BHS police
Fighting broke out outside Berkeley High on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at around 3:40 p.m. and drew crowds of onlookers as well as police. Photo: Juliet Wayne

Scroll down for an update from Berkeley High’s principal at the foot of this story.

Four juveniles were taken into custody on suspicion of fighting outside Berkeley High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Large crowds of students and passers-by gathered near the intersection of Bancroft Way and Milvia Street shortly after students were leaving the campus at the end of the school day to watch the fights, according to Officer Jennifer Coats at the Berkeley Police Department.

Many Berkeley police officers were dispatched to the area after receiving calls from the public, starting at 3:41 p.m, and they worked to disperse the large groups of onlookers. Officers were able to disperse the crowds, and they took four juveniles into custody in connection with the fighting, Coats said.

There are no reported injuries at this time. “We still have several officers in the area to ensure the crowds have dispersed and that no other altercations occur,” Coats added.

A witness said she saw Berkeley High School Principal Pasquale Scuderi at the scene.

It is not clear at this point whether the fight involved students at the school.

Update, 8:28 p.m.: Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi said in an email to the Berkeley High community that there were at least four off-campus physical altercations after school Wednesday; and that at least one of the juveniles arrested was a Berkeley High student. He expressed concern about the number of onlookers, mostly Berkeley High students, which led to congestion and commotion in multiple spots downtown.

He wrote:

Thus far we know that the various incidents, which we are still very much sorting through, involved Berkeley High School students, some non-students in the area of Shattuck Avenue, and a very small number of students who attend Berkeley Technology Academy (BTECH). Preliminarily, we believe that at least three of the incidents were not connected, but we should have a clearer understanding tomorrow.

We feel fortunate to report no injuries.

At the moment we know that there were four (4) arrests made; we know at least one of those parties was a Berkeley High student, one was a student at BTECH, and we are waiting on confirmation of the status of the other parties.

Additionally, we can tell you that multiple suspensions will also be administered at the school site.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this afternoon was the way that so many kids rushed toward the scenes of these incidents and in a few cases, albeit unintentionally, made it difficult for school safety staff and administrators to get to where they needed to get to provide assistance quickly.

I am asking all parents to speak with their students about this issue as so many kids were involved, and even those kids who were not can benefit from the discussion. For some human beings there is clearly a tendency and grim curiosity to run towards these type of conflicts, but the best course of action for personal safety is to move away from the conflict. A student crowding around a physical or potentially violent conflict puts themselves in danger and makes getting help to the situation more difficult.

Berkeley High School will in fact consider suspension for any student who willingly or unwillingly contributes to a physical conflict by obstructing the work of staff members or adults responsible for responding and intervening. We will review this issue with students at school, but also ask all of our families to discuss this with their kids as well.

Given the size of the crowd and the nature of the incident we are counting on several hundred versions of the story making their way home tonight, and given the seriousness of the afternoon we felt best to share with you what we could as soon as possible.

Most of the semester has seen a notable decline in incidents and suspensions and we will work very hard to ensure that today’s events are an exception, and that our positive trend in school climate continues.

Respectfully,  Pasquale Scuderi, Principal, Berkeley High School

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...