Student voices are missing from gun safety report

One of the inner courtyards at Berkeley High School

Some significant voices are missing in the 11-page report the Ad Hoc Safety Committee prepared on how to reduce guns in Berkeley high schools: that of the students.

While two Berkeley High students sat on the committee — at least until the end of the academic year — efforts to find out and understand why students brought guns into school did not go far.

Susan Craig, the director of student services for the Berkeley Unified School District, interviewed almost all of the six Berkeley students who were caught with guns and asked them why they brought weapons on campus. None of them were particularly forthcoming about their reasons, she told the safety committee.

The district also enlisted the aid of Pastor Michael McBride of BOCA, a faith-based  action committee, to hold focus groups with students to discuss guns on campus. While those conversations happened, McBride did not provide a summary of those discussions to the committee, despite repeated phone calls asking for the information by Craig and Superintendent Bill Huyett.

McBride was not paid for his efforts, but in late May the school district approved a  $15,0000 contract with Lifelines to Healing, an anti-violence mentoring program promoted by BOCA. (Note 7/1/11: McBride said BOCA will not benefit financially from this contract and is in fact, donating $10,000 to the overall project.)

A survey conducted by the safety consultant Al Bahn of Edu-Safe Associates only garnered one student response.

The result is a report that seeks to eliminate — or at least minimize — the presence of guns on the campuses, yet does not have any student insight as to why kids carry weapons in the first place.

The committee members are aware that the district has not yet heard sufficiently from students and plans to make a new effort to gather their opinions. The school board will review the report at its June 29th meeting.

“The District is concerned that the students’ voices related to guns and safety concerns have not been adequately heard,” the committee wrote in its “Next Steps” section of the safety report. The District will continue to work on receiving students’ input related to guns and safety and will explore the use of technology, including social networking, to increase communication with BUSD youth.”

One of the problems may have been the way the district was reaching out, Huyett said at the June 22 meeting of the committee. While many parents filled out online surveys, most students use Facebook more than email and were not inclined to an email request to fill out a form. The district will ask a number of key student leaders to post the survey on their Facebook pages and “invite” other students to fill it out in the hopes the survey will go viral.

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  • Getalife

    why you complaining berkeleyside? When BHS students made their voice heard in the comments section you deleted some of their comments and the “concerned parents” flamed the students for disagreeing with them. Me thinks you is just a troll with hidden agendas.

  • Anonymous

    As one anonymous borderline insane person to another, what us powerful special ones think, really does matter:  Right?

  • JudgeBork

    @38817cd22783ffd040a176e412536695:disqus the dogs are already having the desired effect! I will put the full force of my tax payer money to it.

  • JudgeBork

    You need to learn some grammar first before you start posting.

  • Stephen Kaus

    I would not like it if I were being surveilled, unless I thought things were truly dangerous.  Again, why not just do this on telegraph or Shattuck?  Because it is not consistant with the Constitution.

  • JudgeBork

    the most egregious sense of ego is the Tom Bates Soccer Fields on Gilman St. – facilities paid on tax payer money and Tom Bates is still the mayor. last time i checked we do have one of the worst property crime rates in the nation and our budget has a shortfall… so what have you done Mr Bates that warrants these accolades?

  • JudgeBork

    Linda Maio spent practically nothing in the last election – which about sums up her contribution to her district’s concerns: nothing!

  • JudgeBork

    @Asd it is spelled ADD not ASD…

  • JudgeBork

    @Creg:disqus  it was out of line and had to be removed regardless…

  • Greg

    OK, The Sharkey.

    Not to make an assumption that you somehow think otherwise, but I was aware of the results.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this, I guess.  Personally I don’t think attempting to rate a school based on what percentage of its student body is ‘high performing’ is ‘goofy’.  Nor do I think attempting to measure how a school serves is lowest performing students is ‘goofy’.  Both have their place.  I also don’t think a school that ranks in the top 1% in the former is likely to be considered ‘failing’ because it does not register in the top 8% of the other.

    I also don’t think that the ability and willingness to close a campus for lunch is a reliable metric of administrative performance.

    I’ve done my best to try to interpret what you’ve literally said in the context (and not just discard swaths of it as non-sequitur).  If I’ve misunderstood you, fair enough.  It wasn’t for lack of effort.

    I’ll also give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you actually have some understanding of the complexity of trying to address the interaction of demographics and education, and that you’ve tried to interpret the numbers in context (and compared BHS relative similar schools).

    Maybe at the end of the day you just subscribe to the ‘2nd place is just the first loser’ philosophy and think failure to perform at the highest levels is failure period?  I don’t.  From my perspective BHS, though it does have problems, seems to also offer great opportunity.  I fully intend to send my child there when the time comes.

    Of course this has been one long tangent and not at all the question I wanted to see answered.  

    I’m still interested in hearing why the closed lunch topic continues to pop up as a feasible solution.  That is, what problem is it intended to solve and some sort of back-of-the-napkin explanation for how it might be implemented that makes it more attractive than other solutions to whatever problem(s) it is intended to address.

  • Greg

    Well, in that case let me apologize.  I’m sorry if my comment was not appropriate for this forum.

    I’d also like to explain what I was trying (and apparently failed) to do.  It was really just intended to be a tongue-in-cheek take on the comments made here (and the other post) that effectively said that the people who have the most visibility into, and are the most affected by, the situation don’t have a say in any resulting policies because most of them aren’t legal adults.

    Personally, I think that is a silly notion.

    Additionally, I was riffing on something I *believe* is implied (intentionally or not) by a lot of posters here; that the criminal element isn’t a small minority of the student population.

    Again, sorry if my attempt at humor was inappropriate.

  • Bruce Love

    Greg, you’ve repeated your question several times with apparent sincerity.  If I may:

    I can only speak for myself and also give my subjective impression of what others think about your original question:  why all this talk about closing the campus?

    First, advocacy for a closed or semi-closed campus predates any of the gun issues.  (By “semi-closed” I mean that the campus would be open as a privilege, e.g., for upperclassmen.) Examples of reasons:  Some of us suspect or perceive that  the open campus policy contributes to off-campus student-on-student crime, to truancy, to shop-lifting, and so forth.   Personally, I would add that I’m not particularly enthusiastic about the result of an open campus in the form of some of the businesses that most cater to it — though perhaps I am of an over-protective sentiment towards the kids.     I would also add that although fully open campuses have successful precedent, they are exceptional and Berkeley’s has some problematic features;  a mass, all-at-once exodus and return of all students in a small, busy urban area creates a lot of inter-student and other social complexity that I have trouble believing is particularly good for learning.   Last example (and I may well be standing alone on this rationale for a closed campus): I think the reasons the campus logistically has to be open at this time include some deep BHS problems like an over-bloated catalog and ill-structured small school system.

    Second, the gun incidents embolden calls for a closed campus for more than one reason.  At one community meeting, student comments suggested that fear of strangers on campus might be one reason some bring guns (“re-screening” at lunch has logistical difficulties, too, like increasing cafeteria capacity).    Similarly, the just-off-campus scene created among students and between students and others might have something to do with why kids would bring weapons to school (recall the recent case of the guns found in the trunk of a non-student car just off campus or some of the anecdotes about students feeling like they have to run a gauntlet coming and going from campus).

    I have also heard adults call for a closed campus for a reason I do not personally agree with, by far:  a perception that the presence of younger people out and about makes downtown unpleasant or makes downtown feel somehow threatening.   (Perhaps it does have that result for some but that is not in and of itself a good reason to restrict freedom of travel and association for the entire category of high school age people.)

    I agree with at least most if not all of your take on the logistical difficulties of a closed campus.  I wonder if it would take one or two academic years to figure out how to do — and what domino effect it would have on the overall structure and culture of the school.   I think it’s not a bad idea to explore.  I don’t think there’s political will for it.

  • Maureen Burke

     The $5 million from Measure AA for REALM has not yet been released–that was incorrect. It will be voted on tonight. If our school board votes to use our local parcel taxes for a charter school open to all, they will be inviting legal troubles. Who wants to bet REALM will be asking for BSEP money too, even though any student residing in any city can attend REALM?

  • So you’re saying you knew that only 25% of all students at BHS are proficient in mathematics, and only 4% of African American students are proficient in mathematics, yet you don’t think BHS is a “failure” in any area?

    25% isn’t even a D-.
    It’s an F.

  • Greg


    Thank you.  This is exactly the *type* of response I assumed I’d get out of the gate.

    It also confirms something I suspected:  A closed lunch is not solely (and possibly not even primarily) intended to solve the issue of guns on campus.  It may solve some of those issues you mentioned that could not possibly be addressed by enhanced screening.  

    Whether those issues should trump quality-of-student-life from a BUSD perspective is another matter entirely.  Obviously Berkeley Police, for example, would prefer to not be responsible for 3000+ students in Downtown Berkeley.  I get that.

    Incidentally I don’t think a closed lunch without start-of-day screening upgrades would significantly impact guns incidents on campus.  I also don’t mean to imply I know the extent of the issue of guns on campus.  My only sources are news outlets, information posted to the BUSD website, and ‘blogs/forums like this one.  Maybe there is a major issue that requires a *radical* solution.  I honestly don’t pretend to know.

    It should be obvious I’m aware that screening *can* become a significant logistical problem as well, but it is tough for me to imagine a regime that could possibly require more resources than trying to feed 3000+ people.  Again, if you’re trying to crack another nut that sort of becomes irrelevant.

    I also think you’re right that there is unlikely to be ‘political will’ (or, quite frankly, taxpayer support) for doing it.

