Berkeley High Parents Discuss Concerns, Ideas at Gun Safety Forum

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Correction Appended

Following a recent spike in gun-related incidents on campus, more than 100 Berkeley High School parents attended a public forum Monday evening to discuss ways to both improve security and dissuade students from bringing firearms to school.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett and principal Pasquale Scuderi headed the event as they took questions and listened to comments from parents for almost two hours in the Berkeley Community Theater located on campus.

While parents voiced general satisfaction with the school's on-site response to the three incidents that have occurred at the school in 2011, many speakers demanded both immediate action and long-term plans be prepared before someone at the school gets hurt.

"The school is not to blame for what the students do, but you are responsible for stepping up to the plate when things go awry," said Stacey Jones, a mother of a senior at the school. "Events have been occurring at this school for a while now, and you guys have not set into motion any back plan."

Jones, the last of more than a dozen parents to speak at the forum, said the school needs more staff and resources if it hopes to sustain a safe environment at a school "the size of some community colleges." She said that if the school community can raise large amounts of money for sports programs, then it should also be able to make the same investment in safety for students.

Ideas for improving safety ranged from requiring students to wear identification badges while on campus to adding more sophisticated security cameras to the school grounds. The suggestion of adding metal detectors at every campus entrance generated the most debate among parents, with some arguing that installing detectors would be an overreaction that would increase fear and tension among students, and others praising the idea as a highly visible message to students that guns are not be tolerated at school.

"Let me just tell you the reality of the danger at this school right now," said Matthew Golde, head of the juvenile division of Alameda County's District Attorney Office. "We have so many armed robberies at this school it's unbelievable, both in school and the park across the street We have people selling drugs, possessing weapons, beating people down. All Berkeley High students."

Some parents called metal detectors "a Band-Aid" and wanted to know both where students were obtaining weapons and the motivations behind bringing firearms on campus. According to Michael McBride, pastor of The Way Christian Center on University Avenue near West Street, teenagers who had confided in him said they procured their guns from illegal gun sales in other cities for personal protection.

"Some of the young people I have worked with do not believe anyone is going to protect them, and they are scared for their lives," he said. "It is incumbent upon all of us as a community to figure out how to make them feel more safe."

Four school district board members also attended the forum. Discussions about safety at Berkeley High will continue at a district board meeting, which is open to the public, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Tags: BERKELEY HIGH SCHOOL, ALAMEDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, BERKELEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

Correction: Friday, April 1, 2011
A previous version of this article's headline incorrectly referred to the gun safety forum as a drug safety forum.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Jeffrey Butterfield covers local schools. Contact him at [email protected]



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