Juveniles in custody after fights outside Berkeley High

BHS police

Fighting broke out outside Berkeley High on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at around 3:40 p.m. and drew crowds of onlookers as well as police. Photo: Juliet Wayne

Scroll down for an update from Berkeley High’s principal at the foot of this story.

Four juveniles were taken into custody on suspicion of fighting outside Berkeley High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Large crowds of students and passers-by gathered near the intersection of Bancroft Way and Milvia Street shortly after students were leaving the campus at the end of the school day to watch the fights, according to Officer Jennifer Coats at the Berkeley Police Department.

Many Berkeley police officers were dispatched to the area after receiving calls from the public, starting at 3:41 p.m, and they worked to disperse the large groups of onlookers. Officers were able to disperse the crowds, and they took four juveniles into custody in connection with the fighting, Coats said.

There are no reported injuries at this time. “We still have several officers in the area to ensure the crowds have dispersed and that no other altercations occur,” Coats added.

A witness said she saw Berkeley High School Principal Pasquale Scuderi at the scene.

It is not clear at this point whether the fight involved students at the school.

Update, 8:28 p.m.: Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi said in an email to the Berkeley High community that there were at least four off-campus physical altercations after school Wednesday; and that at least one of the juveniles arrested was a Berkeley High student. He expressed concern about the number of onlookers, mostly Berkeley High students, which led to congestion and commotion in multiple spots downtown.

He wrote:

Thus far we know that the various incidents, which we are still very much sorting through, involved Berkeley High School students, some non-students in the area of Shattuck Avenue, and a very small number of students who attend Berkeley Technology Academy (BTECH). Preliminarily, we believe that at least three of the incidents were not connected, but we should have a clearer understanding tomorrow.

We feel fortunate to report no injuries.

At the moment we know that there were four (4) arrests made; we know at least one of those parties was a Berkeley High student, one was a student at BTECH, and we are waiting on confirmation of the status of the other parties.

Additionally, we can tell you that multiple suspensions will also be administered at the school site.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this afternoon was the way that so many kids rushed toward the scenes of these incidents and in a few cases, albeit unintentionally, made it difficult for school safety staff and administrators to get to where they needed to get to provide assistance quickly.

I am asking all parents to speak with their students about this issue as so many kids were involved, and even those kids who were not can benefit from the discussion. For some human beings there is clearly a tendency and grim curiosity to run towards these type of conflicts, but the best course of action for personal safety is to move away from the conflict. A student crowding around a physical or potentially violent conflict puts themselves in danger and makes getting help to the situation more difficult.

Berkeley High School will in fact consider suspension for any student who willingly or unwillingly contributes to a physical conflict by obstructing the work of staff members or adults responsible for responding and intervening. We will review this issue with students at school, but also ask all of our families to discuss this with their kids as well.

Given the size of the crowd and the nature of the incident we are counting on several hundred versions of the story making their way home tonight, and given the seriousness of the afternoon we felt best to share with you what we could as soon as possible.

Most of the semester has seen a notable decline in incidents and suspensions and we will work very hard to ensure that today’s events are an exception, and that our positive trend in school climate continues.

Respectfully,  Pasquale Scuderi, Principal, Berkeley High School

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  • 4Eenie

    That explains (I think) the helicopter noise I heard right around that time.

  • bgal4

    what’s BHS without the traditional mob brawl complete with bets and cheerleaders.

  • odowd alumna

    Jeez we had big fights after school with the whole student body watching and no cops, just the underpaid male teachers to break it up–1974

  • Tizzielish

    Does anyone remember the musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’? My Girl Scout troop performed it in the early-to-mid sixties. One song was called “Kids!”. Here are some of the lyrics — all of them are readily available online.

    “What’s the matter with kids today?

    Why can’t they be like we were ?

    Perfect in every way!

    What’s the matter with kids today?!!”

    I am quoting from ancient memory so if I remember wrong, please chillax.

    I am glad to read odowd alumna’s comment, reporting that in his/her time there were big fights after school.

  • aaaayyyyy thats me in the picture
    class of 16

  • bgal4

    Good for Scuderi, finally an adult taking charge.

  • bgal4

    There is nothing cute about this violence, unless you think BHS should aspire to the values exhibited on the Jerry Springer show.

  • iicisco

    I heard there were seven arrest. Has this information been cross checked with the BPD?

  • According to BPD and Principal Scuderi four juveniles were taken into custody.

