BHS Stop Harassing has been working to raise awareness about sexual harassment and other types of discrimination at Berkeley High over the past year. Photo: BHS Stop Harassing
BHS Stop Harassing has been working to raise awareness about discrimination at Berkeley High over the past year (file photo). Photo: BHS Stop Harassing

There were 165 complaints of bullying, sexual harassment and other types of harassment were reported in Berkeley schools in the 2014-15 school year, according to a report set to go before the School Board on Wednesday night.

There were 41 incidents at the grade school level, 78 in Berkeley middle schools, and 46 in Berkeley’s two high schools. Neither race nor gender descriptions were included in the report.

The Berkeley Unified School District also reported four incidents of bullying by parents or adult family members toward students, and four complaints of bullying toward students by staff.

At Berkeley’s 11 grade schools, there were 25 incidents of bullying, 12 incidents of sexual harassment and four incidents of harassment or intimidation. Other than bullying, reports are only collected for students at the fourth grade level or above, as per state Education Code requirements.

Five students “were involved in multiple incidents; additional resources were provided for the students,” according to the report. “The bullying behaviors that occurred at elementary schools included teasing, threats, intimidation, social exclusion, physical aggression, and verbal sexual harassment.”

One elementary school student was suspended for sexual harassment and one received an in-school suspension for harassment or threats.

The district also responded by offering counseling and behavioral support to the implicated students, and stepped up contact with parents and oversight by district officials. In addition, students faced “loss of privileges, a referral to the LifeLines Prep Academy, restorative justice, [and] conflict resolution/mediation.”

In one instance, an implicated student was moved to a different school at the request of a parent whose child had been targeted.

At the middle school level, 37 incidents of harassment/threats, 25 incidents of sexual harassment and 16 incidents of bullying were reported to the district. School officials said 45 students were responsible for a total of 78 incidents.

The bullying behaviors that occurred at middle schools included teasing, social exclusion, threats, name calling, mean looks, physical aggression, sexual harassment, and cyber-bullying,” according to the district.

There were 36 suspensions that resulted from those cases, “Including two students who were placed on suspended expulsions and transferred to another school due to additional, more serious behavior that occurred along with the bullying in which expulsion was mandatory.) and five in-school suspensions.”

In two instances, students linked to the bullying behaviors were moved to other schools as per parental requests.

The actions taken by the district at the middle school level to address the problems included individual counseling, parent involvement, formal meetings, additional supportive or behavioral services, parent shadowing, student court referrals, community service and detention.

There were 46 reported incidents, involving 41 students, at the high school level, including both Berkeley High and Berkeley Technology Academy.

That includes 21 students reported to have engaged in sexual harassment, including one incident of sexual battery and one incident of sexual assault. In both cases, the district said, “discipline was imposed in accordance with law.”

According to the report, 27 students reportedly engaged in harassment or threats toward other students.

The bullying behaviors that occurred at high schools included teasing, threats, name calling, physical aggression, sexual harassment, cyber-bullying, and cyber-sexual harassment/sexting,” according to the district.

There were 33 suspensions, including two incidents that resulted in expulsions, and two in-school suspensions due to the bullying behavior.

Action taken to address bullying that occurred at high schools included counseling the students individually, parent contacts/meetings, mediation/conflict management, community service, restorative justice, suspension, referral to LifeLines Academy, and a police report,” the district wrote.

In response to the adult bullying of students, the district issued stay-away warnings and orders, and involved police.

In all instances, the adults who engaged in bullying behavior towards students went up to a student at school with whom their child was having problems, and addressed the student in an intimidating, inappropriate manner,” according to BUSD.

Regarding the reported staff bullying of students, “The complaints were investigated and followed up on in accordance with District procedures.”

The district is required under state Assembly Bill 9, also known as Seth’s Law, to track complaints alleging harassment or bullying. BUSD’s policy requires that the director of student services report these complaints to the board each fall.

Under the state Education Code, bullying behaviors include sexual harassment, hate violence, and harassment, threats or intimidation. The district is required by law to note the “primary bullying behavior” in each incident.

The district’s own Anti-Bullying Policy has three objectives, as described in the Dec. 9 report: to cultivate a culture of empathy, kindness, respect and mutual trust among students and staff; to create a school climate that encourages students to report incidents of bullying; and to demonstrate a commitment to address bullying incidents.

The district lists 10 steps it took last year to “strengthen efforts to cultivate caring school communities.”

They include the implementation of Toolbox, a social-emotional curriculum, at Berkeley elementary schools, and the continuation of the “Positive Behavior Implementation and Support” program at the elementary and middle school levels.

Middle schools received restorative justice training, and the board voted in June to expand restorative justice efforts at the middle schools, at Berkeley Technology Academy and at Washington Elementary School as a pilot program.

The district took several steps related to sexual harassment complaints, including an awareness and education session for students in fourth through 12th grades, an informational letter home from school officials to BUSD middle and high school households, and a training session in May to all BUSD seniors. The district also voted in April to adopt an interim sexual harassment policy.

In the past school year, the district also offered additional training about both sexual harassment and LGBTQ awareness and gender identity “to some BUSD staff.”

The district provided the Omega Boys Club LifeLines Academy, described as a weekly violence prevention group, to middle and high school students for the fourth year running. Fourth- and fifth-graders had their second year in the LifeLines Prep Academy, though the district opted this year to replace that program with something called “the Peacekeepers Academy.”

Berkeley Technology Academy students were offered voluntary weekly sessions of the Alive and Free violence prevention program, though that program — reported to have had mixed success — was not continued into the current school year. (BTA Principal Sheila Quintana told the board earlier this fall that she has replaced it with a weekly restorative justice program that all students must attend.)

Last year, according to the report, the board allowed BTA to add a position for a “teacher on special assignment” whose focus was “to provide positive school climate support.” That position was not continued into the current school year.

Berkeley Unified School District student services director Susan Craig did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

Berkeleyside was unable to find prior year bullying reports online but has requested this information from the district.

Update, 5 p.m. Student Services director Susan Craig provided the 2013 bullying report to Berkeleyside after publication. A report was not completed last year, she said. In the 2013 report — which covers 2012-13 — 60 students reported being the targets of bullying, and the district was able to substantiate reports of bullying by 41 students. Read the 2013 report.

See the full agenda packet for the Dec. 9 School Board meeting here. (Note: The overall elementary school numbers were updated after publication in response to a clarification from the school district.)

Op-ed: Berkeley School Board must take action on sexual harassment (10.01.15)
Berkeley Technology Academy starts semester with record low enrollment (09.24.15)
BHS Stop Harassing takes campaign to Berkeley council (09.18.15)
BHS students allege BUSD refused access to federal investigators over sexual harassment (05.15.15)
School Board adopts interim sexual harassment policy (04.10.15)
Feds launch civil rights investigation into BUSD response to sexual harassment claims (02.10.15)
Students target sexual harassment at Berkeley High (11.21.14)
Op-ed: Sexual harassment at Berkeley High must stop (11.17.14)
BUSD reveals spending on sexual harassment case (08.03.12)
BUSD responds to Berkeley High harassment costs story (07.30.12)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...