The California Education code mandates that all public schools annually submit an updated and reviewed Comprehensive School Safety Plan (CSSP) to the state by March 1. Shaheen Mohammad, Dean of Students, is leading this years’ effort to update the Berkeley High School Safety Plan.
The BHS School Safety Plan currently includes protocols for situations ranging from earthquakes to on-campus sexual assault to armed intruders. This 83 page document, available on the Berkeley Unified School District website, also provides direction on student discipline and mental health aid to students after emergencies.
Additionally, the CSSP contains plans for unlikely disasters, which include hostage situations, terrorist attacks, fallen aircraft, and explosions. Page 15 of the CSSP proclaims room H104 as the schools’ designated morgue area.
Teachers access expansive information about school safety protocols through emails from administration, according to Hillary Fong, a U9 Ethnic Studies teacher. Teachers receive training in the form of interactive videos. Teachers are given 5-6 different videos covering things like active shooter scenarios, bloodborne pathogen transmittal, and mandated reporting. They have questions embedded and a quiz at the end where the taker must score at least 80 percent correct to pass. Teachers had in person training on those subjects in the past, and have discussions about them in regular meetings from time to time.
Teachers are also trained in practical application of the School Safety plan.
“We’ve practiced barricading the doors, and evacuating in the event of an earthquake,” Fong said.
Additionally, each classroom holds a small booklet of emergency procedures, essentially a condensed school safety plan.
BHS students partake in active shooter drills and emergency earthquake evacuations. In the case of a violent intruder incident, students watch educational videos on ALICE protocol, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. Students practice evacuating for fire drills and earthquake drills.
“(In the event of an earthquake), People have in the back of their heads, you need to drop down and hold your neck, because it’s also something that’s been taught throughout school,” said BHS sophomore Nia Adeborna.
Student teachers, however, have sparse emergency training, according to student teacher Timothy Finnigan.
“You’re just sort of thrown into the fray, and with the expectation that you’re going to abide by your host teacher’s expertise with those things,” said Finnigan.
According to Fong, being prepared and improvising are both important, dependent on the situation.
“It’s good to know some general things,” Fong said. “So just find people and figure out how to take role (call). But at the same time, I feel like sometimes major disasters kind of mess up the whole plan. So you have to improvise.”
Finnigan said training can be useful if students are able to hear directions, but that students also benefit from trusting their instincts.
“It’s great to have a plan,” Finnigan said. “It’s great to have systems in place, places to go, places to be, but also have trust in yourself as an individual and to respond in a way to your own instincts for survival. Some BHS students acknowledge the necessity for regularly updating the school safety plan, given the prevalence of school shootings in the United States.
“We’re there knowing that (school gun violence) is a reality,” Adeborna said. “Especially when there are loud noises, you’re like, (gun violence) could happen, because it has happened at other schools.