Berkeley High: after recommendations on safety, the school board will come back with a detailed plan. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

While Berkeley High should tighten its perimeter, enlist its uniformed police officer to patrol its edges and nearby park, have its security officers wear identifiable uniforms, and teach students about the impact of guns, it should not require students to wear a visible identification badges and use them to get on and off campus – at least not yet.

There are still too many unresolved issues on how to implement the mechanics of closing the campus and requiring ID badges to move forward quickly, school board members decided Wednesday night. The board directed Superintendent Bill Huyett and his staff to more closely examine those items and return with a more detailed and workable plan.

“We don’t have to do this by fall,” said Board member John Selawsky. “I just want to see us working on it.”

Huyett agreed that rushing into a new set of requirements might not be the best idea.

“The devil is in the details,” said Huyett. “If we implement this too quickly without having more student input, I worry it will not be successful.”

Three months after Berkeley was rattled by a series of guns in its high schools, the school board on Wednesday night got its first chance to formally consider a set of eleven recommendations made by a committee set up to look at weapons on campus. School board members seemed pleased at the breadth of the recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Safety Committee, although some questioned how improvements could be quantified or if just focusing on weapons on campus was a broad enough approach to making the high school a safer place.

“Keeping the weapons off campus is something we can try to do, but just addressing physical safety will in the long run be more effective,” said Karen Hemphill, a board member.

The board agreed that using metal detectors on Berkeley High School’s 3,200 students would not be practical, that its school security officers should wear more identifiable uniforms, that the district come up with a gun education plan that BHS’ small schools can implement, and that the district work more closely with the Berkeley Police Department.

The board also agreed that the high school needs to enforce its existing visitors policy, which requires all visitors to wear visible ID badges and to check in with the front office before wandering on campus. The board approved a plan to create a physical mechanism, like a counter or a rope, to steer visitors to a centralized check in.

The board also liked the idea of having high school faculty and staff wear ID badges at all times as a way of setting an example for students. But the board was split on the practicality of requiring students to wear ID badges and the ways to enforce that policy.

Board members expressed concern about how to enforce this policy. They imagined scenarios in which students caught without their ID cards would be sent to the dean’s office to clear their transgressions. If only 2% of the students forget their IDs each day, that would mean 60 students would need a clearance,  said Pasquale Scuderi, the BHS principal.

“What are we going to do with the kids who left them at home?” said Selawsky. “Are they going to miss school because they don’t have their IDs?”

Hemphill said she supported the idea of having all the students wear ID badges, but was concerned with a plan that had them carry them and be ordered to produce them on demand. She said that may lead to safety officers singling out certain types of students, which would not be fair.

The board did agree that a crucial first step would be to require students to show their ID cards before attending a football game, a dance, or other school event.

The board was also unsure if the district should require students to show their ID badges when coming on or going off campus at any time after lunch.

The board did agree to spend as much as $269,000 a year to hire four new staff people to monitor Berkeley High’s entrances, continue to have 12 school safety officers and a uniformed police officer on campus five days a week, and pay for increased training for staff, among other measures.

Huyett will come back to the board in August with an action plan for the nine recommendations they did adopt, with more information on the other two later. He will also lay out a way to quantify the district’s progress and appoint a staff person to oversee the proposals.

Dave Peattie, a Berkeley High parent and one  of the members of the Ad Hoc Safety Committee, urged the school board to insist on accountability and transparency. In particular, he urged the school board to follow Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan’s recommendation to collect and analyze more data on students.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. Many parents believe fraudulently registered students contribute to crime problems. What is certain is that fraudulently registered students dilute the effect of the several parcel taxes we pay. Particularly now with state funding cuts.

    The school board has a legal obligation to assure that Berkeley’s families receive the full benefit of the taxes they pay. This fall and every fall, at all grade levels, each student’s parent or guardian should be required to complete and sign a form confirming the student’s Berkeley residency or valid inter-district transfer. 

    For those students who are fraudulently registered, this would provide district officials a current record/evidence of parents or guardians falsifying information. This alone may dissuade some. When it is proven that a student has committed a crime, on or off campus, their residency should be confirmed. If it cannot be confirmed, the districts obligation to the student would change significantly.

  2. I don’t think sanctions are so much the issue as just having a system. At my place of employment we wear badges. Need them to enter/exit all buildings. If you forget your  badge for a day you go sign out a loaner in the front office that is good for ONE DAY and it has a date clearly on it. This is not rocket science. Badges, unlike metal detectors or a closed campus, are a simple, cheap, easily enforceable step toward more safety. Of course there are no silver bullets but each step toward accountability is a step in the right direction. Spending $.25 million for more staff without improving practices, standards, enforcement or policy is just stupid. See 

  3. I concur in all of the points Goodkind makes.  Selawsky’s attitude is appalling.  And property crime and bullying is a serious problem.  Good kids are being victimized by thugs.  Finally, if a kid forgets a badge once, tough luck. He or she probably won’t forget it a second time if there an appropriate sanction applied.

  4. Karen Hemphill does not understand crime just as the City Council does not understand crime and how THEFT and PROPERTY crime is a disaster in the City of Berkeley:

    A calculation on the property+theft crime rates in major cities in Alameda County (based on crime stats 2009):

    % Property+Theft Crimes Per Capita:
    Berkeley 7.5% (jumps to 8.6% if you add UC Berkeley crimes)
    Oakland 5.6%
    San Leandro 5.2%

    Newark 4.8%
    Union City 3.6%

    Hayward 3.5%
    Fremont 3.1%
    Pleasanton 2.5%
    Livermore 2.7%

    Alameda County overall: 4.3%

    You get what you vote for.

  5. Let’s just get a few facts on the table.
    #1.  All the kids at El Cerrito HS wear ID badges. All of them. It is not as big as BHS but with a population from Richmond to Kensington it is certainly as diverse.This is so easy to figure out – why doesn’t a BUSD staff person call that principal and ASK what happens when a student forgets a badge? #2.  Also, many students concur, there is danger on campus from non-students who are there, blending in with the students. This is not just about guns, it is about danger, fights, threats, and off campus violence that starts on campus. Wearing ID badges would help with this problem. #3.  John Selawsky’s attitude is definitely part of the problem in a generic way. If his approach is used, we will still be talking about this next June. The BUSD school board and the district in general is one of the most entrenched systems anywhere.And while we are at it, why did Karen Hemphill go out of her way to say that on campus theft was not part of the problem? It is a huge part of the problem. Just ask any kid who has had his/her cell phone or iPod stolen, reported it to the safety officers and been told that’s too bad, the school doesn’t think that is important. This is how bullies become thugs and later this leads to greater violence. Many of the victims are the kids who have less money and cannot afford to replace their stolen property. The school turns its backs on those kids who have been victimized – but Karen Hemphill wants to let those thefts and burglaries go uninvestigated and unpunished. She brought it up, and called it out at the meeting all on her own, saying it should not be included.  Why is she going out of her way to protect the bullies and turning her back on the victims?

  6. “We don’t have to do this by fall,” said Board member John Selawsky. “I just want to see us working on it.”

    “Selawsky” and “working” in the same sentence… wow

    The most stunning show of Selawsky working is during the May 11, 2001 BUSD board meeting where he was “voting” in favor of the CDS/independent study/whatever verbal plan that ACOE had. Selawsky was asking Sheila Jordan if he could put middle schoolers in the CDS/independent study/whatever verbal plan which as Sheila Jordan correctly responded would be a violation of education code. Then he proceeded to approve the “plan.”

    The ACOE never presented a plan yet Selawsky approved it! After the meeting he even rushed to kiss Sheila Jordan’s @$$.

  7. I second this.  I have encountered and observed JOHN SELAWKSY at his job many times and every time I wonder…WTF?  I know he stands for….bicycles.  That’s it.

  8. ACT I: A Better Idea
    I have a better idea. If you are found on campus carrying a gun, stealing, assaulting, etc. then your legal guardians are imposed a fine of $10,000 per offense. Then you send these kids to be dish washers for a month paying the minimum wage – let them see what awaits their ignorant uneducated selves when they reach 18. You will see how fast this problem is resolved.

    ACT II: Why kids bring guns to school
    Perhaps the reason kids carry weapons to school is so that the teachers and other students pay attention to them. Because just like every other human being the want SOMEONE to pay attention to them. Perhaps the system of grades and performance evaluation we use is what is causing the behavior. They just want the attention they don’t get at home – the attention they don’t get at school – the attention they don’t get from the kids who study all day. It is about social acceptance and resentment. Our teaching methods are to blame.

