Berkeley High parents received an email late last night that suggests that the school’s administration is putting its laissez-faire reputation behind it:

Recently two students walking across the BHS upper courtyard saw another student with a container of cookies and asked for one. After eating the cookie both students became ill enough to require medical attention. As a result of the medical visit it was determined that the cookie contained marijuana. The student who furnished the cookie to the students was identified and suspended immediately. This incident was also reported to the Berkeley Police Department. Please remind your student to use good judgment when accepting any edible items from other students.

As a parent, I think there are two ways to react to the email. You could think, “Oh my god, how can there be kids handing out cookies with marijuana?” Or, you could think, “These things happen at high schools. It sounds like the administration acted promptly and sensibly.” My view is the latter.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Sorry Lance, this reform is not coming from BHS admin, they have been forced into compliance by parents…. this one piece of the incident reporting program took 8 years for see some minor action. Most incidents that reach a police referral are not reported to staff or community. The only reason this incident was notice is because of the rumors, an ambulance was likely involved and the fact the papers/tv news covered a similar incidents at Logan High just a few weeks ago. Doug story below clues people into just how difficult this reform was to get through. The Supt told Slemp to comply.

    At BHS teaching staff does not receive school incidents reports, teachers are in the dark unless they have direct knowledge or hear about something second hand. For years when I was a parent, teachers would email me asking for me to provide them with information.

    Standard practice in any school is to keep staff informed. Teachers have repeatedly complained about this problem at staff meeting to Slemp, he ignores the issue, and prefers to pretend.
    There is a reason why cops call him “good news only Slemp”.

    Berkeley High officials promise to report school crimes
    By Doug Oakley

    Berkeley High School administrators have pledged to start informing parents of assault, theft, robbery and drug dealing at the school following formal complaints made in January and February.

    A group of parents sitting on the state-mandated safety committee at the school said they have long been kept in the dark about crime at the school, and they are pleased at the change.

    And in a related development, the school will open negotiations with the union representing safety officers asking them to start wearing clothing that clearly identifies them to city police.

    Berkeley police made the request that the safety officers wear identifying clothing so that when they respond to incidents at the school they can tell the good guys from the bad guys.

    “All we’re saying is why don’t you wear a uniform that is identifiable to us?” said Berkeley Police spokesman Andrew Frankel.

    “If you’re an officer and you’re responding to the school, you may not know who the security officers are. You wouldn’t know if they are somebody involved in the incident, a parent or what.”

    In a letter sent earlier this month to the school safety committee, Vice Principal Maggie Heredia-Peltz, said the school would notify parent and employees of violent crime via e-mail, it will implement a confidential reporting process for kids who are victims of crime and it will work to bring down incidents of theft at the school.

    The letter also said the school would make a better effort to enforce restraining orders concerning people at the school.

    Since January Berkeley police were called to the school numerous times including five cases of battery, with two of those resulting in student hospitalizations; two strong arm robberies, one assault with a deadly weapon, two cases of brandishing a knife, one arrest for possession and sale of marijuana; and 21 cases of theft.

    Although school officials say Berkeley High has less crime than other urban high schools of similar size, parents said they should at least know about it, so they can protect their children.

    “There is a crime problem, but they hide it,” said parent Liz Scherer who sits on the safety committee and is pleased the school will start reporting crimes.

    “The community and parents should be informed, so we can all work together to reduce crime on and around the campus.” Scherer said

    “Principal Jim Slemp “had just flatly refused to inform the community and parents about assaults, robberies and guns on campus.”

    Heredia-Peltz made the changes in crime reporting while Slemp was out on medical leave. Neither Slemp nor Heredia-Peltz returned phone calls seeking comment, but Berkeley schools spokesman Mark Coplan said the school will stick by the vice principal’s change.

    “I think there has been an information gap,” Coplan said. “Reporting incidents is important because, one, you don’t want to blow anything out of proportion by not reporting it, and you want to address things as they occur.”

    Parent Diana Rossi said she quit the safety committee at the start of the year because she felt Berkeley High School administrators were not taking the committee’s work seriously. But she is happy to hear of the new changes.

    “There is a problem with crime there,” Rossi said. “It’s not the worst school in the world, but it’s not the stereotypical hippy dippy Berkeley kind of place. You have to watch your back.”