Berkeley High School
A young man was found dead on the Berkeley High School campus on Monday, Feb. 17.

UPDATE, Feb. 18, 3:55 p.m.: Berkeley Police say the young man who committed suicide on the Berkeley High campus was 21-year-old Michael B. Hamilton. There is nothing to suggest that the death wasn’t a suicide, said Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats. Hamilton does not appear to be have connection to BHS, she added. Hamilton’s family, who are in Oregon, have been notified of the death. Hamilton’s last address was in Placerville.

ORIGINAL STORY: A man was found dead on the Berkeley High School campus on Monday, Feb. 17, when the school was closed for Presidents Day holiday.

Berkeley police said they responded to a report of a possible suicide at Berkeley High at approximately 2:14 p.m. on Monday.

BPD and the Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene. A male, who appeared to be in his early 20s was discovered and it appeared he had hanged himself, according to a statement released by BPD at around 8:30 p.m. Monday.

“It is unknown if the person has any connection to BHS. BPD is working closely with the Berkeley Unified School District regarding this matter,” read the release.

BPD detectives have been called in and are investigating the incident. The police are not releasing any further details at this point.

If anyone has information regarding this incident please contact the BPD Homicide Detail at 510-981-5737 or the non-emergency number at 510-981-5900. If a person wishes to remain anonymous he/she can call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

Berkeley High School Principal Pasquale Scuderi sent an email out to the school community late last night alerting them to the news of the apparent suicide, discussing how the school will handle the situation, and providing counsel on how to handle the news with students. There follows the note in full:

In the interest of always providing clear and transparent communications to our families we are writing to inform you of a tragic incident that occurred on the BHS campus over the weekend. This afternoon, at approximately 2:15 p.m. BHS staff discovered the body of a young man who appeared to have taken his own life. Staff informed law enforcement, the Superintendent, district staff, and BHS security right away. We are writing to families at this hour on behalf of Superintendent Evans, Berkeley High School, and the Board of Education.

BPD continues to investigate. At present BPD has described the man as being in his early 20s and indications are that he hung himself. BPD and BUSD staff are still in the process of determining whether or not the victim had or has any connection to BHS.

As of this writing we see no immediate impact on normal school operations for the week, yet we will provide additional details to our families and community as they become available and where it is relevant and appropriate to do so.

Whether or not the current investigation ultimately yields connections to current students or families at BHS, we will nevertheless have counseling staff and health center staff on notice to provide any support that students may require in light of this incident.

We also know that a scenario like this occurring on our school campus and in our learning space can raise anxieties for kids and families and may require some thoughtful and supportive discussion and processing.

The very act of someone taking their own life on our campus will make for some anxious and unsettling questions from our students. Below are some very general starter resources to help parents and teachers facilitate discussion and help us respond to questions our kids might have.

Invariably there will be questions tomorrow, yet we cannot provide you much more than what we have already shared with you. The most salient and appropriate points we can share with kids are as follows:

  • A death did occur on campus over the long weekend
  • It does appear to have been a case of someone taking their own life
  • Police are still investigating
  • We are still in the process of determining what connections if any this person has to BHS
  • If you or any of your friends need support because of any anxiety or fear this event understandably brings up for you please see your counselor first
  • If more information comes to light that is relevant and appropriate to share, the administrative team will do so
  • If you know of anyone who is struggling with thoughts of taking their own life or hurting themselves or others, please inform an adult on campus or seek help in the BHS Health Center

This I know is difficult and unsettling news, yet we will of course manage it together with the safety and the well-being of our students at the forefront of our efforts.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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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...