By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
Berkeley's school board on Wednesday (April 13) approved $89,000 for additional security measures at Berkeley High School to cut down on the number of guns being brought onto campus.
Superintendent Bill Huyett warned the board that the $89,000 is a one-time cost and the safety issue is "going to turn into recurring costs."
The funding will be used to increase the time on campus of one Berkeley police officer from four to five days a week; hire two additional security guards on campus, bringing the number to 14; hire a consultant to advise the school district on improving security at Berkeley High; and train security guards.
Seven students have been arrested and recommended for expulsion at Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy for bringing guns onto campus since the start of the year. On March 21, one of those students fired a gun in a bathroom at Berkeley High. No one was injured.
By contrast, just one student was expelled from Berkeley High for bringing a gun to school last year, according to the California Department of Education.
The school board was updated on measures the district is taking to keep guns off campus, and how to make Berkeley High safer in general.
The consultant, a former police officer and high school teacher, will do a walk-through of Berkeley High and Berkeley Technology Academy next week, said Susan Craig, director of student services for Berkeley Unified.
Huyett said that by the end of next week Berkeley High will likely close entrances to the campus to better control the flow of students and post security guards at the open entrances.
"This is a step the school can take immediately," Huyett said.
A new safety committee met for the first time Wednesday to study and make recommendations in three areas: procedures for visitors to campus, the possibility of closing the campus in a limited fashion, and the idea of having students wear identification badges. The committee will meet every two weeks through the end of the year and report its recommendations to Huyett at that time, Craig said.
Principal Pasquale Scuderi told the board that after each incident of student gun possession this year, school staff members have had a "significant debriefing with Berkeley police" to learn how they can better handle those types of events. Part of the upcoming security guard training will focus on how guards can manage their radio communications with one another and with the Police Department, he added.
Scuderi said Berkeley police have increased their presence at lunchtime and after school and officers are talking to students to build relationships with them. He also said Berkeley High held three focus groups with about 35 students to learn more about what they feel will make the campus safer.
"The initial response from them was: Don't close the campus. They prefer ID cards be worn at all times. They believe students carry weapons for protection and not to do harm to others. They are against backpack searches. They want more help in conflict resolution, more teacher training in times of crisis, better training for security officers and during lockdowns, they want to know what the threat is specifically," Scuderi said.
Huyett said the school district is considering a policy that prohibits gang attire and a regulation that prohibits bullying and harassment.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley