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Is Discipline a Problem at Berkeley High School?

Suspensions were down in the first half of this school year compared to the same period last year.

Extra police officers were at Berkeley High School Thursday, the day following after-school melees that resulted in four arrests and multiple suspensions. Jennifer Coats, BPD’s public information officer, said Thursday afternoon that there had been no repeat of Wednesday’s violence.

In a letter to the school community sent the day of the incident, principal Pasquale Scuderi expressed concern that students mobbed the fights in such large numbers: “One of the most disturbing aspects of this afternoon was the way that so many kids rushed toward the scenes of these incidents and in a few cases, albeit unintentionally, made it difficult for school safety staff and administrators to get to where they needed to get to provide assistance quickly.”

In a letter sent in December, Scuderi noted that the school recorded a decline in disciplinary incidents for the first half of the school year: “‘Total Incidents’ which we define as disciplinary referrals, suspensions, or any other walk-in issues to OCI, totalled 939 from the beginning of school through winter break in 2011-2012 while for the same period of time this year, 2012-2013, we have logged 610 incidents. This means total incidents have dropped 35% from where they were last year at this time.

Suspensions, those incidents generally pertaining to more serious issues like physical altercations, alcohol or substance issues, or vandalism, totalled 165 from the beginning of school through winter break in 2011-2012, while for the same period of time this year we have logged 104. This means suspensions have dropped by almost 37% from where they were last year at this time.”

In 2010-11, Berkeley High reported 197 suspensions and seven expulsions to the California Department of Education. That year, the school had an enrollment of 3,417.

A study by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights found that while black students only made up 25 percent of the student body in 2009, they represented 100 percent of the expulsions that year, and more than half the suspensions.

That same year, staff gave Berkeley high schools poor marks in a survey seeking to gauge campus climate.

For example, only 5 percent of staff strongly agreed with the statement that the school "has sufficient resources to create a safe campus." When asked if the school "effectively handles student discipline and behavioral problems," only 5 percent strongly agreed.

Are you a student or a staff member at Berkeley High School? What do you think? Does the school maintain a good learning environment? 

Abigail S. January 18, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Thanks for the story. There was an excellent program on Forum on KQED this morning about an exciting research-driven program being implemented in Oakland elementary schools called "Roots of Empathy" - http://www.rootsofempathy.org I don't know if it has a high school component, but with a 35% reduction in disciplinary incidents so far at BHS, it seems that efforts using Restorative Justice, etc., are having an impact. Still a long way to go, but that's no small feat. My kids aren't at Berkeley High yet - waiting with baited breath.
Berkeley Mom January 20, 2013 at 01:15 AM
I went to BHS. I have two children there now. I happened to walk to the school just as the Police and the BHS security, along with the Principal, had dealt with everything. I was not threatened to be there, it was clearly handled. I have been very impressed with the Principal's communication to the community. He is quick to provide everyone with the facts so that we are all not left to rumors. I asked both of my children - not only in relationship to this incident, but on a regular basis - do you feel safe? Always, an emphatic yes. Do you know what to do if you don't feel safe, who to go to, and would you? Always an emphatic yes. They are receiving an education, both social and academic without comparison to schools local and in other locations. I can attest that a student who attends Berkeley High and allows themselves to be a part of the social and academic life there will be able to venture out into this whole world prepared to be successful. Abigail and others - look deeper than what is sensationalized and spread to the community. Attend some BHS events. You will be stunned!

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