A security guard watches over main entrance to Berkeley High School

The Berkeley High School Safety Committee is scheduled to meet today at 4:30 to discuss its school safety plan, but with the recent arrest of Billy Keys, the head of security, there is uncertainty about how to proceed.

Keys, who chaired the committee for years until this fall, was completing a statistical analysis about the number of truants, detentions, altercations, and crimes that happened in the 2010-2011 school year, information that was critical for the annual report required by the state.

“We’re kind of in a tizzy since he was putting all the data together,” said Dave Peattie, a former BHS parent who serves on the safety committee.

The arrest of Keys, 41, a fixture around Berkeley High, has caused anguish and confusion among parents and staff, even those who were critical of him.

Keys has been charged with one felony count of identity theft and is free on $10,000 bail. He allegedly broke into the desk of a teacher at Berkeley High.

“Mr. Keys obtained personal information of a BHS teacher and used it to pay some of his personal bills,” according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley Police Department. “The teacher’s desk had been broken into sometime in January and went unreported until the teacher discovered the fraudulent charges on the bills.”

” A book of the teacher’s personal checks were missing/presumed stolen after the locked desk was broken into,” said Kusmiss.

The Oakland Tribune is reporting that Keys made payments to his personal Comcast and PG&E accounts.

Keys, a 1991 Berkeley High graduate, had worked in the high school’s security division for a decade. Keys’ role included dealing with truants as well as students who fight or steal. Keys is also the head of the security force that patrols the school and stands by entrances and exits. He is also a Baptist deacon.

Some parents have complained that Keys’ long tenure at Berkeley High has led him at times to be defensive about the school and about crimes committed by students. Instead of aggressively researching theft and battery, he at times would pontificate to parents about the history of certain families at Berkeley High. It was as if Keys sometimes sought to resolve crimes by understanding a student suspect’s motives rather than taking the side of the victim.

“I went in to complain to Billy about my son getting robbed under the camera in the hall at BHS, Billy mishandled the whole matter and instead took the offensive and lectured me about student confidentiality and all sorts of other things,” Ginny Roemer wrote in the Berkeleyside comments section.

One parent who has worked with Keys said the news came like a “body blow,” because she never would have suspected he would do anything illegal. She asked not to be named.

“He seems to be a totally by-the-books kind of guy,” said Peattie, who also worked with Keys on the Ad Hoc Safety Committee set up by Superintendent Bill Huyett in 2011 to look at gun incidents in the district. “Safety officers can play two kinds of roles. One is the easy-going, friendly guy and the other is more uptight, by the books kind of guy. He was the guy who took that job very seriously.”

BHS head of security accused of identity theft [02.25.12]

Students see security changes at Berkeley High [09.02.11]
Berkeley High security officers play multiple roles [04.04.11]
Berkeley releases safety plan to reduce guns at school [04.05.11]
School safety committee issues safety report [06.24.11]

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...