Violence prevention education, increased security presence and screening for weapons at schools are just a few recommendations from the Berkeley Unified School District’s Ad Hoc Safety Committee, released in a gun control and safety report June 24.
The committee presented the report to the district’s Board of Directors Wednesday night in the wake of six separate incidents involving student possession of weapons at or near a district high school campus between January 10 and March 25. After the board reviews the recommendations, they will create an action plan complete with a budget and timeline that could be fully implemented at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.
Among the recommendations are plans to implement visible security and campus monitor uniforms, to close the campus for all periods except lunch time, to heighten perimeter security at schools and to increase visibility of student identification badges.
“Once we know what the board wants, the safety committee will have at least one meeting in the fall,” said Dr. Susan Craig, a committee member and the district’s director of student services. “Between now and fall, based on the board’s actions, for each item we will create a timeline and cost.”
The committee — which is comprised of district and school administrators, parents, students, teachers, campus safety officers and a police sergeant — held student focus groups and community forums on topics such as bullying to gain perspective on the presence of weapons on school grounds, according to the report.
“There is a substantial amount of information that is being implemented for this fiscal school year,” said Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, president of the district’s board of directors. “The campus security officers will be wearing (their uniforms) visibly this year, but this needs to be vetted through the union more — on the other hand, completely closing campus off (for lunch) is something that will not happen this year.”
Since the first incident on January 10 — when a student was found in possession of a gun while on campus and later apprehended after the student’s backpack was searched — police presence, safety officer staffing and administrative staffing at Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy has increased.
“Just last week, all of our safety officers and some administrators went through a 24-hour security training program,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “Since … these incidences arose, the committee has done a good job of developing relationships between the high schools and the police department.”
Though security training for administrators and safety officers has already been implemented, approval of other recommendations for the upcoming school year — such as the consistent increase of district safety staff on middle and high school campuses — depends on whether appropriate funding is secured. The district has already allocated $89,000 in order to achieve security standards until the end of the school year, according to Leyva-Cutler.
“We put some of the most costly pieces in place already — an additional administrator, one additional vice principal, one additional safety officer,” Coplan said. “We have more people responding to situations.”
Though there were two students on the committee, one of the district’s concerns mentioned in the report was a lack of adequate student opinion of gun safety. However, Craig said the committee will continue to increase communication with youth, especially come fall.
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