Berkeley High School library website displays threatening, racist language

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Chen Gong/File

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Update 11/5/15: This article has been updated to reflect the conclusion of an investigation by Berkeley High School administrators, which identified the student responsible for the image.

Members of the Berkeley High School community expressed outrage after one of the school’s library computers displayed threatening language toward black individuals early Wednesday afternoon.

A screenshot — tweeted by Berkeley High School’s Black Student Union, or BSU, on Wednesday night — appears as a rendered image of the library’s website, with a message superimposed over the original text of the library’s home page with words that read, “KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015,” in addition to including racial epithets and hostile language. In the image, the poster indicated solidarity with the Ku Klux Klan.

School district spokesperson Mark Coplan said that the screenshot was left open on a computer as a displayed image and that there was no hacking involved to change the actual website’s contents. 

 

“We are disgusted by this act of terror,” said black student leaders in an statement released by the high school’s BSU on Wednesday night. “The safety of Black students has been explicitly threatened.”

Similar reactions flooded social media after the BSU publicized the screenshot.

The administration launched an investigation Wednesday, according to an email sent by Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow to students that night.

“This is a hate crime and messages such as this one will not stand in our community,” Pasarow said in the email.

On Thursday afternoon, as thousands of students had just finished protesting through the city and at UC Berkeley, high school officials concluded the investigation after a student sent forward a statement to administrators confessing to the actions.

The administration is now considering what disciplinary action will follow and has turned over evidence to Berkeley police, who will determine if there is any criminal charge. The student’s name will be kept confidential.

“We are working hard to create a positive and inclusive school culture and we recognize the deep pain and rage that hate crimes such as this one bring to our students of color,” Pasarow said in the email. “We recognize the need to address the harm that this has caused.”

In their press release Wednesday night, BSU leaders called on the campus administration to respond to what they described as a “blatant act of terrorism” against the black community.

In their demand, black student leaders referenced two prior discriminatory incidents involving underrepresented minorities. In October 2014, a noose was found hanging from a tree on the high school’s campus and was quickly removed by a Berkeley High safety officer, though no one was found to be responsible for hanging the noose.

And earlier this year, the high school recalled its yearbook after an inappropriate comment — which described members of the Berkeley High Academy of Medicine and Public Service, one of Berkeley High’s small schools with primarily black and Hispanic students, as “future … trash collators” — was slipped into its text.

After the controversy over the yearbook language, along with the noose incident the prior year, then-BSU president Kadijah Means wrote in a letter that a “pattern of failed communication” existed between high school administration and students. Means went on to characterize the climate at the high school as “hostile.”

To mitigate the harms of Wednesday’s incident and begin a healing process within the campus, part of the administration’s future actions includes giving back Dec. 9 — the date referenced by the poster’s lynching threat — to the school’s black students, creating a space for them “to regain their power and take back the day,” Coplan said.

Bo Kovitz is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @beau_etc.

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  • Jack Aubry

    Notice there is absolutely no indication what-so-ever of the identity of the student perp. Wonder why that is? Perhaps it’s because the perp is a black liberal. Historically, this is just the type stunt liberals love to play.

  • lspanker

    I have no actual idea if the KKK is in Berkeley, I just think it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

    It’s also not out of “the realm of possibility” that this is an adolescent hoax, pulled off by some kid who knows that your typical Berkeley lefty will look for any reason to protest at the drop of a hat. Which one really sounds more feasible?

  • JohnFHudson

    I have taken the liberty of assuming that somebody suggested that these kids walk out of school. If there was no oral or written communication of the call to walk out of school it was done by mental telepathy or was pure chance that 2,000 or so students independently got the idea to leave at the same time.

    • lspanker

      I have taken the liberty of assuming that somebody suggested that these kids walk out of school.

      “Suggested” is a mild way to put it. Given the fact it was organized in less than 24 hours, and the fact that there signs and banners all ready to go, this alleged “hate crime” and the circus that immediately followed were clearly planned from the get-go.

  • Bob

    Something is very wrong here. This was not done by a white student – you can bet on that. The schools and the press have NEVER shied away in the past from revealing the person color when there was an act of overt racism. Now they suddenly refuse to release that students color citing a rule they have ignored over and over in the past.

    Hate to say this but this whole thing now appears to be nothing but a self serving scam perpetrated by a black student. And that is why the complete secrecy of the students race. When this does come out will all these students then apology – or face consequences for their racists acts? Not a chance.

