Thursday, April 7, 2011

After Criticism on Gun Problem, Berkeley High to Monitor High Risk Students, Study Closing Campus

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group East Bay
Berkeley's school district has assigned a teacher and a counselor to monitor high-risk students in response to recent gun incidents at Berkeley High and Berkeley Technology Academy.
Seven students have been arrested at the two schools for bringing guns since the beginning of the year. On March 21 one of those students fired his gun in a school bathroom at Berkeley High, but no one was injured.
The move to monitor high-risk students is contained in a progress report from administrators that will reviewed at the April 13 school board meeting.
The report also details creation of a new safety committee consisting of six staff members, four parents and two students. The panel will study identification badges for all students and staff, procedures for visitors to campus, a limited closed campus and the opening of a community day school for kids who get expelled to be run at the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue.
Those items could be implemented by the time school starts after summer break, according to the report.
Monitoring high-risk students, including those on probation, those who are coming back to school after being expelled and kids living in group homes or foster care, was recommended by Matt Golde, the supervising district attorney for Alameda County's Juvenile Division.
A teacher at Berkeley High and a counselor at Berkeley
Technology Academy, the report said, will also "monitor the students' progress to help them succeed in school."
Making students wear identification badges and closing high school campuses at lunch are nothing new to schools in Richmond and west Contra Costa County and they help with reducing violence, said Tony Thurmond, a board member of the school district there and chair of its safety committee.
Thurmond said all six main high schools in his district require identification badges for students and staff and all schools have closed campuses.
"The badges can help with one aspect of the problem, but they don't deal directly with guns," Thurmond said. "They do help you know that the people who are on your campus are your students." He added that "there is not one-size-fits-all approach" to school safety, "but every bit helps."
Berkeley is now moving in the right direction, Thurmond said.
"They're talking to students, to the community, working with probation and police," Thurmond said. "If they can link together a series of services to help kids who feel they need to carry a weapon, then that might help."
El Cerrito High School conducts unannounced hall and locker searches for drugs and guns with El Cerrito police and police dogs, said Principal Jason Reimann in a recent letter to parents that went out Tuesday.
"With the recent violence in the Richmond area and the incidents at Berkeley High School, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight the work that is being done at El Cerrito High School to improve safety," the letter said.
In addition to locker searches, campus security officers keep a computer data base of incidents "to set priorities for safety staff and to adjust to the needs of the camps on an ongoing basis."
Berkeley's report to its school board also said Berkeley police are increasing one police officer's time on campus at Berkeley High from four days to five days a week.
Berkeley police also have scheduled two one-hour training sessions for the 14 security guards at Berkeley High this month, to include search and seizure techniques, tactical emergency procedures and radio communication protocols.
Four of those security guards have signed up for 40 hours of training on conflict mediation over the next two weekends, the report said. And in June, all Berkeley High security guards will attend a three-day workshop led by the Institute for Campus Safety.
The high school has done a security assessment of the campus and has redesigned the security guards' routines so they make hourly patrols of all bathrooms and "other out-of -the-way areas on campus." The school also will be changing locks on classroom doors so that in the event of a lockdown, where there is someone on campus with a gun, teachers can lock the doors from the inside.
Currently the doors lock only from the outside.
The administration also is contacting with a firm to assess security procedures using standards of the National Crime Prevention Council.
The school district plans to spend about $90,000 on all its new plans for keeping guns off campus, if the school board approves them at its meeting next week.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at

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