BHS head of security allegedly stole from teacher

A security guard watches over main entrance to Berkeley High School

The Berkeley High School Safety Committee is scheduled to meet today at 4:30 to discuss its school safety plan, but with the recent arrest of Billy Keys, the head of security, there is uncertainty about how to proceed.

Keys, who chaired the committee for years until this fall, was completing a statistical analysis about the number of truants, detentions, altercations, and crimes that happened in the 2010-2011 school year, information that was critical for the annual report required by the state.

“We’re kind of in a tizzy since he was putting all the data together,” said Dave Peattie, a former BHS parent who serves on the safety committee.

The arrest of Keys, 41, a fixture around Berkeley High, has caused anguish and confusion among parents and staff, even those who were critical of him.

Keys has been charged with one felony count of identity theft and is free on $10,000 bail. He allegedly broke into the desk of a teacher at Berkeley High.

“Mr. Keys obtained personal information of a BHS teacher and used it to pay some of his personal bills,” according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley Police Department. “The teacher’s desk had been broken into sometime in January and went unreported until the teacher discovered the fraudulent charges on the bills.”

” A book of the teacher’s personal checks were missing/presumed stolen after the locked desk was broken into,” said Kusmiss.

The Oakland Tribune is reporting that Keys made payments to his personal Comcast and PG&E accounts.

Keys, a 1991 Berkeley High graduate, had worked in the high school’s security division for a decade. Keys’ role included dealing with truants as well as students who fight or steal. Keys is also the head of the security force that patrols the school and stands by entrances and exits. He is also a Baptist deacon.

Some parents have complained that Keys’ long tenure at Berkeley High has led him at times to be defensive about the school and about crimes committed by students. Instead of aggressively researching theft and battery, he at times would pontificate to parents about the history of certain families at Berkeley High. It was as if Keys sometimes sought to resolve crimes by understanding a student suspect’s motives rather than taking the side of the victim.

“I went in to complain to Billy about my son getting robbed under the camera in the hall at BHS, Billy mishandled the whole matter and instead took the offensive and lectured me about student confidentiality and all sorts of other things,” Ginny Roemer wrote in the Berkeleyside comments section.

One parent who has worked with Keys said the news came like a “body blow,” because she never would have suspected he would do anything illegal. She asked not to be named.

“He seems to be a totally by-the-books kind of guy,” said Peattie, who also worked with Keys on the Ad Hoc Safety Committee set up by Superintendent Bill Huyett in 2011 to look at gun incidents in the district. “Safety officers can play two kinds of roles. One is the easy-going, friendly guy and the other is more uptight, by the books kind of guy. He was the guy who took that job very seriously.”

BHS head of security accused of identity theft [02.25.12]

Students see security changes at Berkeley High [09.02.11]
Berkeley High security officers play multiple roles [04.04.11]
Berkeley releases safety plan to reduce guns at school [04.05.11]
School safety committee issues safety report [06.24.11]

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  • bgal4

    Enrollment is down at BHS  and if you listen to the Supt comments you will learn another reason why BHS  has less disruption and violence this year.

    For years BHS had a very large group of enrolled students who were chronic truants, and I am not referring to 3 or more absences, more like 50-100 days of cutting. These teens hung out around the campus and plenty of them were responsible for drug sales, petty theft, robbery etc.

    Loss ADA=less chaos at BHS

  • Ginny Roemer

    I want to put in a good word for Board Member Josh Daniels who was the one Board Member. Josh went to BHS himself, is an attorney and puts in tireless hours.  But, having talked to him I have come to realize that even the newly elected Board Members are swept into the current of what has been in the making here in Berkeley for a very long time.  I believe the Board Members are well meaning folks, but from my perspective, they have been falling far short on safety issues at BHS.

     It really isn’t that complicated. They need to teach the kids where the real line between their rights and other people’s rights is drawn so that they are ready to become adults in this community and this world. And please don’t tell me you want to see them move the line, because if you really don’t like where the “theft line” has been drawn, put your money where you mouth is and publish your social security number.