  • guest

    Did you have problems with handguns on campus like BHS?

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    I live in a time when fights at school make news?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    If there is such an overlap, and students fighting are at BHS on an interdistrict permit, then district policy should be enforced: students with disciplinary, academic, or attendance problems lose the permit. We can’t fix Oakland, but we can send a very clear message that we will not import its troubles here.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Outside school grounds, at a busy public intersection, drawing lots of police? Yeah, I’d call that newsworthy.

  • BHS verteran

    No. You live in a time 20 years ago when a school fight meant 2 kids egged on a by circle of six near the backstop.

    We live in a time when 200-300 kids take over a major downtown intersection and iphone film the East Bay High (BHS) Welter Weight Championships!

    Now the real question is: If the winner is from Oakland or Richmond, but attends BHS – Does the trophy go to the high school they should be attending? Or, does BHS add it to their collection?

  • student

    I saw the police smash the kids heads into the cars. I thought police were supposed to protect us.

  • Ganodermatic

    The fight erupted directly in front of me as I drove to the intersection. The entire street was blocked by the fight and attendant crowd. No traffic could move as the fight was in the middle of the intersection. This was not a small issue. You should be better informed. Students are more likely to be armed now, also.

  • BHS verteran

    They were protecting YOU. They were arresting a suspected criminal.

    The cops want to get home (to their kids) every night in one piece. Society (not them) designs their tactics for its own safety and few police forces follow the rules as assiduously and with as much citizen oversight as in Berkeley.

    Little suspected criminals are known to carry guns and knives – best to use compelling force. Big criminals are known to carry guns and knives and be very big – best to use two cops and compelling force.

    What you saw was the tamest version of how society protects itself all around the world. It was a great civics lesson. You have a better idea? Then graduate, and make change.

  • YesterdayI was walking by Constitution Square when I suddenly heard a lot of noise. I looked up and saw what appeared to be about 100 students and suddenly a fight broke out. I was so scared and almost ran up to the crowd because I was afraid someone was going to get hurt. I called 911 but, before I could talk to anyone, about 15 police officers in squad cars came up with sirens blazing. The crowd quickly dispersed and kids were running away. I saw the police had at least one young man in custody. I quickly walked away and headed for my bus stop in front of Bank of America.

    While on the bus three high school age young men were bragging about the fight saying they wish they had had an opportunity to throw a punch. I scolded them for being so childish and told them they were lucky they were not hurt and/or arrested. They grew silent and got off at their stop.

  • 4Eenie

    Hmm. This is the first I’ve heard of the police being violent toward the kids. Do you have any photos or other proof of this?

  • I did not see that. That is awful.

  • I was there. If you compare the size of the grown men who were police officers to these high schools students, there is no comparison. The police should have never thrown around of students. The police were tall enough and threatening enough to not have to resort to unlawful force. The police are suppose to protect the students, not brutalize them.

  • I did not see one police officer manhandle a student. The adults were there to break up the fight. I saw one student walk toward a police officer the the cop just looked at him and told him to stay away. I saw a young female student attempt to go toward to a young man who was in custody and the officer told her to back away. She stood close by but did not move toward the boy in custody.
    Most of the students ran as soon as they heard the sirens. They ran up Shattuck toward University and to the bus stop in front of Bank of America. They had enough sense to leave the scene.

  • 4Eenie

    You were there, but did not see the police “smash the kids heads into the cars” but are willing to accept that as truth? I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but until there is proof of this very serious accusation against the police, I for one am not willing to accept a single comment as a launching point for police bashing.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    sounds like more should have been taken into custody for obstruction of justice.

  • bgal4

    Clearly, most people even school staff/ students are at a disadvantage to interpret the harm and threat caused by some teens downtown, at the bus stops, in the park, on Miliva during the high crime hour of the day, after-school. This is the result of a news black covering up events which people should have been warned occurred. Few people in this community have good information (including students) about the magnitude and details of these incidents, in which property has been damaged and people injured. Since the district incident reporting policy changed the community will begin to understand the challenges. There has been progress on campus but it time to make the mayhem downtown history.

  • guest

    bgal: put 1,00 or more testosterone laden boys together with girls of the same age: keep them indoors for long hours & add a healthy dose of school encouraged competition, and try not to have fights. Just try.
    Kids fight all over the world. Bullying can and should be nipped in the bud. But keeping teenage boys from fighting _ever_ is not going to happen.
    Damage control and risk reduction is the way to deal with this sort of thing, because it is NEVER going completely away.
    (btw: you are very good at the fear-mongering. you should consider a media career!)

  • guest

    Whoa. You think it’s ok for policemen to smash kids’ heads into cars because they are *suspected* of a crime???
    I hope you never, never care for children.

  • guest

    Dox? photos? video?

  • guest

    Is that a rational voice?? Here on berkeleyside???

  • guest

    Because highschool rivalries have never, ever happened before.
    You must have missed every American teenage movie made ever.

  • guest

    Funny, I witnessed a big fight, complete with police presence and lots of spectators, about a month ago on Kittredge, and it was never reported anywhere…

  • bgal4

    I raised two sons, one who played rugby and violin, and I had five brothers.

    As for your personal insult, right back at you, you are clueless, unless you understand the dynamics, who what and why, you are way off based. Plenty of these fights you attributed to males are girls fights. These fights are planned, kids know early in the day who challenged who and why.

  • guest

    True. Girls fight too. Are you trying to say that girls fights are preventable while boys fights are not?
    People fight. People swear, and sh*t, and cry, and fall down. No matter how hard you try, you can’t prevent it. We can make everyone’s life worse by creating a police state, or we can accept that sh*t happens, and move on to: damage control, and risk reduction.

  • guest

    As someone who has worked & spent much time downtown for the last 15 years, i’d like to say that there is no “mayhem downtown”. The vast majority of Berkeley High students are very well behaved, and while there are very occasionally fights, it is not by any stretch of the imagination the norm.

  • bgal4

    Contact me through BSide, I would be happy to inform you of many serious incidents and my role in coordinating downtown merchants with high school staff. Do you have a clue how many cops we deploy at lunch time and after school to handle the need? Have you checked in with AC transit about fights at the bus stops? Things are much better now, the result of many changes/reforms over the years.

    Smashing a freshman face into the window of a shop, breaking his nose is mayhem. Do you know which corner WSB congregates?

  • Charles_Siegel

    To state the obvious, levels of violence (including fights among adolescents) are very different in different cultures and at different times.

    It is obviously not true to say that nothing can be done.

  • bgal4

    The point is how we respond. By the way, my sons never fought, never. and it was not because I intervened. They learned smarter ways to manage differences very early on. Violence is learned behavior. How adults collectively manage community violence affects outcomes. The schools/city partnership continues to improve, the police dept recently altered shift schedules, this year downtown will always be covered by bike cops during lunch.

  • guest

    no fair editing comments after they are replied to.

  • bgal4

    what are you complaining about now?

  • guest

    Well, I guess I would say good job…?

    Somehow I feel that’s not the response that you are looking for, but I’m serious, as someone who is downtown for hours each day, including at lunch time, I really don’t experience anything worse than boisterous big kid energy 99.9% of the time.

  • bgal4

    Anecdotal experience has its limits.

  • guest

    it’s somewhat difficult to have a meaningful conversation with someone who edits their comments (adding and removing content) after they have already been replied to.
    But carry on.

  • guest

    >move on to: damage control, and risk reduction.

    I don’t think I said “nothing can be done”.
    Risk reduction, however is not 100% prevention.

  • bgal4

    I made a minor edit in grammar, the content is not altered in any meaningful way. The box format is a challenge for me.

  • guest

    But now i know I know the integrity of the person I’m dealing with, so will adjust my comments accordingly.

  • bgal4


  • guest

    Very grownup comment there: “flag you”.
    You gonna edit that one too?
    I’m done. Figured I was talking to an intelligent thoughtful person (don’t know why).
    Maybe you don’t even have kids!

  • The Sharkey

    Two kids engaging in fisticuffs on a playground is a much different thing than the kind of large-scale brawl with an audience of 100+ that we’re talking about here. When you say what essentially amounts to “Boys will be boys!” it completely undermines your points about damage control and risk reduction.

  • guest

    You must have missed my “I’m done” before you edited this comment to include a question.

  • bgal4

    Oh I have kids alright, and I believe politics is personal. It was my personal experiences with youth crime that motivated me to act responsibly. I am the primary force behind much of the local school safety reforms over the last decade. The CA state dept of education supported our efforts, but it took true persistence and thoughtful strategies to make progress.

    I am the mom in this story, as well as a source for many local new-stories on youth violence.