    Perhaps a weak ‘semi-closed’ system that also institutes a much smaller number of lunch periods than a close campus would require (say, 2-3 instead of 6) would ameliorate some of those other issues that crop up when 3000+ teenagers flood an area at once?  

  • Bruce Love

    Along the “what can be done, really” notions — and your “weak ‘semi-closed’ campus” — a possibly crazy idea I entertain, at least for fair weather days, is to “take over” part of civic center park.   Have the school serve some food there.  Basically borrow it (with the city’s blessing) as a picnic area.    That let’s the kids get out and have the stink blown off them but it also puts an official, security-concerned BUSD presence out there in the park.   It takes a little bit of the wind out of the sails of economic exploitation of the open campus.   To me, it seems “tonally” good and possibly not so very hard to do well.  

  • Heather W.

    BL/TL, that is a well-reasoned response and for once I actually agree with you. I’ve been mulling over why I have been on the “closed campus” band-wagon, and I think you’ve actually hit the proverbial nail. The problem with having such an open campus is that students and others, coming and going at random, is cause for concern in a general sense and for some of the downtown community (and surrounding neighborhood). However, whether closing the campus would effectively challenge the problem of guns on campus; well, without other safety measures, which frankly haven’t been adequately addressed, closing the campus in and of itself will be of little help. 

    The biggest problem around safety on BHS actually goes so much deeper then whether kids are munching $1 chinese food at lunch from downtown vendors. Security staff have a hands-off policy, for example, and yet the District paid for special training in disarming and detaining people in dangerous situations, however the hands-off policy renders the training moot. BUSD, for whatever reasons, has long repelled a standard Best Practices safety policy, including the detention of armed and dangerous individuals. Just as the Safety Staff refuses to wear a real uniform of any discernible type, so do their lassaiz faire attitude contribute to the problem; if they are not helping, they are hindering. Willingness to wear a uniform only confirms their attitude.  

    There is also a very real disconnect between a reality-based problem and a reality-based approach. For instance, Lifelines to Healing, which has just been funded by both City Council and the School Board as a part of the shiny new safety policies does effectively nothing around the highest-risk students’ own communities; not that a School-funded program has the facility to extend itself to the community level, but Pastor McBride has zero interest in trying to clean up the hardest, toughest neighborhoods and apparently wants to target those already in the criminal justice system, rather than meet the challenge of targeting at-risk students who haven’t quite gotten to the point of carrying guns, but who are well on their way. In addition, this program targets only black males, I supposed b/c they are known to be the ones who brought guns on campus (I don’t know this for fact); what I keep hearing, though, is that gang activity is quite high among Latino youth — so where’s the program to work with those at-risk Latino students? 

    So, would closing the campus do any good? Not really. Not if there’s no system of monitoring people coming onto the campus, visible ID’s, a truancy program that is active and engaged, a Safety Staff who look like professionals and have the capacity and orders to detain students. Not without a system that does, in fact, focus on the highest risk individuals and maintains a random search process of those individuals. 

    Are we, the adults in the community, over-reacting to the guns on campus situation we saw this year, which is what BHS students who have entered the forum discussions have said? I don’t really think so; I think that when it becomes evident that the school is failing to implement best practices in safety and security at the schools to the extent that 7 guns were actually found on campus, we have a right to concern. Not only should this not be an acceptable norm for our young people to the extent that they are so blase about it, but also that to ignore the mathematical reality would be to ignore the fact that for every one of those 7 students on campus with guns, there are exponentially more youths in that age group who are not in school, and are wandering around our community with guns, which makes our children that much less safe overall. 

    Rant over. Thanks for listening. 


  • Heather W.

    Measure AA could be legitimately used to renovate the West Campus, I believe – but you are right that it is a misuse of funds, because REALM is the only school that is currently planning to use the site for education. But I don’t really understand what the 5 Mil is paying for. Is that $5Mil going to be a loan to REALM? How is to be paid back? I did the math and REALM is paying 6.90/sf per year for the West Campus usage, resulting in ~$30,000 in “rental” income, or however it is being absorbed. I absolutely agree that the misuse of Measure AA funds could result in a lawsuit. There are a lot of us who are paying very close attention to these things right now. 

  • Maureen Burke

    The $5 million will be gone and REALM will not pay for it. Meanwhile BHS kids continue to be crowded into classrooms and hallways and shunted to portables at Washington Elementary School. I hope someone will report on what happened at tonight’s school board meeting.

