Photo: Portrait of 500 students and staff at end of Blackout day at #BerkeleyHigh
Around 500 students and staff wore black for “Blackout day” at Berkeley High. Photo: Mark Coplan
Around 500 students and staff wore black for “Blackout day” at Berkeley High. Photo: Mark Coplan

UPDATE, 10:48 a.m. BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans sent out an email to the school community at around 10:30 a.m Friday in which he talked about the recent incident and the school’s response to it. Of the student-led walkout, he said he “felt fortunate to be part of a community in which our young people are standing up against terror and racism.” And he outlined efforts the administration will be making going forward, including providing support needed “to uplift our students,” investing in professional development and “opportunities for courageous conversations;” changing discipline policies “recognizing that the school disproportionately suspends African American students,” and recruiting and retaining more teachers of color. Read the full communication from Evans.

See photos of Blackout Day at Berkeley, taken by BUSD’s Mark Coplan.

ORIGINAL STORY: Berkeley High students arrived on campus Friday morning wearing black to show solidarity with students of color. The move was prompted by a request from the Berkeley High School Black Student Union which, in an email message to students and the school community sent out at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, asked that “everyone continue to show solidarity with Black students both at Berkeley High and across the nation by wearing all black tomorrow (November 13th).”

Blackout Day at Berkeley High. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
Blackout Day at Berkeley High. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

BHS BSU co-presidents Alecia Harger and Nebeyat Zekaryas wrote in the email that the “blackout” day of action would “allow us to visually understand just how many people are ready to stand with Berkeley High’s Black community and Black students throughout our country as we continue to fight for our right to education and safety in our schools.”

Referring to a walkout and rally Nov. 5, triggered by the discovery of a threatening, racist image on a school computer the previous day, Harger and Zekaryas wrote: “Last Thursday we as a school reacted to terroristic threats that were made against Black people at Berkeley High with fervor and strength that echoed across our state and our nation, just as students at University of Missouri and Yale have been doing in the past days.”

The same email included a note from Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow providing an update on the Nov. 4 incident, which he described as a hate crime. He said the administration supported Friday’s blackout action, and he hoped it would be “sustained, transformative and student-centered and student-driven.” He praised the students’ “leadership and advocacy” during the Nov. 5 walkout and encouraged teachers, parents, guardians and students “to have honest conversations about institutional racism and last Wednesday’s incident, and the effect it had on our African American students.”

Pasarow also reiterated the three key actions that were taken in the wake of the discovery of the message that was left on a computer in the high school’s library. He wrote:

  • With support from district officials, safety team members and technology specialists, we identified the student responsible for the hate crime within a 24-hour period.
  • We interviewed additional students to ensure that the individual student acted alone.
  • We ensured that the Berkeley Police Department had contact with the student and their guardian; BPD has determined that the student who made the threats is incapable of — and does not intend to — act on the threats left on the library computer.

Pasarow added he could not be specific about the consequences the student will face, but said they would be serious “given the gravity of the incident and the harm it caused our African American students and our community.”

BHS student to be disciplined after racist statement (11.12.15)
Berkeley High student linked to racist ‘screen hack’ (11.05.15)
Berkeley High students walk out, rally after racist threats (11.05.15)
Racist threats posted on Berkeley High library computer (11.04.15)
Berkeley High students from AMPS school denounce offensive yearbook comment (06.10.15)
Berkeley High recalls yearbook due to offensive comment (06.03.15)
Noose at Berkeley High raised concerns over past suicide (10.14.14)
Noose hanging from tree discovered at Berkeley High (10.10.14)

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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...