Staff member injured, 15 students suspended at Berkeley High after unsanctioned spirit rally

Chen Gong/File

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Update 10/25/2014: Berkeley High School vice principal Jorge Melgoza said in a Saturday email to parents and guardians that 15 students were found to be intoxicated and were suspended. He said 500 students participated in “hazing and bullying behavior.” Property damage may be subsidized by funds set aside for school events such as prom. 

An unsanctioned spirit rally Friday afternoon at Berkeley High School culminated in a staff member sustaining a head injury.

The rally involved a group of juniors and a group of seniors, about 200 total, yelling at each other in the quad after school, according to Berkeley Police Department Lt. Dave Frankel. Police were called in about 3:45 p.m. shortly after an item was thrown at a staff member, and 17 officers cleared the campus.

Berkeley High School junior Lola Keene said the spirit rally was part of a tradition called Rally Day, organized by students, where everyone dresses in red and gold, the high school’s colors. While it was once a school-sanctioned event, it was canceled after a series of hazardous incidents in 2012, including allegations of student intoxication.

No arrests were made, and the injured staff member was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Frankel said he will “probably be fine.”

The campus was cleared without incident and students were cooperative when police arrived, Frankel said.

“I don’t recall ever having to go on campus to clear it during the school day,” Frankel, who’s been with the department for 23 years, said.

After the campus was cleared, Berkeley Fire Department advised BPD that several students were climbing a fire truck at Milvia Street and Allston Way.

“Our concern is not with their dressing up in Red and Gold but with some students’ belief that this provides them with a license or entitlement to arrive at school intoxicated or to bully and harass other students,” said Berkeley High School vice principal Jorge Melgoza in an email to parents Thursday.

Several students threw water bottles at one another after school. Additionally, students allegedly surrounded fellow students’ cars and kicked them, according to Maddie Fry, a Berkeley High School junior. Other students reported seeing alcohol poured on a vehicle. A group of students also lit fireworks across the street from the school, according to Frankel, producing a cloud of smoke.

“There was a very loud, bomb-type sound, and we thought it was a gunshot,” said Berkeley High School junior Rudy Brandt, referring to the fireworks.

No students were injured, according to Frankel.

Rally Day, originally the culmination of Berkeley High School’s annual spirit week, takes place the day of the homecoming football game. Emerson Birch, a Berkeley High School junior, said after sophomores stormed the field during the 2012 rally, the administration banned the event.

“I totally understand people not wanting half-naked teenagers running through the streets,” Keene said about public concern. “No one wants it to get out of hand, but there are always people who start a riot.”

Contact Kimberly Veklerov, Katy Abbott and Adrienne Shih at [email protected].