    ACT III: The true source of all these problems
    Here we are wasting thousands of dollars on safety officers, experts, police time, BUSD board member’s time, Huyett’s time, @a85003bc2b02c07b932ff96bcbff978e:disqus ‘s, @43f6f913d45e01a45156f703bfe4b835:disqus ‘s, and my time on this small set of kids while we have so many other kids trying to learn and get prepared for the new and highly uncertain society we are preparing for them.

    We are all victims of a small group of kids because some of our guild-ridden ancestors of ours decided that we have to educate everyone. We end up fighting each other to support not these kids but the IDEA that EDUCATION will provide EQUALITY. Yet is it all stemming from an inherent feeling of GUILT.

    Where does that guilt come from? Despite our claims of secular government our laws and policies follow a christian-oriented belief that we have all sinned – sinned against minorities and we are all guilty. It is ingrained in our policies, indocrinated in our students, “dogmatized” our elected officials… they all operate under GUILTY. The only way they can all save their souls is through over-extending ourselves and wasting valuable human and material sources towards these kids as a selfish act of FORGIVENESS.

  9. I think it should be pointed out that, except for the weapon discharged in the bathroom, in all the other incidents, it was a student that ‘ratted out’ the gun toting student to a trusted adult.

  10. When I found out that the Sierra Club endorsed Selawsky I stopped my contributions to them.

  11. I like Heather’s husband’s idea.  Thousands are not needed.  I am confident that a $100 cash reward for anonymous tips would generate good leads. The problem is that you then have angry juvenile perps acting paranoid about who ratted (sp?) them out, and looking for maybe looking for revenge. 

  12. I … have prioritized disaster preparedness and school safety issues. – John Selawsky, Candidate Statement from 2004. Really, Selawksy? I think not. In fact, you rarely even expend enough energy in meeting to offer up anything helpful at all. JOHN SELAWKSY does nothing at all.. but sit there and look bored. 

  13. As Laura Menard has been stating for years: implement ‘best practices”; emergency response to situations warranting the response (as in, teachers and district employees react systematically to threats on campus); District working in cooperation with other agencies — BPD, DA’s office, Alameda County Probation and others,  swift and immediate reporting to Berkeley Police Department when weapons, robberies and other crimes are committed on campus; a firm, committed Truancy program that works on the street level. I’m sure I’ve not said this eloquently enough, but the fact is, it isn’t the School District’s job to solve the problems of society; it is their responsibility to ensure safety on campus. These are fairly simple measures that would not be impossible to implement quickly. It just takes commitment and cooperation; the district wants to dilute the problem-solving by having no problem solving via committees and unfocused, not-goal-oriented solutions.

    My husband had an interesting idea that would involve the community: offer substantial rewards to anonymous tips that rat out a student who has a gun on campus, in addition, put out a retired Post Office drop off blue box for students who decide having a gun is a bad idea… honestly, you offer a couple grand to anonymous snitches and you will quickly find the campus empty of guns… there’s a lot of kids who would gladly take a couple grand to rat out their classmates anonymously. This would take relying on the Police department to act on these tips and allow for anonymous collection of reward, but damn.. it would work. 

  14. All this discussion about ids – the students involved were BHS students, known to everyone – not outsiders.  They were also legitimately on campus (if not legitimately armed).  This seems to be lost in all the arguments….

  15. This only works if you trust that every security guard is able to recognize each one of over 3,000 students well enough to notice that a single individual on campus does not belong there.

    Kids who are coming onto campus who aren’t supposed to be on campus will not go to the front office and get a visitor’s ID badge. They will just slip onto campus. The only people who will go out of their way to get visitor’s badges are folks who are looking to follow the rules, which are exactly the kind of people that the security won’t need to focus on at all.

    If you really think the security staff can already pick out those one or two unfamiliar faces in a sea of over 3,000 kids, adding ID badges won’t make them any less able to do so. But it would create an additional hurdle that a trespasser would need to jump in order to get onto campus undetected, meaning that a trespasser would need to actively plan in advance rather than being able to sneak onto campus at the spur of the moment as they can now.

  16. I guess it is more “expensive” to require them to carry IDs but not
    display them then it is to require them to carry IDs and display them.

