have a self-employed programmer posting here and he definitely does a good job representing and defending the far-left mindset of many “old guard” Berkeley residents, I just wish he wasn’t being so active here while simultaneously writing snarky “blog roundups” for the Daily Planet of what gets discussed here at Berkeleyside.

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com lknobel

    There’s been no new ban.

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com lknobel

    There’s been no new ban.

  • EBGuy

    In three out of the last four gun incidents, students(?) passed information to school authorities about individuals carrying firearms on campus. I still am curious who on the school side received this information (trusted adult, counselor,teacher, VP, secretary?). If it was a safety officer, that would certainly go a bit towards redeeming the effectiveness of their approach. Given everything else I’ve read, though, I’m a bit worried that their methods are counterproductive. BS, any chance you can query the administration to find out what the avenue were for the tip offs?

  • Bruce Love

    Are you trying to make it harder for people to give tips?

  • The Sharkey

    That’s obviously not why he wants that information, but you just can’t help yourself from your usual obstructionist tenancies can you, Tom Lord?

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    The Sharkey: It’s not just Berkeleyside editors who are fed up reading the seemingly constant sniping that is going on between you and other commenters. Please stick to the subject and keep it civil.

  • The Sharkey

    I have to wonder why you aren’t making comments like that in response to Tom Lord’s posts? What kind of constructive, civil discourse do you think Tom was trying to build with his response to EBGuy? Or does he get different treatment because he writes for the Berkeley Daily Planet?

    I may be the most vocal about it, but I’m clearly not the only one fed up with his antics either. From what I hear you’ve actually banned him for it in the past.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    The Sharkey: Believe me, we have made the same remarks on numerous occasions, on- and off-line, to Thomas Lord.

    It’s just that at the pace at which you two keep it up, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track.

    For the record, I will repeat it here: please, pretty please, Thomas Lord and The Sharkey, find a way to express your points without making it personal. The Berkeleyside community will thank you.

  • Bruce Love

    I have edited my reply to EBGuy, adding this:

    [Edit: It is a decent question to ask how the school safety crew justifies their paychecks, so to speak. It is, I hope all will agree, a very bad idea to publicly reveal where anonymous tips flow that lead to detection and control of guns on campus. To put it in an exaggerated way, suppose that it turns out Grounds keeper Willy is the primary conduit of tips that leads to busting guns on campus. And suppose EBGuy is skeptical that Willy earns his pay. Well, the press can go and dig up and report that, yup, Willy was the conduit for those vital tips — and as a consequence those tips stop flowing. EBGuy’s question seemed unwise to me, in that respect, in this small town.]

  • Mbfarrel

    When will ths end?

  • The Sharkey

    I think it goes on forever?

  • chris

    AMEN.

  • StevenDon

    The letter by Berkeley Police Chief Meehan is excellent and covers recommendations and questions parents of BHS students have had for years – why aren’t students required to wear a visible ID bag? why isn’t truancy at the park across the street enforced? why doesn’t BHS security wear uniforms and “act” like security enforcing clear rules of behavior?

    In addition, the truancy rate if matched to the GPA’s of students, would clearly show an almost identical lineup: kids who don’t go to class get bad grades and frequently have behavior problems.

    Why can’t someone on the school board, the superintendent or the principal take real action using the data they have to isolate and control behavior problems and make the school work for kids who want to learn?

  • peattie

    Brad: Can you tell me now I can get to the report by the security consultant that you referred to?

  • Anonymous

    I am shocked and saddened that the community wouldn’t support every suggestion of it’s police chief in an effort to make their high school safe. I feel unable to send my child to this school unless changes are made. Anyone who doesn’t must not have a child at this school or be considering BHS for their child. I haven’t heard any other credible suggestions made by anyone else with any experience in this area!

  • BHSgrad

    256 fights in a three month period? Could you please provide a source for your numbers? Unless you have a solid source, these numbers seem inflammatory and exaggerated.

  • lauramenard

    DATA from a safety meeting in 2007. BHS dean of discipline at the time provided the numbers at a safety meeting, as the poster stated, she was a committee member.

    Have you ever been to a meeting to learn about BHS safety operations, after a couple of meetings smart folks figure out the game BHS has been played for years. Because the school is required by law to report data to the state, on occasion as a result of considerable pressure data is presented. Go back and read the Chief recommendations which includes advanced data collection and analysis. Over the years I would go to BPD robbery detail and request the monthly totals of robberies reported by students from BHS, comparing that data to what BHS reported to the state, the difference was awesome, meaning huge.

    We learned about the 12 assaults from former dean denise brown, spring 2006. during the prolonged process of pressuring the school to investigate another ugly incident. The school failed in so many ways, but so did the BPD under Chief Hambleton. Since I knew there of surveillance cameras on Shattuck at the site of the assault I sent the parents to a detective willing to pull the tapes, the school safety staff refused to identify the rest of offenders, but the cops knew the main offender as WSB affiliated.

    The mom joined the safety committee because she wanted to protect other families from suffering what she had. Her son was hospitalized from the injuries, the already been expelled the year before WSB offender hung on campus every day. Her son saw him regularly. The school refused to obtain a restraining order which would have provided the necessary tools for the BPD bike patrol to keep this dangerous known offender from hanging on campus. The safety staff was useless to say the least.

    Those you don’t like hearing the harsh reality from those who have experienced it are very predictable in your responses. Kinda like Ms Huseby, who knows that the moms she criticizes cared enough about this community to spend years engaged with BHS, BPD, BUSD and city of Berkeley officials to fix these dysfunctional responses to serious crime on campus . I only wish you would your imagination to understand why the vast majority of parents remain anonymous as whistle-blowers since they feel they must protect their kids.

  • TimQCannon

    Can we start with Eliminate, rather than reduce…how’s that sound?

  • The Sharkey

    Interesting.
    In one of his commentaries for the Berkeley Daily Planet he claims that he lives near the Black & White Liquor store location near Ashby BART.

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2005-12-20/article/22998?headline=Commentary-What-Liquor-Stores-Do-For-Neighborhoods-By-THOMAS-LORD

    Their Berkeley location is 6-to-8 blocks away from San Pablo.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    This commentthread is way off topic. We’re closing it down.