By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
A partially closed campus, identification badges worn by students and monitoring youthful offenders are some of the solutions being considered to stop students from bringing guns on the Berkeley High campus, the school board learned Wednesday night.
The meeting, during which frustrated board members questioned Superintendent Bill Huyett about what can be done to stem the tide of gun possession, came during a week in which a member of the Alameda County District Attorney's office charged that robberies and other crimes are common at the school and that some staff members tried to prevent prosecution of the offenders.
Huyett will go back to the board April 13 with a progress report, but cautioned that many of the new recommendations the school district is considering will not be immediate.
Seven students have been arrested at Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy since the beginning of the year in gun-related incidents.
Huyett has ruled out using metal detectors to screen students because it will take too long to get 3,400 students in and out of the school in the morning and after lunch.
"We are not at this time considering metal detectors," Huyett told the board. "The evidence in large schools like this is it is not effective, it is costly and time consuming. Our Police Department confirmed this. It is not practical especially with an open campus at lunch time."
The Police Department, during a two-hour meeting with school district staff Wednesday morning recommended:
closing the campus to ninth and 10th graders and leaving it open to 11th and 12th graders only as a privilege to students who show "appropriate behavior and are getting good grades; mproving professionalism of the school security guards with more training, uniforms and equipment; having a school police officer at the campus five days a week; requiring visible identification cards for students; and starting a program to monitor students on probation, those who come back to school after being in juvenile hall and the highest risk students who have not yet gotten in trouble.
After showing the police department's recommendations, Huyett presented the district's own version of recommendations which did not including closing the campus. He added a few more recommendations including doing a better job at enforcing truancy rules and increasing supervision of the Civic Center Park across the street.
During the meeting, school board members offered some sharp criticism of the way the guns crisis is being handled.
Board member Josh Daniels repeatedly pressed Huyett to give a timeline of when strategies would be implemented, but Huyett would only commit to a progress report at the next meeting.
Board member Karen Hemphill also said she wanted things to move faster.
"I have some expectations on the speed with which we address these issues," Hemphill said. "I have a son at Berkeley High School. I do expect we get a status report in our next public meeting so the public knows the progress we are making."
But Huyett said he wanted to move thoughtfully and get things right the first time.
"In terms of a plan, I'm not prepared to talk to you about it," Huyett said. "Moving quickly and making a commitment before you have thoughtfully assessed what you can do is not wise."
Huyett said starting a better case management plan for the most potentially dangerous students can start very soon, but new training for security guards is not scheduled until June, and identification badges will have to include "dialogue at the school" before that happens.
Trustee Leah Wilson said the district should include its critics in order to get better solutions. She was referring to comments by Matt Golde, supervising district attorney in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Division, who offered a grim view of crime on the Berkeley High campus during a meeting Monday night.
"We have heard some serious criticism of how he have handled things including allegations of cover ups by the district attorney," Wilson said. "That is damaging discourse to have out there. I say we specifically solicit the participation of some of those who are critical of the district, from the right and the left. When we have them as part of the process, we will get a better solution."
Police responded in force to sighting of a student with a gun in his waistband near the campus Wednesday but the youth left and no gun was found after officers detained three young men.