Cameras Possible at High School

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No, Berkeley High School is not the site of the next Big Brother episode - the students may be filmed, but supposedly nobody will be watching.

If a measure is approved by the Berkeley School Board at their meeting next Wednesday, cameras will monitor students as they shuffle through the hallways of Berkeley High.

As part of a plan to keep students in line this year, the high school is also weighing a plan to have local merchants bring food vendors inside the campus to deter students from disrupting neighborhood businesses.

The cameras will record, but tapes will only be reviewed if a disruption occurs and the administration needs to find a culprit. School Boardmember Ted Schultz said this is a standard non-intrusive tactic that will both deter crime and make it easier to find students who break the rules.

"You're not exactly in a private situation," he said. "You're in a public area and you shouldn't have any concern unless you're not behaving appropriately."

The school will also position "safety officers" at all entrances next year, according to a draft report by Berkeley High's transition team.

Toshi Holland, whose daughter will be a senior at the school next year, said the whole situation tells of the problems of the larger society.

"It just makes me feel bad," she said. "Guards (at the entrances) symbolize that it's not safe anymore. I still want to believe that in high school kids learn the values they're going to have in their life."

Holland said cameras may be necessary, but admits that her daughter, who is "still really idealistic," may not agree with her. Mariko Holland may be a little more excited about the on-campus lunch plan, however. Her mom said she sometimes does not eat at all because she has tutoring scheduled during lunch time and cannot get to the crowded fast food restaurants in time.

The cafeteria plan, while giving students more choice, may also be a sign of a "disturbing" new direction toward a closed campus, said Will Lerner, who will be a senior next year. Lerner added, however, that he only uses the current campus snack bar as a "last resort."

Lerner is not entirely against a stricter campus and said the hall cameras are a step in the right direction. Still, he and Schultz said, if a student wants to break a rule, neither cameras nor cafeterias nor guards will stop them.

When the administration started to float ideas such as putting student identification on clothing or requiring school uniforms, even staff and parents resisted, some likening the school's policies to those of a "police state," Lerner said. Those proposals, it seems, were scrapped, but next year the school is planning to require students to carry their identification cards at all times, Lerner said.

Last September, a group of teenagers said to be Berkeley High School students "rioted," as Lerner described it, stealing more than $2,000 worth of food and alcohol from the E-Z Stop Deli on Shattuck Avenue and smashing windows in the process.

But most merchants are just paranoid of the students, said Vincent Trahan, owner of Top Dog on Milvia Street across from the school.

"They see a group of minority kids come and their eyes pop out and their antennas come up," he said. "I don't foresee any problems."

Trahan knows the subject pretty well. He coaches the junior varsity basketball team and has worked as a safety officer at the school for three years, breaking up large groups of students and herding them into classrooms. He said students respect him because instead of telling them what to do, he asks for their input.

He also knows what students want during their lunch time and has prepared his store to suit them. Since they have a tight time schedule, Trahan put a line on the ground, in red and gold school colors, to direct students right to the meat. He even developed a special menu for the conventional Berkeley High appetite - a dog, a drink and some curly fries for a to-go price.


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