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BUSD School Board Discusses Campus Safety and Consent Education at October 20 Meeting

The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) School Board discussed topics ranging from Title IX policies to environmental literacy at its October 20 meeting. 

During public comment, multiple teachers voiced their concerns to the board about the challenges that they have been facing with the transition back to in-person school. Namely, they mentioned the numerous fights, false fire alarms, vandalism, and overall disruptions at Berkeley High School (BHS) since the beginning of the school year. They asked board members to take action regarding a lack of funding for safety officers and adequate staffing on campus.

“Fights are happening regularly, students [are] travelling in groups roaming campus during class time, and fire alarms are pulled weekly,” said Sam Matsumoto, a photography teacher at BHS. “It is clear to us that more support is needed. I implore you to provide more funding for safety officers.” 

BHS Dean of Students Claudia Gonzalez gave a presentation about steps being taken to address the issue of sexual harm at BHS. In her presentation, she highlighted the Sexual Harm Advisory Committee (SHAC), which she described as a diverse group of students with mixed lived experiences who provide feedback and ideas on how to better engage BHS students on this topic.

Gonzalez also discussed peer consent education, specifically the BHS assemblies taking place starting October 26 regarding this topic. To hold the assemblies, BHS had to acquire special permission from Superintendent Brent Stephens due to COVID-19. According to Gonzalez, education is key in preventing sexual harm from occurring in the first place. 

“I love how on the consent education you’re reaching out to all the different diverse affinity groups,” said Director Ana Vasudeo.

The last words on this topic were about Green Dot. Green Dot is an initiative that is currently in place at BHS. It is based on education and training students to be upstanders in sexual harm situations, as opposed to bystanders. Green Dot trains students to intervene in situations and educate others.

“The reason for Green Dot is to be doing something proactive,” Gonzalez said. With the proper training, these students can not only safely intervene in these types of situations, but they can also educate others.

The next section of the meeting was about a potential change in schedule for BHS. Principal Juan Raygoza and Vice Principal Harrison Blatt said the plan would emphasize “depth over breadth,” and that the six period school day doesn’t really work for anyone at BHS, students and teachers alike.

Though no specifics were discussed, the new plan, which was introduced last year as a means to help students adjust this year, is aimed at shifting toward a block schedule and introducing a “flex period” during the school day. Raygoza and Blatt said this would allow teachers to impart a more in depth view on subjects through project based learning, and provide time within the day for students to get the support they need, whether it be emotionally, academically, or both. The plan will be open to community feedback. 

Finally, the school board looked at the new Climate Literacy plan that looks to leave graduating students of BUSD well versed in climate justice and the impacts of climate change. The plan is divided into five parts. These parts include the root cause of the climate crisis and the key players involved, potential negative effects, what people can do to avert climate destabilization, the actions that can be taken to ensure a habitable earth, and finally, an understanding of the people and institutions who would be involved in the implementation of solutions. Associate Superintendent Rubén Aurelio said the plan would also emphasize the interconnectivity between climate and social justice. 

“We seek to educate and empower our BUSD students as the current and future caretakers of our planet,” said Director Laura Babitt.

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