In the first months of this year at Berkeley High School (BHS), the issue of violence and fights has been imminent. Although there are security staff at BHS, a large number of fights have already occurred this year, and they will only continue to occur. Instead of taking reactionary measures — such as hiring more safety officers we must address this issue at its root through preventative actions.
For about every three-hundred thirty students, there is one officer to keep them safe and to stop these fights. Although the two-hundred sixty teachers at BHS receive some safety training, these fights tend to happen before first period, during lunch, after sixth period, and other times where there are few teachers around. The teachers aren’t responsible for stopping these fights, but they sometimes need to jump in to ensure students’ safety.
At Albany High School, there are two different programs to help prevent fights. One of these is dedicated to educating those who do start fights, and there is also a therapy program open to all students. Albany High has only had one fight this school year, while BHS has had multiple fights in just one month.
Intervention counseling at BHS was initiated to help stop these fights before they are created, as well as to prevent students who have already been in fights from joining them again. To ensure the best counseling experience, all counselors must have a masters degree in a therapeutic field. However, one issue with this program is that there are specific requirements in order to qualify for the weekly, monthly, or once-a-quarter therapy sessions. These requirements include learning English as a second language, being eligible for free or reduced lunch, or being in foster care. This excludes more than half of the BHS student body from getting the help they need, so if the policy were changed, it could possibly stop more fights from happening.
The camera system at BHS wasn’t built to stop these fights either. These cameras were installed partially to catch students that pull fire alarms, not to record fights. The cameras take pictures every few seconds, and there are a few blind spots, like in the stairwells, where there are no cameras at all. Fights usually get swarmed by other students who want to see what is going on, making it difficult to identify people’s faces in the school cameras.
This year has seen an increase in general student violence, and these issues will continue to happen unless the problem is nipped in the bud. The most efficient way to stop these confrontations is to reach out to all students that might be struggling with certain problems like anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. This will not only help lower the number of fights, but it will also help improve the wellbeing of many students who don’t have outlets to work through their feelings. In the past year and a half, rates of these mental illnesses have skyrocketed because of social deprivation, losses in families, and much more. Overall, taking preventative approaches will help foster a safer and happier environment for students and staff at BHS. Instead of simply hiring more safety officers and adding more cameras, we should be addressing the school’s issues at their root through intervention counseling and general increased student resources. Our school has a strong student body that strives to create a better community overall, and by enacting these measures, we would be taking a giant leap in the right direction.