Berkeley High School. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Berkeley High School is holding a special day of programming Wednesday in the wake of a racist threat that pinpointed Dec. 9. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Update, 3 p.m. Berkeley Police said they are not investigating this as a crime.

Update, 12:30 p.m. Berkeley High says that, after speaking with the Berkeley Police Department, it does not believe a Facebook post that mentioned a “massive text” and a “massive shooting” is related to an actual threat of violence against the school. In an email sent out to the BHS community around noon Wednesday, Principal Sam Pasarow said that, instead, the school believes the social media post was “based on a misinterpretation of previous communications that BUSD sent out to families.”

The post contained misinformation about the school’s permission slip policy, he said. “The permission slip was for students to attend a special “Sankofa” assembly on campus, not to attend school or stay home from school.” Pasarow added that the BSU Sankofa Assembly today had been well-attended. “I have been seeing students deeply engaged in our academic classes today, with lesson plans that are stimulating thoughtful discussions,” he wrote. Read the full email.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Berkeley Unified School District and Berkeley police are investigating a possible threat to the campus that was reportedly sent out by mass text and then shared via Facebook.

BUSD spokesman Mark Coplan confirmed that Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow was talking to police Wednesday morning about a widely disseminated text which referred to a “massive shooting” at the high school Wednesday. The text also discussed permission slips that would allow parents to excuse their children from attending school. Today, Dec. 9, had been designated a special day of “communal self-affirmation” with a modified schedule focused on race issues.

Coplan said he thought the text was spreading false information about a permission slip that was required for a special all-day Unity Assembly as a way of getting students to stay home. He said he did not know the exact content of the text, but believed it also contained a threat.

“We are trying to figure it out,” he said.

FB grab use
Part of a Facebook post shared Wednesday referring to a text that apparently was sent out to many in the Berkeley High community.
Part of a Facebook post shared Wednesday referring to a text that apparently was sent out to many in the Berkeley High community.

Wednesday’s “take back the day” program was devised by the Berkeley High School Black Student Union as a response to racist threats left on a school library computer Nov. 4 that specified Dec. 9 as a day when there would be “lynchings.”

As a result of that threat, extra security is in place for the day, including two additional BPD school resource officers, real-time coordination with Berkeley Police Department patrols and motorcycle/bicycle officers throughout the day, four extra BUSD safety officers, and six parent volunteers to usher students into the theater. Fifty parent volunteers for the Unity Assembly are also going to provide increased vigilance on the school perimeter throughout the day, said Coplan.

Asked whether he thought fewer students than usual were at Berkeley High, possibly as a result of either the Nov. 4 threat or this latest text threat, Coplan said the campus was looking “a bit thin.”

Berkeleyside has requested information from the Berkeley Police and will update this story if it is provided.

Berkeley High to ‘take back the day’ after racist incident (12.08.15)
Berkeley High students walk out of class after racist hate crime (11.05.15)
Berkeley High student linked to racist ‘screen hack’ (11.05.15)
Racist threats posted on Berkeley High library computer (11.04.15)

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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...