    And I guess it is easier for them to display stolen or forged IDs than it is to display no ID at all, as they currently do. 

    About stolen IDs: If someone with a stolen ID causes trouble and security looks at the ID and finds it is stolen, then they have caught that person in a crime and can take action against them.

    About forged IDs:  Before people can board an airplane, they have to display a photo ID.  You should work on convincing the airports to change that policy by telling them how easy it is to forge an ID.

  17. How about requiring students to wear a uniform just like all top secondary education schools in Europe. That will dispense with the IDs and the expense of having them or forgetting them or whatever. Stop babying these kids!!! 

  18. Charles, you wrote the quotes below, which I think are wrong – practically backwards.   I’m not trying to pick on you – you’re expressing a popular opinion and I want to speak to that opinion.  You wrote:

    Unless everyone wears a visible ID, those “visitors” can easily enter
    the campus without IDs by just blending in with a crowd of students who
    are entering.

    When I used to hang around with people that liked to subvert and toy with bogus security systems — we loved the kind of bogus policy you are suggesting.  It makes it easier to sneak around.   You are describing a system that lulls people into a false sense of security;  that wastes plenty of money;  and that makes it easier for people sneaking past it.   I’ll try to sum up why:

    A casual glance is the very most checking a visible student ID will get, almost all the time.   If we all treated this as a universal anthropological truth — a kind of axiom — we’d have it about right.

    Because of that, a stolen or forged student ID is a free pass in a situation where there would be a false sense of security.  In practice, a visitor could probably even get by without any displayed ID at all, or get by displaying the cheapest of forgeries.    Should anyone ever exploit that problem, no doubt there would be finger pointing and hand-wringing over who exactly didn’t check carefully enough when and where — but none of that will erase the fact that it is a dumb, ineffective, makes-things-less-safe security tactic in the first place.   It’s a dumb idea in the first place because, realistically, the ID won’t be scrutinized when you wish it would have been because there is just a big sea of displayed IDs and they fade from conscious attention.

    Another not-so-nice aspect of the emerging student ID fetish is that if an ID program is not designed quite carefully, an easy outcome is to have a rule requiring every student to carry a card which others have incentive to steal.  One might steal an ID to gain access to the school or simply just to harass the victim.

    And this bit is where the idea goes from simply wrong to nearly backwards:

    They may be split on the practicality of requiring students to wear visible IDs. 
    they should all be able to see the impracticality of requiring visitors
    to wear IDs without requiring students to wear visible IDs.

    Suppose that everyone in the building is required to display ID at all times.   Then the absence of ID might, if we are lucky, attract attention — but bad actors can easily avoid that by displaying a stolen or forged ID.  Nobody is likely to look very carefully at it in the hallways because, well, everyone is wearing an ID all the time.

    On the contrary, suppose that

    (a) students and staff are required to carry, not display photo ID

    (b) visitors are required to display temporary ID

    What follows:

    Security can concentrate scrutiny of credentials on that visitor group — forgeries and thefts are less likely to work well.

    Security can challenge any unfamiliar or oddly acting party not displaying ID to produce a photo ID.

    In such challenges, the authenticity of the instrument is less important than the interaction with the challenged actor, unless the ID instrument is wildly more expensive and fancy than anything conceivable for a high school. 

    The system is still vulnerable to someone who can easily “pass” as a student or staff member BUT the oddity of an unfamiliar face who is not displaying a visitor pass stands out MORE. 

    In summary:

    Photo IDs for everyone who belongs there on an ongoing basis — along with rules that permit a “show your ID” challenge.

    Displayed IDs only for visitors — enabling security to concentrate scarce scrutiny (like ID challenges) on unfamiliar actors.

    The IDs are for no purpose other than a security challenge (e.g., don’t drift into using them as debit cards in the cafeteria).

  19. The board was also unsure if the district should require students to
    show their ID badges when coming on or going off campus at any time
    after lunch.

    A very elementary question about the mechanics of implementing policies as I’m not totally familiar with the campus..  There are supposed to be only four entrances to the campus that will be monitored.  What about exit points?   Are these all alarmed or can the students leave out of any door that opens to ‘off campus’?

