Tag Archives: Berkeley High School

Berkeley High student faces up to reality of vision loss

Jorden Johnson and his mother Keisha Darden. Photo: courtesy family
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Sometimes bad things happen to good people, changing the trajectory of their lives with no notice. For Jorden Johnson, a 17-year-old senior at Berkeley High School, this moment came while attending football practice in the summer of 2015.

Johnson says it was like any other day. He was prepping for the first preseason game of his senior year. He had spent most of the summer preparing for that moment, and was eager to show his coach how he had developed as a player since the prior season. He went through his normal routine: stretching, team jumping jacks, and a few other exercises to get warmed up. It was when the team transitioned to position drills that Johnson began to notice something was wrong.

While going for a pass, Johnson watched the ball as it left the quarterback’s hand, soaring through the air and eventually eclipsing the sun. As the ball passed in front of the sun, Johnson recalls seeing a glare and not being able to relocate the ball, which caused  him to drop the pass.

“It was nothing new. I had done this drill a million times,” said Johnson recently. “I had lost the ball in the sun and been blinded by the glare, so I thought nothing of it.”

Johnson says he apologized to the coach for the dropped pass and determined he would make up for his mistake. His turn came around once more, and just as he had done so many times before, he took off for a pass. Again he was blinded by a glare and again he dropped the ball. This time he wasn’t sure the glare was a result of the sun.

“After that second drop I realized something was off,” said Johnson. “The glare began to turn into bright spots. I didn’t know what it was from, but I knew it couldn’t be good.” He was worried but not terrified, and he left practice thinking that some rest would do the trick. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board rejects school officer grant

Berkeley High police cruiser. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley School Board said a resounding “no” to a proposal to add a second police officer to its campus roster during a discussion earlier this month about ways to address safety and racial tension on campus.

The proposal, from Superintendent Donald Evans, was among a group of ideas collected from the community in December following several race-related incidents at Berkeley High in recent years, including the hanging of a noose on campus, disparaging statements that were slipped into the school yearbook last spring, and racial threats posted on a school computer in the fall.

Scroll down to see what’s on tonight’s School Board agenda.

The Berkeley Police Department had won a Department of Justice grant for $125,000 over a three-year period to help fund an additional school resource officer position. There is just one school resource officer in the district, stationed at Berkeley High on weekdays.

Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Sheila Quintana has lobbied in recent years for an officer who could also be present on her campus, the district’s lone continuation school. The grant would have helped provide funding for that position, said Capt. Dave Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department.  … Continue reading »

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Faraji Wright: A journey from athlete to musician

Faraji Wright highway
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Many of us set out to change our lives at the beginning of a new year. Faraji Wright is hoping 2016 can pick up right where 2015 left off. The 25-year-old from Berkeley released the mixtape Telegraph Ave. in December and the project accumulated over 50,000 plays on Soundcloud in just one month.

Wright, who graduated from Boise State in 2012, decided to pursue music full-time after playing college football for four years with the Boise State Broncos. It’s a decision he says he battled with throughout his college career. Wright was a standout football player at Berkeley High, and signed a football scholarship in 2008. Many assumed that would be the start of an illustrious football career.

Berkeleyside contributor Delency Parham got the chance to sit down with Faraji at his studio in South Berkeley. They talked about some of the factors that lead to him letting go of football and picking up the mic. As he preps for upcoming shows including a possible short tour in Japan. Wright says he’s elevated his work ethic and has been in the studio on a consistent basis. He wants everyone to know his goal for 2016 is to get his music across more platforms and to create content that can inspire and entertain.

What was life like for you after graduating from college and moving back home?

It was a bittersweet moment. I was graduating college and I was the first in my family to do so. It was great, but when I came home I didn’t exactly get the welcoming that I expected. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High’s ‘See Rock City’: Affecting and uplifting

See Rock. Photo: Lisa Sibony
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By Johanna Staples-Ager

Let’s just get it out there right up front: Berkeley High’s production of the musical See Rock City and Other Destinations is excellent. The story, the production, the music and the acting are all really good. And there’s a bonus: the tickets are cheap and sales support Berkeley High Drama.

This is the West Coast premiere of the show, which is being staged on Dec. 17 and 18 at the Florence Schwimley Little Theater, and, although it has been workshopped and earned a few minor awards in the past, it frankly deserves more attention.

