School Board Unveils Plan for Expelled Students

Berkeley Unified School District Officials Reveal Plan Amid Community Concerns About Safety

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Correction Appended

The original version of this article contained a serious factual error, and I apologize to our readers, especially those affected by the error, on behalf of The Daily Californian staff.

The article incorrectly stated that Heather Wood said she had formerly used drugs and had spent time in juvenile hall. In fact, she did not say this.

The article was corrected online after the error became known to us and now does not contain this inaccurate information. A correction has been posted on this page to acknowledge the factual error of the original version.

The Daily Californian holds itself to a high journalistic standard and always aims to produce accurate and objective content. We did not meet that standard in this article. Though we have measures in place to prevent mistakes, sometimes they do occur, and we have a strict policy to correct any such errors. If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at [email protected]

-Rajesh Srinivasan, Editor in Chief & President

Over 100 Berkeley community members concerned about a plan to admit expelled high school students to a new program at the Berkeley Adult School met with Berkeley Unified School District officials Wednesday night at a public forum held at the school.

The meeting was called to officially inform the community of the district's plan to run a program for expelled students with criminal records at the school. If the program is approved by the district later this year, 15 to 16 students will be enrolled in one classroom at the San Pablo Avenue location this fall.

According to Superintendent Bill Huyett, the school day would be approximately five hours long, and three instructors - along with at least two security personnel - would supervise the students. Amid concerns from community members, he said repeatedly throughout the meeting that the students would be heavily supervised during the school day.

The district began planning the program in December due to the Alameda County Office of Education's desire to have the students attend school closer to their homes.

"Previously, these kids had to go to school all the way in Oakland," Huyett said at the forum. "That was too far for a lot of these kids. Many dropped out."

The forum was the first time the district solicited input from locals, residents said. Several community members, including Councilmember Linda Maio - whose district includes the school - expressed their displeasure at not being informed about the district's plans at an earlier date.

"I was particularly upset that I found out about these plans through the rumor mill," Maio said at the forum.

In addition to complaints about communication from the district, numerous attendees also said they were concerned about potential safety risks within their community. Specifically, they said they would want to know details about the actions or crimes the expelled students had committed and would want to know how violent the crimes had been.

Heather Wood said she was especially concerned about monitoring students' off-campus behavior. Wood said students can be watched during school but that real problems can occur off-campus.

Several attendees, however, were in favor of the plan, saying that the students might have problems but were still a part of the Berkeley community.

"You can't just boot them out because they have issues," said 20-year Berkeley resident Marty Nichols. "I feel like this issue is being over-exaggerated. We aren't building a pig farm or nuclear reactor. We are talking about introducing 15 to 16 students to a school that already exists."

District officials and others in favor of the new program emphasized that the students were from the Berkeley area and in need of guidance and district services.

"It is part of our mission - not a mandate - to serve children in trouble," said Oakland Unified School District Board of Education member Sheila Jordan. "At the end of the day, these are students."

Huyett said that the issue will not be brought up at next week's school board meeting but that the district will continue to gather information from the community before it proceeds with further actions.

Susan Craig, Berkeley district director of student services, said at the forum that the school board will make the final decision regarding whether the students will be able to attend the adult school.


Correction: Friday, March 25, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Heather Wood said she had formerly used drugs and spent time in juvenile hall. In fact, she did not.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Neetu Puranikmath at [email protected]

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