  20.  “The board also agreed that the high school needs to enforce its
    existing visitors policy, which requires all visitors to wear visible ID
    badges and to check in with the front office before wandering on
    campus. The board approved a plan to create a physical mechanism, like a
    counter or a rope, to steer visitors to a centralized check in. …
    But the board was split on the practicality of requiring
    students to wear ID badges and the ways to enforce that policy.”

    I don’t see how they can enforce that visitors policy if they don’t require students to wear IDs.  As I understand it, the “visitors” who cause trouble are often drop-outs who look like students.  Unless everyone wears a visible ID, those “visitors” can easily enter the campus without IDs by just blending in with a crowd of students who are entering. 

    They may be split on the practicality of requiring students to wear visible IDs. 
    But they should all be able to see the impracticality of requiring visitors to wear IDs without requiring students to wear visible IDs.

  21. reality check

    Berkeley Schools Have New Plan To Tackle Student Gun Problems

    June 29, 2011 7:33 PM

    Reporting Margie Shafer

    BERKELEY (KCBS) – A school security expert sees both the good and the
    bad in a plan to eliminate guns at Berkeley Unified schools. The plan,
    to be presented to the school board Wednesday night, comes after a
    number of students were caught with guns at the district’s high schools
    this year.

    Seven young people were discovered to be in possession of guns at Berkeley Highand Berkeley Tech in the first three months of this year.

    President of the National School Safety and Security Services,
    Kenneth Trump, analyzed the report for KCBS, and had praise for its
    comprehensiveness. He said it covers prevention, security, police-school
    collaboration, and open communication with the community. However, he
    said it is lacking in an emergency preparedness plan.

    “In one instance there was gunfire on campus and several school
    employees called other school employees instead of notifying the
    police,” said Trump. “If you had a good emergency plan you’d want to
    make sure that the staff are empowered to make those calls right away.”

    He noted that creating such a plan takes more time than money, and just involves going over hypothetical situations.

    Trump also takes issue with Alice Training, which teaches kids to
    fight back against armed intruder. He describes it as a questionable
    practice and said that it is more suited to colleges and universities.

    “That’s not something that we recommend at a K-12 level,” said Trump.
    “It’s hard enough to get middle school kids to figure out whether or
    not they’re going to do chicken nuggets or pizza at lunch, much less get
    coordinated simultaneously on a moment’s notice to attack an armed
    intruder. That really could make them less safe in the end.”

    As for metal detectors, Trump said the report concluded that they
    just don’t work because they aren’t used consistently, mostly because
    they are costly and labor-intensive to staff.

  22. Sorry, typing without reading.

    change expect student behave responsibilities to

    Expect students to behave responsibly.

  23. Huyett spoke out of both sides of his mouth, on the one hand he answered board members questions about implementing an ID program with ” as a former high school principal I have done this many times, it is simple and standard practice” and on the other hand, he referenced the long standing enabling theory that Berkeley kids are a special breed and it takes a lot of coaching and time to be able to expect student behave responsibilities.

    There is a lot of confusion of terms both in this blogs debates and by the board and district staff. I was disgusted last night, and still look around my community and wonder how smart people can AFFORD such idiocy, financially or practically.

    ID change the culture of anonymity, it is that simple and effective.  The small school theory relies on the notion that reduces anonymity improved behavior and achievement.

    Closing the campus reduces truancy, truancy is directly tied to juvenile delinquency.
    Does any of you know how many BHS students were detained in north Oakland during the last week of school? A group of BHS student  were caught running from a home just broken into.

    At this point I think I live in a community of people with too much money and not enough guts to do the right thing.

    Mentoring is fine, but is not a comprehensive solution, especially with the environment in the schools is so unstructured as to invite misbehavior.

    Hiring more safety officers and now monitors is a waste. There were already too many under performing, unaccountable, untrained people on the payroll without proper directions or procedures.

  24. This might be a good fit – check out a new safety technology called SituCon ( that schools around the country are deploying which also protects student and teacher privacy. It’s the best of both worlds – safety and privacy. This technology places “eyelids” over the cameras, so that they are only opened when needed. It also gives teachers wireless emergency buttons – If danger arises, with the push of one of these buttons emergency notifications are sent to school administrators and first responders, which detail who pressed the button and where they are in the building. At the same time, as the camera’s eyelids open, live video of the situation can be viewed at dispatch centers and on smart phones. An article about it: