Tag Archives: Ad Hoc Safety Committee

Students see security changes at Berkeley High School

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As Berkeley High students returned to school this week, they weren’t permitted to enter by the Allston Street door leading into the main office. Instead they were directed to a nearby gate.

“Visitors Entrance Only,” read the lettering on two new signs posted by the office. “Students Please Use the ‘A’ Gate.”

Five and a half months after two students discharged a gun in a portable bathroom, spooking students, parents, and administrators, change has come to Berkeley High. Access to … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school board considers weapons safety report

One of the inner courtyards at Berkeley High
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While Berkeley High should tighten its perimeter, enlist its uniformed police officer to patrol its edges and nearby park, have its security officers wear identifiable uniforms, and teach students about the impact of guns, it should not require students to wear a visible identification badges and use them to get on and off campus – at least not yet.

There are still too many unresolved issues on how to implement the mechanics of closing the campus and requiring ID badges to move forward quickly, school board members decided Wednesday night. The board directed Superintendent Bill Huyett and his staff to more closely examine those items and return with a more detailed and workable plan.

“We don’t have to do this by fall,” said Board member John Selawsky. “I just want to see us working on it.”

Huyett agreed that rushing into a new set of requirements might not be the best idea. … Continue reading »

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Student voices are missing from gun safety report

One of the inner courtyards at Berkeley High
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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. … Continue reading »

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School safety committee issues weapons report

Berkeley High School
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Three months after two students accidentally discharged a gun in a Berkeley High School bathroom, a task force empaneled to study the issue of weapons has concluded that the school should not install metal detectors or close the campus during lunch, but should require students to carry – but not necessarily display — identification cards.

In addition, the school could improve safety by more closely controlling who comes in and out of the campus. To do that, the high school should reduce the number of entrances to campus to four and hire monitors to stand by the gates. The school should more strictly enforce its visitors’ policy to make sure everyone on campus has a legitimate reason to be there, according to the report.

The school should also retain the 12 safety officers currently on staff – up from 10 in previous years — and hire a second full-time police officer for the campus, if financially feasible. All security personnel should be required to wear uniforms that plainly identify them to students, staff and the police, concludes the report, which will be presented to the school board on June 29.

The eleven-page set of recommendations is the culmination of three months of work by the Ad Hoc Safety Committee, which was appointed by Superintendent Bill Huyett in April to review policies and procedures in the city’s high schools after a spate of six gun incidents in a two-and-a-half month period from January to March 2011. The large number of weapons found on campus deeply distressed the community and the school board and led to emotional community meetings, student focus groups, police training, a flurry of online comment, and a sense of urgency that the district had to quickly address a growing problem.

Right after the sixth gun incident on March 25th, the school district took a number of immediate steps to try and improve the situation and asked the 15-member task force to examine some long-term policy questions on how to eliminate – or at least minimize – the presence of weapons at school.

The district bumped up its security detail by hiring two more school safety officers and increasing the presence of a uniformed police officer on campus from four to five days a week. Berkeley High closed some entrances to the massive campus, positioned security guards at the gates in the morning and after lunch, and stepped up patrols in out of way portions of the campus. It installed an anonymous hotline to report weapons. There have been no other guns discovered on the Berkeley High or B-Tech campuses since the security upgrades.

The report, and discussion among committee members, provide some new details on the six gun incidents, which included six Berkeley students and one non-Berkeley student.

  • All of the on-campus incidents happened in the morning while the off-campus incident happened after school was dismissed.
  • A total of seven Berkeley students and one non-Berkeley students were involved in the six gun incidents.
  • Six of the seven students were not on probation prior to the incident
  • One student was a senior, three were juniors, one was a sophomore, and one was a freshman.
  • Three students had not had prior discipline incidents this year before they brought weapons to school.
  • All the students were male.
  • One student was homeless.
  • All resided in Berkeley
  • All have been expelled from the district

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School committee finalizes report in wake of guns

A Berkeley High safety officer stands by a gate before the start of classess, part of a series of measures to reduce the number of guns on campus. PHoto: Frances Dinkelspiel
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In a small conference room on the second floor of old City Hall, a group of school administrators, parents, students, police and safety officers have met regularly over the past nine weeks to debate how to tackle the issue of guns at Berkeley High.

They have talked about the colors gang members wear – and whether gangs pose an issue at the school. They have argued about whether to close the campus, and how a cafeteria equipped to hold 500 would serve 3,200 students a day. They have talked about making school security officers more identifiable, how to encourage students to wear ID badges, and how teaching students about the dangers of guns might be critical to stopping the presence of weapons on campus. They have agreed that metal detectors just won’t work. … Continue reading »

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