  • GPO

    May be old news already somewhere else on Berkeleyside (?),  but our own  local “Katharine Graham” has struck back in her own sandbox on the BHS gun issue where no one can respond directly (but clearly Berkeleyside’s “uppity” comments’ section has become a thorn in her proverbial side – see excerpts below):
    Kids with Guns are Everywhere, not Just at Berkeley High
    By Becky O’Malley
    Wednesday June 29, 2011
    Online comment chains appended to stories like this one perform a valuable function, providing a spontaneous soapbox for sincere people who need to vent their hopes and fears for the safety of their children. Unfortunately, they also provide a window into the biased conclusions of poorly informed people who believe that a vehemently expressed opinion can substitute for factual analysis. 
    It’s a major contemporary cliché, yes, but one more time: “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.” 
    As far as I’ve been able to determine, no one has shown, based on real evidence, that a higher percentage of Berkeley High students carry guns than those in a matched group of similar young persons anywhere in any urban setting in California. Nevertheless, the committee report has drawn fire from a group of readers of two good summary articles on the topic published on the site. These commenters seem to believe that it’s possible for the Berkeley Unified School District to build an effective (or even literal) wall around the Berkeley High School campus to shield kids from the horrors of modern urban society. Similar comments can be found in various other online publications. 
    Some of the commenters believe that the problem is that the school admits kids from outside the district… as if kids who are bonafide Berkeley residents are not also caught up in the culture of violence.

  • JudgeBork

    Becky O’Malley’s article is a travesty – a “reporter” is “reporting” on blog comments on an article she wished she has written. Not only that she even interferes with the comments! How unethical!

    In the future Ms O’Malley refrain from commenting here – it is highly unethical to interfere with the subject matter you are reporting on. But then again I doubt you have the credentials to be a reporter in the first place.

  • I wouldn’t call what she does over that the Berkeley Daily Planet “reporting” even in the loosest sense of the word.

    The Berkeley Daily Planet isn’t a newspaper. It’s essentially Becky O’Malley’s blog and platform for political activism masquerading as a news website.

  • Laurammenard

    O’ Malley’s comments are not much less informed about the seriousness of the issue than the school board discussion last night. I actually went up and sat in the room to watch their faces as they performed their “duties” last night.

  • JudgeBork

    Becky O’ Malley’s comments lack facts. “Factual” analysis is a meaningless term that seems to correspond to an english writer trying to grasp what quantitative analysis.

    The fact remains that O’Malley is interfering with the process she is reporting on. She is no longer an “objective” investigative reporter – she MAKING UP the news!!! Very unethical – if you have qualms about what is ethical reporting then review your ethics and standards in journalism (link conveniently provided for you)

    Berkeleyside grow a spine and stop deleting my previous comments. Ms O’Malley has made a public statement and she is accountable by name.

    It is time all of you top check yourselves:

  • JudgeBork

    @043efb5611b04c3aa2166bf57b5dadf7:disqus  perhaps this is something we should investigate further in. Time for some accounting fraud analysis.

  • JudgeBork

    @043efb5611b04c3aa2166bf57b5dadf7:disqus  perhaps this is something we should investigate further in. Time for some accounting fraud analysis.

  • Charles_Siegel

    She is no longer an “objective” investigative reporter – she MAKING UP the news!!!

    Look again, and you will see that that article is an editorial. I don’t need a long wikipedia article about every aspect of journalist ethics to tell me that it is considered ethical for journalists to state their opinions in editorials.

    I disagree with Becky more often than I agree with her. But when I disagree with her, I try to use facts and arguments to show that she is wrong. 

    I think we would all do better if we dropped these personal attacks and stuck to the issues.

  • Maureen Burke


    Did the school board approve the $5 million from Measure AA for REALM classrooms?

  • You make a good point, Charles. Editorials are meant to be opinion pieces that are not necessarily “fact based” (one of Ms. O’Malley’s personas here on Berkeleyside) and do not have to be held up to the same journalistic standards as hard news.

    I think people are just angry at her for making comments here, then running away from an open discussion and going to her own website to make snarky and inaccurate comments about what was said here.

  • Laurammenard

    Yes they approve the $$$, the Supt and board emphasized the funds were for the district’s facilities rehabilitation not specifically for Realm.

  • Maureen Burke

    I bet they emphasized district rehab over providing charter school classrooms. Too bad neither REALM nor BUSD bothered to apply for charter school construction financing through the state’s charter schools facilities program. Oh well, $5 million here, $10 million there, pretty soon your bond money is gone and you haven’t done what you promised on the ballot measure. It remains inconceivable to me that after the unfulfilled promises of Measure AA, Berkeley voters approved Measure I, which doesn’t even bother to promise completion of anything at all.

  • Guest

    Nonsense – an pig dressed in lipstick is still a pig

  • EBGuy

    In all fairness, REALM could result in 400 fewer students ‘over crowding’ Berkeley High. Yeah, I know, this is a max limits as students could come from out of district.  I appreciate all of you Measure AA watchdogs…

  • Maureen Burke

     Did you ever see the report on what happened to Measure AA money?

  • JudgeBork

    I agree – Becky O’Malley is of no consequence.