Illustration by Kiran Aranha
Many Berkeley High School (BHS) students would agree that a day of school is not complete without a high five or a friendly conversation with their favorite safety officer on campus.
“Students definitely have relationships with security guards; security guards know their names and talk to them every morning,” said BHS senior Taylor Kempf.
Nicole Bordeaux, a BHS senior, added, “Ms. Garcia is so rad! I feel like she really knows who I am now that I’ve seen her every day for the last four years, she’s really kind and funny and she’s always got your back.”
These special connections students and safety officers are able to form are often vastly different from the average student-teacher relationship. Free from the confines of a classroom, many students feel a sense of comfort and camaraderie around the safety officers that they may not have with any other adult on campus.
“I feel like I can relate to the kids that go here so I try to put myself in a position where I can think like them,” said H-building safety officer Eric Riley, “I think that’s why I gravitate towards them and they gravitate towards me, because I try to put myself in their shoes, I’ve been there before.”
Students approached Riley as he spoke, greeting him with fist bumps and hellos. He called each of them by name or nickname, demonstrating the bonds he has been able to create with many different students. “This school is large, it’s easy to look over somebody,” said Riley. For me, I find the kid that no one talks to, and they’re my friend now. That way no one is alone here.”
These school safety officers are heavily relied on as a helpful resource and a group of trusted adults looking out for everyone on campus.
Students pretty much unanimously agree that even if they do not interact much with school safety officers on a day-to-day basis, they are considered a crucial part of school safety and culture.
“I think it’s extremely important for students to have someone on campus they can trust and go to when they feel unsafe or see another student being harmed,” said Kempf. “It’s nice to know that if I ever had a safety concern, I’d have a resource on campus.”
Safety Officers are undoubtedly important members of the BHS community, providing a sense of comfort in a large school. “I’m not here to police anyone, I’m here to make sure you feel safe at school, and I’m an ear to listen,” said Riley.