By Doug Oakley
Berkeley school officials Wednesday announced a number of preliminary steps they hope will discourage students from bringing guns to its two high schools following separate incidents Tuesday in which a gun was fired at in a bathroom and a second student was arrested with a gun in a classroom.
Seven high school students have been arrested since Jan. 10 for bringing guns to Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy.
There were no injuries in the incidents. On Tuesday two 15-year-olds were arrested for firing a gun in the bathroom and police said one of them also was carrying a switchblade knife. Also on Tuesday a third student, a 16-year-old with an unloaded gun in his backpack was arrested. That student also had marijuana packaged for sale, police said.
In letters to parents Tuesday and Wednesday, Berkeley High School Principal Pasquale Scuderi and Berkeley schools Superintendent Bill Huyett outlined a number of immediate steps the district is taking including adding two security guards to the Berkeley High campus, the rollout of an anonymous telephone and text line for tips about students bringing guns on campus and a series of meetings with students, the police and parents.
The two additional security guards, Huyett said, will make hourly patrols of bathrooms and "out-of-the-way areas on campus."
The tip line, at 1-866-SPEAK-UP is a national reporting service and is staffed 24-hours a day, Scuderi, said in his letter to parents.
"Obviously we would prefer to have students report information to a staff member that they trust, but in the event they want total anonymity, they can call it," Scuderi said.
In his letter to parents, Huyett said there will be a special meeting for parents to talk to school staff and district administrators on March 28 at 6:30 in the Berkeley High Little Theater; the Berkeley school board will hold a special meeting March 30 to discuss the issue; Scuderi will hold a school-wide faculty meeting this week to talk about new plans for school safety; administrators will visit all Berkeley High history classes this week and next "to explain rules and consequences of weapons on campus;" the school will hold focus groups with students to find out why students are bringing guns to school; Berkeley police will meet with school staff "to assist with student education regarding safety and consequences."
In his note to parents, Scuderi said "today marks a most concerning trend with weapons being brought on to our campus...we are collectively exploring a wide range of options to address this persistent and unfortunate trend."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley