A committee focusing on improving gun safety in local high schools will meet one final time this week before presenting a finalized report of recommendations to the district’s Board of Directors June 29.
This past school year, seven separate incidences of students bringing guns to Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy led to growing concern from parents and students regarding gun safety and gun control in the Berkeley Unified School District and led Superintendent Bill Huyett to create an Ad Hoc Safety Committee in April.
“(In the past) there might have been the rare weapon that has been discovered in different years,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “I think the point here that these incidences happened because someone spoke up, someone reported it.”
The committee — comprised of district and school administrators, parents, students, teachers, campus safety officers and a police sergeant — has met five times since their initial meeting April 13, according to committee member and the district’s Director of Student Services Dr. Susan Craig.
She said parent forums, student focus groups and meetings with professional safety consultant Al Bahn at Edu-Safe Associates to survey and assess various safety aspects of the two schools have aided the committee in the creation of their recommendations in the report.
In addition to the various meetings, the Berkeley Police Department also submitted recommendations to the committee, including implementing a closed campus at lunch at Berkeley High School, changing the uniforms of the current safety officers so that they are more visible, requiring visible student identification cards and providing more support services for high risk youth, according to Craig.
“We are looking at coordinating with the police and some of the members in the community to have a program called Lifelines to Healing, where we are going to be mentoring students who are finding themselves making wrong choices and getting into trouble,” she said.
Berkeley High School has already implemented several safety measures on campus, according to Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, the board’s president. She said the school’s staff has not only closed several campus gates, but are also monitoring the remaining open gates before and after school, have hired additional campus safety officers and have created an anonymous hotline for students and staff to report weapons on campus.
The committee will submit a finalized report to the board on June 29 that will include recommendations on student dress code to reduce possible gang affiliations and the closing of the high school campus at lunch, according to Craig.
However, with a population of 3,000 students at Berkeley High School, Craig said the school could be negatively impacted with crowding and noise disruption if the campus were to be closed.
Between the two schools, the seven reported incidences this past year of students bringing weapons to school was an increase compared to previous years, according to Coplan.
According to Craig, the increase in reported incidents this year does not necessarily mean there has been an increase in the number of weapons brought to campuses as in the past.
“What we don’t know is were there actually more guns on campus this year or did we just discover them? We don’t actually know if the actual number has changed or if they were just reported and found,” Craig said.
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