The play follows the stories of people in six places: Rock City, GA; Roswell, NM; The Alamo, TX; Glacier Bay, AK; Coney Island, NY; and Niagara Falls, NY. These tourist destinations, well-known by most in the audience, tie in closely with the experiences of the people in the play: a young man looking for “signs” about his future, which he finds in literal signs such as, “SEE ROCK CITY”; a man who has left behind his life to be at the site of a UFO landing; a woman and her grandfather following the annual tradition of going to the place where her grandparents met; three sisters gathering to scatter their father’s ashes in his favorite bay; two best friends cutting school to go to an amusement park; and a runaway bride taking a tour of the famous Falls while still in her wedding dress.Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board gets annual bullying report

BHS Stop Harassing has been working to raise awareness about sexual harassment and other types of discrimination at Berkeley High over the past year. Photo: BHS Stop Harassing
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There were 165 complaints of bullying, sexual harassment and other types of harassment were reported in Berkeley schools in the 2014-15 school year, according to a report set to go before the School Board on Wednesday night.

There were 41 incidents at the grade school level, 78 in Berkeley middle schools, and 46 in Berkeley’s two high schools. Neither race nor gender descriptions were included in the report.

The Berkeley Unified School District also reported four incidents of bullying by parents or adult family members toward students, and four complaints of bullying toward students by staff.

At Berkeley’s 11 grade schools, there were 25 incidents of bullying, 12 incidents of sexual harassment and four incidents of harassment or intimidation. Other than bullying, reports are only collected for students at the fourth grade level or above, as per state Education Code requirements. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: A call to white parents — address racism

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A month ago, someone posted a racist threat against black students on a library computer at Berkeley High School. The threat expressed support for the KKK and stated that there would be a public lynching on December 9. In response to this threat, many students walked out of classes to protest of this act of racism, to say that #BlackLivesMatter.

This all seems so long ago now. Across the country, university student protests against racially hostile environments emerged … Continue reading »

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Update: School officials say threat to Berkeley High shared on Facebook is false

Berkeley High School. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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Update, 3 p.m. Berkeley Police said they are not investigating this as a crime.

Update, 12:30 p.m. Berkeley High says that, after speaking with the Berkeley Police Department, it does not believe a Facebook post that mentioned a “massive text” and a “massive shooting” is related to an actual threat of violence against the school. In an email sent out to the BHS community around noon Wednesday, Principal Sam Pasarow said that, instead, the school believes the social media post was “based on a misinterpretation of previous communications that BUSD sent out to families.”

The post contained misinformation about the school’s permission slip policy, he said. “The permission slip was for students to attend a special “Sankofa” assembly on campus, not to attend school or stay home from school.” Pasarow added that the BSU Sankofa Assembly today had been well-attended. “I have been seeing students deeply engaged in our academic classes today, with lesson plans that are stimulating thoughtful discussions,” he wrote. Read the full email.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Berkeley Unified School District and Berkeley police are investigating a possible threat to the campus that was reportedly sent out by mass text and then shared via Facebook.

BUSD spokesman Mark Coplan confirmed that Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow was talking to police Wednesday morning about a widely disseminated text which referred to a “massive shooting” at the high school Wednesday. The text also discussed permission slips that would allow parents to excuse their children from attending school. Today, Dec. 9, had been designated a special day of “communal self-affirmation” with a modified schedule focused on race issues. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High to ‘take back the day’ after racist incident

Berkeley High students marched through the UC Berkeley campus Thursday in support of racial justice. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley High School is preparing for a special day of “communal self-affirmation” on campus Wednesday, following a racist incident on Nov. 4 and the school-wide protest that came in its wake.

BHS Principal Sam Pasarow said he is supporting Wednesday’s activities which will see a slightly modified class schedule and include two assemblies.

In a Dec. 2 email to the school community, Pasarow wrote: “I am heartened by these student-led plans to spend time together in a safe, supportive, and educational environment, rather than skipping school on December 9th.”

The choice of Wednesday for the ‘take back the day’ events is significant: the racist threat that was discovered on a school library computer on Nov. 4 said there would be a “KKK Forever public lynching on December 9.” … Continue reading »

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Elisha Davis: Determined to be great, on and off the court

Elisha Davis, a Berkeley High alum, is succeeding on the court and off. Photo: Sun Devil Athletics
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For a college student athlete, there is no season more important than your senior year. It’s the year when everything could soon be coming to an end: the long practices, the extra work on weekends, the countless hours in the library. For many, it is a bittersweet reality.