  • roccolore

    And the media stops caring when it turns out a black student did the deed.

  • SchwaggyRoadDawg

    someone who is stupid and pathetic enough to be a racist does not inspire fear in me.
    a message this deranged in the bay area is just a tiny fringe minority. this is not the deep south where racists can be a real threat.
    turns out it is a stupid 15 year old kid.

  • Dont Tell

    Another false flag by the jews to race bait and pit people against each other. Disgusting!!

    • Rose Heels

      Tell you caretaker that it’s time for meds again.

  • JohnFHudson

    The principal is a blithering idiot for saying that this is a hate crime. It may be hateful, but it cannot be a crime in the United States. The First Amendment law of our country protects even calls for law breaking unless it is a call for immediate action and there is a strong probability that illegal action will immediately ensue.

    • Christian Tanton

      The First Amendment does not protect true threats, ie, any threat that lists specific dates/locations/methods/victims. The only thing things we don’t have are the specific location (only that it will be ‘public’) or the specific victim(s). It can be assumed that the victim would be a member of the black community. Even if whoever made this threat did so only to get a rise out of people, it is in no way protected by the First Amendment.

      This is a crime, targeted toward the black community, and is therefore absolutely, without a doubt, a hate crime.

      • JohnFHudson

        A “true” threat? How about a “credible” threat? Is it really credible that the KKK is going to do anything at all in Berkeley? I think that Berkeley is too left wing for my taste. Therefore I am going to attack Berkeley with a tactical nuclear weapon. That’s about as credible as this kid’s “threat”.

        As you admit, there is no specific place and no specific victim. In fact, I am not even sure that this was motivated by hate. He or she may well have simply been jerking the chain and pushing the buttons of the left wing simply for the entertainment value of watching the overreaction.

        • Christian Tanton

          I think you’re misunderstanding the word “credible.” It is absolutely believable that there is a faction of the KKK in Berkeley. Racists exist everywhere, and California is no exception. Therefore, it should be treated as a credible threat until proven otherwise.

          In your example, you mention using a tactical nuclear weapon, but it can be assumed that you’re just a part of the general public, and not someone who actually has access to a tactical nuclear weapon. Therefore you’re threat is not credible. But murders happen all the time and are a very real threat. If someone is messed up enough in the head, they could absolutely find a person, murder them, and then hang their body from a tree. That’s why it’s credible, because there’s a possibility of it actually happening.

          Also, why are you turning this into something about the left wing and over-reaction? Are you saying it’s wrong to react negatively when someone threatens to lynch another human being? That shouldn’t be a “left wing” reaction, it should be a human reaction. People need to be shown that there are consequences for their actions, and you can’t just go around making idle threats.

          • JohnFHudson

            So you think that the KKK is in Berkeley? Can you identify a single member? Have you ever heard of anyone who claimed to be able to identify anyone in Berkeley even suspected of being a member of the KKK? If there is no smoke and there is no heat there is no fire.

            Only the left wing would empty a high school, block streets, and make hysterical pronouncements about something a 14 – 15 year old put on a computer. I bet this kid knew that and intended to enjoy watching the reaction. When I was 14 talk radio was a new thing. My friends and I used to call in, say dirty words, and make outrageous remarks just to hear the radio go “censored, censored, censored”. It gave us 14 year olds a feeling of power to hear the reaction. It’s what 14 year did then. Now they hack into various systems. Apparently one 15 year old has discovered that he can create a major disturbance and get on the news with a few words. He may also realize that it will be impossible to convict him of a crime or possibly even discipline him in school.

            I wonder if BHS had published any kind of rule against this before the fact. Incidentally, I was in the BHS class of 1968. When I was at BHS there was an epidemic of false fire alarms.

          • lspanker

            Only the left wing would empty a high school, block streets, and make hysterical pronouncements about something a 14 – 15 year old put on a computer. I bet this kid knew that and intended to enjoy watching the reaction.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the “protesters” at that quickly organized rally wasn’t one of the kids him/herself.

          • JohnFHudson

            Take a look at what Bob thinks below. If Bob is right this would be like the firemen who started fires so that they could be important and have something to do.

          • lspanker

            It is absolutely believable that there is a faction of the KKK in Berkeley. Racists exist everywhere

            Paranoid much?

          • Christian Tanton

            Nah, I’d say “realistic.” Are you trying to say you don’t think there are racist people in Berkeley?

