TO:                William Huyett, Superintendent

FROM:        Neil Smith, Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services

Susan Craig, Ed.D., Director, Student Services

DATE:        June 29, 2011

SUBJECT:        Recommendations to Eliminate the Presence of Guns at Berkeley Unified School District Schools



Recent incidents involving Berkeley High School (BHS) and Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech) students in possession of firearms are of serious concern to the District and community of Berkeley.  Ensuring the safety of Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) students and staff is of paramount importance.  The District and administration have responded with several measures to address the presence of weapons on campus and are continuing to take steps to address and ensure safety at BUSD schools.  District staff has presented a progress report on the steps being taken at each Board meeting this spring.  

This report includes a list of the actions taken to date as well as a list of the topics and recommendations from the Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Safety Committee

Introduction: Identification of the Problem

A cluster of six incidents involving students who were in possession of a firearm occurred on or near a BUSD high school campus within a two and a half month period between January 10, 2011 and March 25, 2011.


General Information

Chronology of Incidents Involving Firearms

Berkeley High School Incidents

January 10

February 4

March 22

Berkeley Technical Academy Incident

March 1

Off-Campus Incident Involving a non-BUSD Student

March 25

II. Responses to Date

  1. Disciplinary Action

In all instances involving firearm possession by B.U.S.D. students, the Berkeley Police Department was immediately notified, the incidents were investigated by site administration, and the students were suspended and recommended for expulsion as required by law.

  1. Forums

The Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Safety Committee met seven times between April 13 and June 22.  The average attendance was 10. The 18 committee members were:

Rory Bled, BHS Vice Principal on Special Assignment (temporary)

Hector Cardenas, BHS Parent

Dr. Susan Craig, BUSD Director of Student Services

Kunal Dalal, B-Tech Interim Principal

Merlin Edwards II, BUSD Student Welfare Specialist

Wendy Guinn, BHS Parent

William Huyett, BUSD Superintendent

Raymok Ketema, BHS Student

William Keys, BHS Safety Officer

Amber Lester, B-Tech Counselor

Sergeant Jen Louis, Berkeley Police Department

Robert McKnight, BHS Teacher

Jorge Melgoza, BHS Vice Principal

Amy Morales-Ambriz, BHS Parent

Dave Peattie, BHS Parent

Alejandro Ramos, Longfellow Vice Principal

Regina Simpkins, BHS Parent

Ashley Webster, BHS Student

The meetings were open to the public, and several interested parents and a representative from the media attended. The safety committee has evaluated and made recommendations to the Superintendent regarding several suggested action items related to the elimination of weapons on campus.

Berkeley High School and District staff held a forum for parents, caregivers and members of the community on March 28 to address concerns and discuss steps being taken to prevent further incidents of guns on campus.  Presenters included the Superintendent, Berkeley Police Sergeant Upson, and Pastor Michael McBride.

Focus groups with students were conducted at BHS to learn from students possible reasons students are bringing guns and weapons into campus.  The focus groups were led by BUSD staff and members of Lifelines to give students the opportunity to express their concerns in a confidential setting. While the District is still awaiting results from the interviewing teams, some students have stated that students feel fearful in the community when coming to and going from school and may carry weapons for protection.

Board members arranged and facilitated a community forum on bullying on June 11 which was attended by staff, parents, caregivers, and members of the community and the Board. Feedback from participants is currently being reviewed. In addition, an online survey for parents through Survey Monkey was conducted; over 200 responses were received.

  1. Training

Two Safety Officers, one from BHS and one from B-Tech, participated in a 40 hour conflict mediation training which was sponsored by Project Seed.

The Berkeley Police Department (BPD) provided training for BHS Administrators and Safety Officers on May 25 regarding emergency communication and search and seizure protocols.  Seventeen BHS staff members participated in the training.

All Berkeley Unified School District Safety Officers participated in a three-day training on June 20–22, conducted by Phillip Mullendore of the Institute for Campus Safety, in compliance with SB 1626.

BUSD staff has made a commitment to attend the following trainings: ten BUSD staff will participate in Dr. Joseph Marshall’s Alive and Free training on August 15–17; five BUSD staff will attend the Safe Schools Conference on August 5; and BUSD Secondary Administrators and Safety Officers will attend a gang awareness training in August led by BPD.

  1. Increased Staffing

Two additional Safety Officers were added at BHS and one additional Safety Officer was added at B-Tech prior to spring break.  The additional Safety Officers continued to work through the end of the school year.


Administrative support was added to BHS on a temporary basis specifically to implement these proactive steps to reduce weapons on campus.

An additional BPD School Resource Officer was added one day per week starting April 11 to supplement the four days already covered by the current School Resource Officer.