  • Ginny Roemer

    Oops…the missing half of second sentence: Josh Daniels was the one Board Member who took time to listen to me complain about my son’s rabbery and how it was handled.

  • Ginny Roemer

    EBGuy – wonder about why you are referencing this case? Please note that the ruling in this case turned, not on the question of these students’ guilt or discrimination based on any particcular class, but on the question of the due process they were not afforded. It appears some students weren’t getting the full expulsion hearings becuase the school officials “thought” they had obtained the parents’ consent to transfer them, but failed to get it in writing.  As far as I know, Susan Craig, present Director of Student Services has a stellar record for due process for kids who have been disciplined.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

     it’s a virtual group…there is no organization just a group of people who need to get off their collective rear ends,get fed up,say enough is enough and get involved!

  • Charles_Siegel

    If it’s a virtual group, someone should put up a virtual location for the group, namely a web site, where people can go to get the news about how to get involved.

    If I wanted to get involved in reforming the High School, I would feel very frustrated to hear that this group exists but that I have no way to get in touch with it or to learn what I can do. 

    Why don’t you start a blog?  You can get a free blog at  Then you can post entries whenever there is some meeting you want people to come to – or some outrage you want to tell people about.  And you can also tell people to go to that blog if they want to see what they can do to help.  

  • I watched this clip with interest.

    It sounded like Supt. Huyett was saying that the reason for the increased attendance was that they simply removed students from their rolls who were not coming.  

    At what point does that enter into their budget calculations?  Meaning:  if they’ve been overallocating resources (staff, facilities) based on inflated enrollment, can they now reduce that allocation?  

    The district only gets state money for kids who actually show up, so if we’re staffing for kids who do NOT attend, we have expenses without corresponding revenue.  

  • BerkeleyPariah

     unfortunately that’s the way it goes at city council also we get a good one voted in and in no time they become one in the same.

  • BerkeleyPariah

     i might just do that!

  • BerkeleyPariah

     people who are growing Weed illegally will probably not want to be around the police or feel very comfortable around them.

  • Ginny Roemer

    I LOVE this! So much irony and “inside” humor. But! The much bigger point here is that people who are in charge of kids should not be drug users. Kids are NOT stupid. They LIKE dope! They see hypocrisy. Unless you want kids using cannabis you probably don’t want the Safety Officers thinking it is “cool.”  Remeber The LINE – our kids have to learn about lines or they will get hurt.  So much time as adults to explore those things – but now their brains are still forming and growing and it isn’t fair to let them think it is harmless to have  these habits because it is NOT harmless. Our kids are not, as they would like to think, immortal.  Let’s keep them safe — PLEASE!!!!

  • SalMonela

    That’s exactly what I meant to say.

  • SalMonela

    If you can, it would be a great service to all of us.

  • Anonymous

    There are a few groups that are relevant I think.  Berkeley Accountable Schools of course:
    After a recent meeting with the district about what can be done for kids who aren’t being challenged (short answer: nothing really) this group was formed although nothing much has happened:
    Personally I think it’s important that the anger not be diluted into 50 different groups, each with their own symptom that they are concerned with: In the end it all comes back to the district’s priorities and goals not having a whole lot to do with those of the families.

  • SalMonela

    re: poster below – “In the end it all comes back to the district’s priorities and goals not having a whole lot to do with those of the families.”

    That’s absolutely right! Paraphrasing Chairman Mao’s famous quote “Priorities grow out of the bottom  of a ballot box”. Which is why School Board regime change should the first goal of those wanting reform at BHS. Well oiled election machines have made these board seats lifetime appointments by special interests and labor groups. The list of endorsements for each member is public information, check them out. 

    Getting a seat(s) on the board is a doable goal that would rock the Boards world. Three dozen parents willing to walk the districts (maybe with their kids, as a real lesson in democracy) could make the difference. Check out those who’ve run against the machine and gotten close. I’m sure they have wisdom/experience to share. 

