School Safety Committee and BHS Administration work to revise the safety plan amid community concern


“The school safety plan is an official document that lists all procedures that need to be followed in case of an emergency,” Liliana Cardile, a Berkeley High School parent and reporter of the BHS School Safety Committee, said. The School Safety Committee is tasked with the job of writing and reviewing BHS’ school safety plan.

Some examples of things that the safety plan addresses, Cardile said, are, “for example, an earthquake or a fire, but the school safety plan also addresses situations like sexual harassment, for example, in the school, or bullying.”

“(The safety plan is) relevant every single day. Every day, there could be an emergency, or there is something that happens that we need to take action on,” Principal Juan Raygoza said. “We rely on that safety plan as an anchor, and then also use the experience and what we learn every single day … to be able to reflect and say, ‘Hey, this is what our safety plans say. And let’s make sure we’re following our safety plan”

BHS’s safety plan, according to Raygoza, was written using a district template safety plan that was then altered to match with the individual needs of BHS. This school year, concerns have been brought up by members of the School Safety Committee about the state of the BHS safety plan. In early February, Cardile and other members of the School Safety Committee signed a report to BUSD’s board of directors outlining ten primary concerns with the safety plan for the 2023-24 school year. Their report described the safety plan as missing “crucial safety planning information” and “reflect(ing) real, “on-the-ground” safety gaps that pose considerable risk to students and staff.” 

“The committee,” the report reads, “has identified 10 major areas requiring improvement to align the safety plan with the California Education Code. These areas encompass a broad range of safety concerns, from emergency preparedness to incident response protocols.”

In March 2024, the School Site Council approved the safety plan for the 2024-25 school year. The plan was submitted by Raygoza and other school administrators. 

“The site safety plan is ultimately the responsibility of the principal to hold, because at the end of the day, as the principal of Berkeley High, I am responsible for the safety of our students and our staff on campus,” Raygoza said. He also added that the School Site Council, which is made up of students, staff, and members from the community are required to have a deadline by which they approve the safety plan that is brought forward to them. Therefore, School Site Councils have the ability to delegate that responsibility, because it is a big responsibility, to a safety committee. Our School Site Council has chosen to do that this year. 

Gary Wolf, the School Safety Committee chairman, explained problems with the plan approved by the School Site Council in an email he sent out to the BHS community following the approval. “The plan does not acknowledge most of the recommendations made by the Safety Committee, does not include BHS specific site goals, and is still missing key material required by the California Education Code,” reads his email.

Jasmina Viteskic, the BHS Title IX coordinator, worked with the School Safety Committee making amendments to the parts of the plan addressing sexual assault and harrassment. She explained that submitting the safety plan to the School Site Council for review is within the bylaws of the School Safety Committee. The safety plan for the upcoming year has to be approved by March 1st of each year in accordance with California Education Code. “This year, the bylaws of the Safety Committee were not really followed because there was no time to meet the March 1st deadline. So Berkeley High (School) ended up presenting a plan,” Viteskic said.

Revisions on the school safety plan began in fall of the 2023-24 school year, according to Wolf, after the School Safety Committee became active, the 2022-23 school year following a bout of inactivity. The process of revising the safety plan took multiple steps, first soliciting feedback from the School Safety Committee and then from the school community at large by inviting school community members to share their thoughts and concerns, according to Wolf.

During the process of revision by the School Safety Committee, recommendations were then compiled and brought to school administrators to be added to or changed in the plan. “I returned in the spring (from leave), then I sat down with all of those recommendations. And my purpose there is to be able to provide feedback in order to say, what recommendations can make their way into the safety plan now, and that we could follow. And what recommendations do we need to do some more work on right, some more vetting,” Raygoza said. He explained that due to the March 1st deadline, there were limitations to what could be added to the plan before being taken to the School Site Council.

In March of 2023,  Raygoza and  some other school administrators submitted the 2024-25 safety plan to the School Site Council for approval, which Wolf explained did not include some of the revisions that the School Safety Committee had worked on. 

“There’s a whole bunch of recommendations that did not make it into the safety plan (for the 2024-25 school year) from the safety committee, which doesn’t mean that they will not be incorporated in the next version. You can always update the safety plan,” Viteskic said.

The plan was then voted on and approved by the School Site Council. The approved plan for the 2024-25 school year contained multiple different changes as opposed to the 2022-23 school year’s plan. 

“So we made some pretty substantial changes and I think we’re really proud of those. We think that our students and our staff are safer because of the changes that we’ve updated,” Raygoza said. Evacuation maps, earthquake preparedness, and trainings for staff on the contents of the safety plan were some of the changes that were incorporated into the approved plan for the 2024-25 school year, according to Raygoza.

Recommendations, Raygoza explained, that are still in the process of collaborating on include a Short Message Service (SMS) emergency communication system and updating the security badges for staff members. Some recommendations, he explained, are currently not under his locus of control because they would require budgetary or labor adjustments, such as expanding safety coverage in the school for longer hours of the day.

Wolf explained that the biggest recommendation that was not implemented in the updated plan for next year,  “is that the plan is supposed to contain site goals, safety goals. These goals are meant to mark, hopefully, what the school would like to accomplish in its safety culture, in its safety planning for the next year. … that’s how you get commitment and alignment in the school and in the school community to make (safety) better is if you articulate some goals,” Wolf said.

“Since that March 1 vote, I’ve worked with my team to continue to make progress on all those recommendations that we identified,” Raygoza said. “It’s important to keep that safety plan in mind every single day, because an emergency could happen. Every single day, we also are trying to find ways to make Berkeley high, even safer than it was the day before”

“This plan that is submitted is going to be the plan that Berkeley High (School) leadership stands behind for the next year,” Wolf said.  “(We’ll) just take it in good faith as one small step in a series of steps that hopefully will improve safety at the school.”