For Arizona State Sun Devil and Berkeley High graduate Elisha Davis, senior year is an opportunity to live out dreams she has worked for since she was a child. Through her hard work and dedication, Davis has become an honor roll student with WNBA potential. She enters this season with pro aspirations and graduation right around the corner.

Davis, who graduated from Berkeley High in 2012, was introduced to basketball at the age of 6 by her father, and has been in love with the game ever since.

“My first love was really football,” said the 21-year-old Oakland native. “My dad wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl. So he gave me a basketball and basically told me to stay off the football field.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High students wear black to show solidarity

Photo: Portrait of 500 students and staff at end of Blackout day at #BerkeleyHigh
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UPDATE, 10:48 a.m. BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans sent out an email to the school community at around 10:30 a.m Friday in which he talked about the recent incident and the school’s response to it. Of the student-led walkout, he said he “felt fortunate to be part of a community in which our young people are standing up against terror and racism.” And he outlined efforts the administration will be making going forward, including providing support needed “to uplift our students,” investing in professional development and “opportunities for courageous conversations;” changing discipline policies “recognizing that the school disproportionately suspends African American students,” and recruiting and retaining more teachers of color. Read the full communication from Evans.

See photos of Blackout Day at Berkeley, taken by BUSD’s Mark Coplan.

ORIGINAL STORY: Berkeley High students arrived on campus Friday morning wearing black to show solidarity with students of color. The move was prompted by a request from the Berkeley High School Black Student Union which, in an email message to students and the school community sent out at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, asked that “everyone continue to show solidarity with Black students both at Berkeley High and across the nation by wearing all black tomorrow (November 13th).” … Continue reading »

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BHS student to be disciplined after racist statement

Photo- Jackson Grigsby
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The student who posted an inflammatory and racist statement on a Berkeley High School library computer last week was a student of color, according to a school district spokesman. But the student, a male freshman, was not black, according to a city staffer familiar with the case.

BHS Principal Sam Pasarow told the high school staff that the student was “a student of color,” but did not specify which race, according to Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District. Authorities have said they are not releasing identifiable details about the student because they fear retaliation.

Coplan also revealed new details about how the racist, threatening message was discovered Nov. 4, the process Pasarow took to determine the culprit, and the timing of the message Pasarow sent to the community about the incident.

A parent volunteer in the library spotted the image while the student was sitting at the computer since the font was so large and the words captured the volunteer’s attention, said Coplan. The volunteer immediately notified library staff, and the student was detained and taken to Pasarow’s office, said Coplan. This was around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4.

“There is nothing that indicates that the student intended to post it,” he said. “The student was creating a document. A volunteer spotted the document because the wording was so big and brought it to the attention to the staff.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High student linked to racist ‘screen hack’

The 2015 Berkeley High yearbook is being recalled due to an offensive comment on one of its pages. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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By Emilie Raguso and Lance Knobel

Berkeley High School administrators say they have identified the student responsible for a “screen hack” in the library Wednesday that displayed racist threats against African Americans.

Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow said, during a press conference Thursday afternoon, that a student, believed to have been acting alone, was responsible for the message.

The press event followed a peaceful protest and walkout undertaken by more than 700 students earlier in the day.

The identity of the student linked to the screen hack was discovered through “an in-depth technological forensic analysis,” Pasarow said.

The student has since met with the principal and other administrators, and reportedly took responsibility for the messages.

The consequences have not been determined, said Pasarow. They may, however, include expulsion. It’s possible, he said, that the student may not ever be allowed to return to Berkeley High.

Pasarow said school officials are concerned about possible retaliation against the student, and will not release any details that could be used for public identification, such as age, gender or race.

“My sense is the student acted alone,”said Pasarow. “The consequences are going to be pretty intensive.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High students walk out, rally after racist threats

Demo Eric Panzer
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By Tracey Taylor, Lance Knobel and Emilie Raguso

Update, Nov. 10: Listen to Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow, Berkeley High Black Student Union co-president Alecia Harger, and Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel discuss the walkout and what provoked it on KQED Forum. The 25-minute segment was broadcast on Friday Nov. 6 at 9:30 a.m.

Follow live coverage on Berkeleyside’s Twitter page, and at #BHSwalkout.

Update, Nov. 5, 5:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon, school officials announced they had identified the student responsible for the hate crime.

Update, 3:40 p.m. Thursday’s demonstration and march through Berkeley, from the high school up to the Cal campus, went smoothly and was devoid of disturbances or arrests.

“We didn’t have any problems,” said Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman. “From our standpoint it was terrific.” … Continue reading »

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