    How about starting “A4BHS” as a the political arm of all parents and existing parent groups TO SUPPORT REFORM CANDIDATES CITYWIDE. “A” for ‘alliance’, ‘action’, ‘all of us’. “BHS” stands for ‘Better High Schools”. Anyone in any district can help get the vote out for a  candidate.

    These School Board members were elected by pathetically small turn out numbers. All it would take is waking a few of your neighbors up to vote…for a change.

  • bgal4

    The link above provides a record about BHS safety issues, the post represents the types of incidents (not the quantity),  the debate between real or perceived  threat , and the Berkeley pathos about racial issues.

    In 2001,  Billy Keys was directly responsible for much of this, he would tell  parents to not report violent crime to the police, he argued with administrators that the “boxing incidents” were not hate crimes, and he failed to investigate any of the incidents or simply supervise campus to suppress the violence. These group beatdowns occurred in the breezeway between C and H building. BPD made arrests of some of the offenders following similar incidents at BART and UCB.

    In the same year Keys allied with PCAD, Youth Together and the INSIDERS from the Diversity project to take over the safety committee from parent control and the principal input. They disrupted our progress towards state compliance with school safety requirements  resulting in delays of a decade to institute  the truancy  controls the district is now implementing. Keys chaired the safety committee up until this year when the school INSIDERS acquiesced and allowed for a parent to be elected as co-chair of this very  important  planning committee. 

    Keys is one of the INSIDERS with too much power and influence over community outcomes.

    Keys violated state law by not investigating or reporting to local and state officials numerous campus hate crimes committed by blacks students. He should have been fired long ago.  He cannot be trusted to protect ALL students. He like so many others brings racial bias to their duties in our schools.

    In the story about the student shot near the border  kids recited the usual slogan identifying the enemy as  those “privileged white hill folks”.  This familiar rant is far too simplistic to describe the power struggles inside BUSD, nor does it identify who and how these INSIDERS (mostly employees of the district) control community values, finances, access and outcomes.

    The real ENEMY is impunity.

  • Salope

     One would wonder why BUSD has never maintained a standard safety policy that is followed to the letter over time. Why is is that over several administrations, good and bad, there never has been consistent policies to handle violence and crimes in our schools. What does it say about us as a community that we can’t force the people who work for us to do their jos? 

    Hello, BUSD Board of Directors: If you are reading any of this, please understand that Billy Keys is not a person who should retain his position. Even if he had not committed the crime of stealing from a colleague, he has proven himself time and time again to be self-serving and no better than a common thug.  

  • SalMonela

    Reading this, the words “Grand Jury” come to mind. 

  • Goodkind

    I feel that my politics are basically intact, but BHS made me use the phrase “bleeding heart liberal” for the first and only times in my life. I honestly do not understand why an institution that is in charge of ALL of our teenagers insists on siding with the perpetrators time and time again. Why does anyone feel that is the more politically correct position? It is ludicrous.
    Security officers – Billy Keys at the helm – sided with perpetrators over victims over and over again.
    The district sided with perpetrator Anthony Smith over his victim.
    Mark Coplan is not a public information officer, he acts more like PR Guy and Chief Apologist. Why is he extolling virtues of someone just accused of a felony? 
    File a complaint against a teacher and the burden of guilt is always on the student, with the teacher always receiving the presumption of innocence (or competence) no matter what the facts show.
    At Berkeley High, up was down and down was up.
    Billy Keys had the power of his boring,  unending speech. The man never used a period or knew how to use one. He ruled Safety Committee meetings by blathering endlessly and no one could stop him…UNTIL HIS POWER WAS TAKEN AWAY with decent new bylaws last spring. This year he is finally not chairing the Safety Committee.
    So what to do? Go into his computer, get the statistics and have another teacher or staff person analyze them. This is not rocket science. All it needs is some leadership…so Principal Scuderi and the district need to demand this and make it happen. Take it away  Scuderi and Huyett. PLEASE. You have the chance to  make this right. Just do it.
    And by the way, all safety officers trained by Billy do need to go, or get seriously re-trained. His attitude sucked and his approach is tainted. No one other than Coplan and other officials have ever had a word of praise for Billy. He was somewhere between a buffoon and a satirical  dictator.
    Safety Committee – assert your power.
    Show our kids a good example of doing the right thing…for real.