  1. Assessment of Needs

School Safety Consultant, Al Bahn of EduSafe Associates, completed a campus walk-through at BHS on April 19 and at B-Tech on May 10.  Mr. Bahn attended the Ad Hoc Safety Committee meeting on May 25 and reviewed his preliminary findings with the committee.  Staff has since participated in a safety survey as a part of the safety evaluation. The initial response was that BHS and B-Tech are safe campuses. The student survey has not been completed at this time.

The Superintendent, the BHS Principal, and the Lead Safety Officer conducted a review of the deployment of Safety Officers and the number of security staff members at the site.

  1. Communication

The BHS Principal held a school-wide staff meeting on March 24 to discuss weapons on campus, the plan to eliminate them, and the role of staff; he also reviewed school safety procedures. A school-wide staff meeting was also conducted by the Principal at B-Tech on February 4, the date of the firearm incident.

Administrators at BHS went into each history classroom prior to spring break to explain the rules and consequences of weapons on campus, explain the dangers of weapons, and explain how students can confidentially report information about weapons on campus.

The BHS Principal provided timely and detailed reports to families about the incidents using the district phone and email systems. The B-Tech Principal provided an immediate letter and phone communication to families regarding the firearm incident.

An anonymous tip telephone hotline (1-866-SPEAK UP) with a text message option was created and publicized to students and parents to allow them to report weapons on campus. There were a total of two calls to the anonymous tip hotline this spring; however, the organization’s staff noted that neither report met the standards to warrant alerting BHS and BPD.

  1. Physical Plant Security

Safety Officers and Administrators are stationed at every entrance in the morning prior to the start of the school day and again at the end of the lunch period.  Only five entrances at BHS are open in the morning and at lunch: 1) the main office, 2) Kittredge and Milvia, 3) the portable building area, 4) the gym, and 5) between the G and H buildings on Martin Luther King.  The gate between the Community Theater and the Administration Building has been repaired.  The gate on Allston Way between the Little Theater and the H Building is now kept locked all day.  The gates will be maintained by the site facilities manager.

The assignments of Safety Officers were re-designed to provide hourly patrols of bathrooms and other out of the way areas on campus.  A Safety Officer is now stationed all day in the portable area for continual monitoring.  An additional Safety Officer monitors the G and H building area.

  1. Increased Support for Students

Transitional support for students who are on probation, in foster care, re-entering after expulsion or homeless has been implemented with the help of a Teacher on Special Assignment at BHS and a Counselor at B-Tech.

A representative from the Safe School Ambassadors program presented this program to the Ad Hoc Safety Committee for consideration on June 8.  Additional programs and strategies to prevent and reduce bullying and violence will be reviewed with the intent of implementing a program at BHS and B-Tech during the 2011-2012 school year.  

III. Recommendations to Eliminate the Presence of Weapons on School Grounds

All topics that have been recommended to the District by BPD, through community forums, parent and community member feedback to the District, and from staff have been reviewed by the Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Safety Committee are being presented to the Board for information. After receiving direction from the Board regarding the following recommendations, the District will move forward with a plan to implement the Board’s recommendations in the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

The Ad Hoc Safety Committee’s Report and Recommendations

Police Presence at Schools: BUSD currently has one BPD School Resource Officer who works from Tuesdays through Fridays at BHS and has recently added a second .25FTE School Resource Officer to work at BHS on Mondays. BPD has recommended that a second full-time School Resource Officer be added to provide coverage at the three middle schools. The cost of adding a full-time School Resource Officer is approximately $150,000 - $180,000 per year. The Ad Hoc Safety Committee is in favor of adding a second School Resource Officer if available funding can be found.

District Security Staffing: The Ad Hoc Safety Committee recommends that the District continue to provide the increased Safety Officer staffing at B.H.S. that was implemented during the second semester of the 2010-2011 school year of 12 Safety Officers.  The District will provide a second Safety Officer at B-Tech upon request by the B-Tech Principal. In addition, the committee recommends that four Campus Monitors be hired to supervise the three BHS entrances on Milvia Street and the gate between the administration building and the Little Theater.

Uniforms for Safety Officers and Campus Monitors: The Ad Hoc Safety committee unanimously agreed that Safety Officers and Campus Monitors have a visible uniform which includes slacks and a jacket or top that has visible lettering on the front and back. The lettering does not need to state “SECURITY”; it can state, for example, “BUSD STAFF”. The uniform should be professional in appearance, have an approachable look, and allow a Safety Officer or Campus Monitor to be identified from the back at a distance. The uniform must be a requirement for duty and compliance must be monitored by site administration.

Gun/Violence Prevention Education: Gun/violence prevention education will be offered at BHS and B-Tech so that students are educated regarding the dangers of guns and will know what to do if they see one. Gun/violence prevention education will teach students that handling of any gun on campus is unsafe and illegal. Each small learning community leadership team at BHS will build one to two lessons of gun/violence prevention education into the curriculum.  Guest presenters will provide testimonials regarding the dangers of guns.  Gun safety education must also be provided to parents.  In addition, a Gun Free Zone must be created around schools.  BUSD will work with the City Council regarding this initiative.

Procedures for Visitors to Campus: The District has an existing visitor policy; however, it is difficult to enforce with the design of the administration building at BHS.  The District will provide visible signage regarding the visitor policy at all schools, a barrier to direct visitors entering the BHS administration building, and separate entrances for students and adults at BHS.  BHS administration will arrange for students to enter through the gate next to the administration building and adults to enter through the administration building doors.  Every visitor will be required to wear a visitor badge when on campus.

Programs to Strengthen Positive School Culture: The Ad Hoc Safety Committee recognizes that bullying, truancy, and related issues with student behavior may contribute to an environment that is conducive to firearms and other weapons and violence at schools. The committee agrees that the District should implement a program to strengthen positive school culture at the high schools. The committee recommends both a Tier I school-wide program to strengthen a positive school culture and a Tier II program targeted towards students who are having significant behavior issues.  The District has already made a commitment to participate in a multi-agency Tier II initiative called Lifelines to Healing. A Tier I program has not been selected yet; the committee agrees that several programs should be considered prior to making a decision. The District has already implemented a process for providing transitional support for high risk students as a Tier II intervention through the use of a counselor at B-Tech and a teacher on special assignment at Berkeley High School. The District is examining further collaboration with outside agencies, including Berkeley Mental Health, to expand mental health services and other support for high risk students.

Closed Campus: Current policy states that the BHS campus is closed between classes (periods one, two and three, and periods four, five, and six) and is open only at lunch time.  The current policy is not monitored adequately and must be strictly and consistently enforced.  BHS has a student population of over 3,000 students and has the capacity to feed 500 students during the lunch period.  Presently, due to limited available facilities for feeding students on campus, it is not feasible to close the campus at lunch time. However, the District will explore the costs of facilities, personnel and other resources for closing the campus all day in the future.

Perimeter Security: BHS will reduce the number of entrances for students to four. The four entrances will be 1) between the administration building and the Little Theater, 2) at Milvia and Kittredge, 3) at Milvia and Bancroft, and 4) at Milvia and Durant. Each entrance will be permanently staffed with a BUSD Campus Monitor.  In addition, Safety Officers and the BPD School Resource Officer will jointly patrol the perimeter of BHS and the neighborhood that is in close proximity to the school.

Screening for Weapons:  There has been some interest from parents and community members regarding metal detectors. However, District administration, the external consultant, and BPD do not think metal detectors are an effective option, and the committee does not support this option. It is not feasible to process over 3,000 students through metal detectors within a limited period of time.  The District will provide ongoing training for Safety Officers and administrators regarding search and seizure procedures, protocols, and standards for what constitutes reasonable suspicion.

Identification Badges for Students: The Ad Hoc Safety Committee is in support of requiring identification badges for students, per school policy. The committee is split, however, regarding whether or not to require the identification badges to be visible at all times. The Superintendent recommends for the coming school year that the District require identification badges and examine the possible benefits of requiring the identification badges to be visible in the future. The committee recommends that identification badges be checked for any student entering or leaving campus early or late but not at lunch break.  Periodic identification badge checks will be conducted, possibly during advisory. In addition, identification badges will be required for attendance at extra-curricular activities including athletic events, dances, and proms. The option of requiring identification badges for middle school students in order to prepare them for high school should be explored.

Increased Collaboration Between the Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Police Department: The District will meet collaboratively with representatives from the Berkeley Police Department on a regular basis and maintain ongoing communication. The BUSD Superintendent, BPD Chief of Police, BPD Sergeant of Youth Services, and BUSD Director of Student Services plan to meet on a quarterly basis. In addition, representatives from BPD and Probation will be invited to attend monthly Secondary Council meetings with the middle and high school Principals.

Next Steps

Pursuant to direction from the Governing Board, the District will continue to gather and track data related to the recommendations and will create an action plan which includes full costs and timelines. The Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Safety Committee will have at least one additional meeting in the fall to review the plan.

While the focus of the Ad Hoc Safety Committee’s recommendations was specific to preventing the presence of guns at schools, the District will review recommended action steps related to preparedness for the possibility of an immediate threat on campus.  An action step that has been discussed is the installation of classroom door locks that lock from the inside in all BUSD schools.  A study regarding the financial feasibility and benefits of interior door locks will be conducted and presented to the Board in the fall.  In addition, a staff training for defending against armed intruders called A.L.I.C.E., which was recommended by the External Safety Consultant, will be reviewed.

The District is concerned that the students’ voices related to guns and safety concerns have not been adequately heard. The District will continue to work on receiving students’ input related to guns and safety and will explore the use of technology, including social networking, to increase communication with BUSD youth.


II. C. Positive Behavior Support


Board Policy 5131.7


Approximately $180,000 ($269,000 - $89,000 previously allocated) for increased district safety staff


Approve the Recommendations to Eliminate the Presence of Guns at Berkeley Unified School District Schools.