          • lspanker

            Sure, there are racist people everywhere. That’s completely different from buying into some hysterical idea that there are white supremacy sleeper cells just waiting to jump up and start lynching black folks left and right. You have clearly gone off the deep end if you believe that…

          • Jack Aubry

            Indeed there are. UC Berkeley is full of them.

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      • Bob

        The only problem is – this was not a hate crime.

        Something is very wrong here. This was not done by a white student – you can bet on that. The schools and the press have NEVER shied away in the past fro revealing the person color when there was an act of overt racism. Now they suddenly refuse to release that students color citing a rule they have ignored over and over in the past..

        Hate to say this but this whole thing was a scam perpetrated by a black student. And that is why the complete secrecy of the students race. When this does come out will all these students then apology – or face consequences for their racists acts? Not a chance.

  • Jackie Carron Cota

    well the leftist liberals started the KKK so I”m not surprised this is happening in the belly of the Liberal beast..

    • Graham Seyffert

      The first Klan was started by Confederate veterans from Tennessee in 1865. The second was resurrected by a preacher outside of Atlanta in 1915. Notice these are both pretty southern cities, the bastion of the GOP today. Yes, they were “Democrats”. However, the modern Democratic Party is nowhere near the same as the one at the time – same for the GOP. Lincoln’s GOP, among other things, funded the transcontinental railway and started publicly funded state universities, intended for the public good. One only has to look at how vehemently the GOP denies increases on spending on public works projects, including education, to see how different the two parties are.

      http://www.livescience.com/34241-democratic-republican-parties-switch-platforms.html

      • NOT-retarded

        But you can’t tell them otherwise. It’s sad…. and why would this need to be about politics when it’s clearly about threatening children? Not mad at you, but the OP has shown her true colors. (Ironic choice of words if I do say so myself).

      • Bob

        LOL! Your using actual facts and the truth with a right winger! Now that’s funny!
        btw- Your post was spot on

    • john hark

      How about you look at this as a human equality issue instead of a left vs. right issue?

    • Derp

      You’re an idiot. The Republicans WERE the “leftist liberals” way back then. Then there were the racist Dixiecrats who jumped ship and went Republican, and after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the rest of the racists moved over as well. If anything, a similarly clueless person has targeted Berkeley for sharing your train of thought. I mean you actually have to WORK at it to be this stupid.

      • soxfan4evah

        Most of the racist dixiecrats stayed Democrat until leaving office. The last of which was Sen Robert Byrd Democrat West Virginia who died in office in 2010. But keep a firm grasp on that rewrite of history

        • Nunya Beeswax

          Your correction of a minor detail does not amount to a refutation of his argument.

          • soxfan4evah

            His argument was the Dixiecrats became Republicans, fact is they didn’t. Guess that is a minor detail

          • Nunya Beeswax

            And yet, on the other hand, there’s Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Mills Godwind.

          • soxfan4evah

            Yes Strom Thurmond switched from Democrat to Republican in a fit of anger over Civil Rights legislation and joined the side that passed the legislation. Helms didn’t become a Republican until 72. As for Democrats does the name Jim Crow, Bull Connor, George Wallace, Robert Byrd, Al Gore Sr. any of those sound like Republican stalwarts?

          • Nunya Beeswax

            George Wallace left the Democratic party and ran for the AIP in 1972.

            Many of the Dixiecrats remained in the Democratic party, but they voted en bloc with conservative Republicans. Those were the days when there was such a thing as a liberal Republican–guys like Nelson Rockefeller, Lowell Weicker, and your pal Nixon. The error, and the point that Derp was making to begin with, lies in assuming that “Democrat” has always meant “liberal” and “Republican” has always meant “conservative.” That’s not only a simplistic distortion of actual historical fact, it’s pig-ignorant to boot.

        • Bob

          For quick and easy proof that the republicans and tea partiers are now the parties of racists just go to any article that involves a black person and crime and read the posts. You will find that every single racist post made was by a right winger. Pure fact.

          • lspanker

            Thanks, Bob, for proving that you really had no argument to make.

    • Christian Tanton

      I think what you’ve failed to realize here is that “Democrat” and “liberal” have not always been linked. Most modern Republicans would find that they share more in common with those who labeled themselves Democrats. And vice versa. Lincoln ran on the Republican ticket.

    • ohplease

      Democrats in the 1800’s were not leftist liberals.

    • Pit Boss

      Jesus lady you’re hideous.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Uh, you’re an idiot.

    • SchwaggyRoadDawg

      nothing in the world is uglier than conservative snake women hissing about liberals.