  • Ginny Roemer

    I am sure Frances is working on a follow up but more information just came out in the press.  

    Billy Keyes had been arrested for burglary in 1989. 
    Billy’s position as a Safety Officer is a “personnel matter.” But once again, public entity offices are not confidential. A great question to ask Billy’s superiors and employers would be whether or not they knew about Billy’s arrest record.  Most public entity employees who work with kids have back ground checks.  Prior arrests, even w/o convictions are considered significant.  Violations of standards for moral behavior need to be evidenced based but NOT to standards of proof beyond all reasonable doubt. Any proof by a preponderance of prior theft is enough to show that this wasn’t just one wild ass misunderstanding on Billy’s part.
    Also, this “ONE count” of identity theft had me wondering from the start ?  If Billy used the “check book” to pay two separate accounts, cable and PG&E – that is TWO FELONIES and I know that the Police and D.A.’s aren’t confused about that. Apparently Billy’s lawyer was able to negotiate a plea agreement before the charges were filed with the court?
    Billy has a lot of friends.  Billy will be okay.  The question is, will our kids at BHS be safe?  And “Safe” also means not getting victimized by students who want their stuff.

  • bgal4

    The harm to students, staff and the entire community is much greater than just “losing stuff” in a theft.

    The city and school district have failed in public safety matters for long enough.

  • Goodkind

     I too look forward to a follow up by Frances. I hope it will include details regarding how the school manages to retrieve important safety data from Billy’s computer and get it analyzed in time to include it with the Safety Committee’s legally mandated report to the SSC which is then (I believe) also mandated to be delivered to the district.
    What attempts have been made?
    Were they successful?
    Billy’s statistical report last year was impossible to understand. But there were numbers. Hopefully Ardarius MacDonald can assist in this.
    And if no one in that dept. can actually handle this task, does that tell you something?

  • PragmaticProgressive


    I BEGGED Billy, and Dean McDonald for that matter, to find out if the students who had robbed my son had criminal records os someone might know if my son might still be indanger.   THEY DIDN’T EVEN CHECK IT OUT.

    In case you missed it, more recent reporting from the Tribune shows that Keys himself had a prior arrest for burglary.  

    When I saw that, I thought of your experience right away.  To me, it explained much about where Keys’ sympathies lie when it comes to criminal acts by teens and I cannot fathom how he got and held his position at BUSD for so many years.

  • Ginny Roemer

    I have been struggling with the administration to make the school safer since my son was robbed inside the school by three kids last December.
    One HUGE development now is that the old Superintendent is leaving and the School Board is looking for a new Superintendent.  THE ONLY community input that the Board is seeking is the survey at the link below.

    It only takes a few seconds and you will notice that of the criteria they want you to prioritize – no where is school safety even mentioned.  Please ADD a comment at the end about the importance that any new Superintendent be knowledgeable and concerned about safety at our schools. 
    AND then PLEASE send this on to all of the Berkeley school parents that you know and tell them that they on ly have until Friday to do this simple thing.
    This is one of the few windows where your in put is likely to matter to them and make a difference.

    p.s. It is ALSO the School Board who will be deciding if Billy Keys will be coming back as a Safety Officer or not.
    Superintendent Search Consultants will Meet with Staff and Community in March
    By Mark Coplan | Published: February 28, 2012
    Superintendent Search Consultant HYA will begin meeting with staff and community to gather input for the search. The meetings will begin on Saturday March 10th with two community forums at Rosa Parks (9:30 – 11 a.m. – and a second forum at 2-3:30 p.m. with Spanish translation – Note: Translation has been moved to afternoon forum). There will be a third community forum on Tuesday March 13th at Malcolm X School, 7-8:30 p.m. Check out the On Line Superintendent Search Community Input Survey on the Superintendent Search page: Superintendent Search Update page.