Berkeley High School is planning a "safety forum" for students, coaches and staff, as well as the broader BHS community, after two students brought guns to campus in late September, school officials announced this week.
Interim Berkeley High Principal Tonia Coleman advised parents about the upcoming campus safety event, details to be determined, by email Monday afternoon.
Coleman's email, entitled "Safety Update," drew mixed reviews from parents who shared it with The Berkeley Scanner.
"It's frustratingly vague for a message that emphasizes transparent and open communication," one parent said.
"There is talk about a nurturing environment and a 'foundation of trust,' but no confirmation that bringing guns onto campus is illegal," another parent wrote. "It's perplexing and worrisome."
The principal described the update as "important" but shared little information about how two male students had come to bring guns to school in late September or what exactly had been done about it.
In her email, Coleman wrote only that "the investigation did not uncover a direct threat to our school or our students on campus."
She did not mention that two students had been arrested.
Police told The Berkeley Scanner that the boys who brought guns to campus were associated with each other rather than involved in any known conflict.
In her email, Coleman did take time to commend school staff for their "swift and decisive actions" and said relevant details had been shared with "Teacher Leaders."
She also noted that "an administrator and counselor visited the classrooms directly affected by the incident."
Last week, she wrote, more than 30 parents attended a BHS Safety Committee meeting, which Coleman said "demonstrates our commitment to working collaboratively with our parents and district partners, including Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel, to address safety concerns and ensure that everyone is well-informed about ongoing safety measures."
After the gun confiscation, she wrote, BHS created a "drop-in space at the Wellness Center, staffed by counselors, to provide support and guidance to any students needing to process their feelings and concerns."
BUSD did not respond this week to requests for information from The Berkeley Scanner.
Berkeley High has already been busy this year
The recent news that two students were arrested after bringing guns to Berkeley High may have been the highest-profile BHS safety concern since the school year began. But it hasn't been the only one.
One parent told TBS there was a fight involving a large crowd at the Berkeley High football game Friday. There were reports of possible gunfire after the fight, but police said they found nothing to confirm that.
Earlier in the week, Berkeley police got reports of several dozen students fighting downtown near Starbucks on Shattuck Avenue during the BHS lunch break.
Read more about BHS campus safety in Berkeley.
Accounts were conflicting, with some people saying the fight involved many students, while others said it was just a few students with a crowd around them. Some said it was only female students fighting, police said.
When officers arrived, the group dispersed. There were no arrests and no known injuries, said Officer Byron White, a BPD spokesman.
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On Thursday, police got several reports during the BHS lunch break that involved students or may have involved them.
At 11:45 a.m., police were called to the garage at 2020 Kittredge St. for a report of a group fight involving Berkeley high school students.
About 15 minutes later, police were called to a home in the 2800 block of Milvia Street where someone had kicked in the front door and stolen electronics.
Less than 10 minutes later, two people described as teens reportedly grabbed a laptop from a table at Blue Bottle Coffee and then ran out of the popular coffee shop.
Officer White said it was too soon to say whether all of the incidents definitively involved students, but he said their proximity to campus during the BHS lunch hour, as well as the descriptions from some of the incidents, at least indicated the possibility.
He said last week's warm weather may have played a role in the uptick in calls for service.
"We're having a hot streak here," White said. "That always tends to increase our activity."
White said police were continuing to monitor the situation.
"We’ve seen this happen before during lunch periods, be it Berkeley high school students or students from elsewhere," he said.
He noted that Berkeley High has more than 3,000 students, many of whom leave campus for lunch at the same time.
White said parents should make every effort to talk to their kids and encourage them to "separate themselves from any bad actors."
"If you’re a parent of a child that has been attacked or somehow injured or participated in a fight, make sure they talk to someone that can get them the help they need," White said. "The safety of our students is of paramount concern."
Parents who got in touch with The Scanner this week said they would like the district to do more to keep the community informed.
"I understand that we are not entitled to information about the individual students, but why no mention of complying with the Education Code (which mandates immediate suspension for the students)? Or a commitment to a gun-free campus?" one mother wrote of the principal's message. "The email is lengthy, but the word 'firearm' is used only once."
The Scanner will continue to follow BHS campus safety news and will share details about the safety forum when they are available.
Berkeley High "Safety Update" from the principal
Read the complete message below from Interim BHS Principal Tonia Coleman.
October 9, 2023
Dear BHS Community,
I would like to take a moment to provide you with an important update regarding recent events on our campus. Approximately ten school days ago, we encountered a situation that is highly unusual at BHS - the confiscation of two firearms on school premises. This incident has understandably raised concerns among our students, parents, and staff, and I want to assure you that we are committed to maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for everyone at our school.
At BHS, our core values revolve around fostering a positive climate and culture for our students and their families. We place a strong emphasis on building trust, setting clear expectations, and nurturing relationships. It is this foundation of trust that allows our students and community members to feel comfortable sharing information with our staff, ultimately enabling us to address issues like the one we recently faced.
I would like to commend the swift and decisive actions taken by Ms. Flocchini, our Dean of Students, and our School Safety Officers (SSOs), particularly Steve Saunders and Eric Riley, who responded promptly to identify and remove the potential threat. Their dedication to ensuring the safety of everyone involved is truly commendable and reflects our unwavering commitment to your well-being.
Immediately following the incident, we engaged with our Teacher Leaders to ensure they had all the relevant information to share with their teams. Additionally, an administrator and counselor visited the classrooms directly affected by the incident. We also established a drop-in space at the Wellness Center, staffed by counselors, to provide support and guidance to any students needing to process their feelings and concerns.
Open and transparent communication is paramount during times like these, and our administrative team has been working closely with our district partners to keep everyone informed and address any concerns. I want to emphasize that the investigation did not uncover a direct threat to our school or our students on campus.
Last Wednesday, we held a Safety Committee Meeting led by Ms. Flocchini, with the valuable support of Ms. Tesch. Over 30 parents attended this meeting, which demonstrates our commitment to working collaboratively with our parents and district partners, including Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel, to address safety concerns and ensure that everyone is well-informed about ongoing safety measures.
Parents and guardians, please ensure that your child has taken a school picture and has a school ID. Have them show it to you! These pictures and IDs are essential for school safety - we use them to identify students and ensure that only BHS students and approved others have access to our campus and school events. If your child has not yet taken a photo and received an ID, please help them plan to take their photo at the next picture make-up day on October 30th. Students can take their photo before school, during lunch, and after school.
Lastly, we would like to extend an invitation to the broader BHS community to participate in an upcoming safety forum that will involve students, coaches and BHS staff. We believe that a collaborative discussion, incorporating diverse perspectives, will greatly contribute to the enhancement of our safety measures. Once we identify a date we will provide additional details and the agenda for the meeting.