[BHS Etree] ADMIN - Information for March 1 (Thursday)

BHS etree bhs at lists.lmi.net
Tue Feb 28 19:42:58 PST 2012

Dear BHS Families:

A variety of constituencies have declared this Thursday, March 1, a nationwide and statewide day of local action in support of public education. The resolution calls for local action up and down the state and across the nation.

A number of community members as well as unions representing employees of the Berkeley Unified School District are planning an event for 4:30 P.M. on Thursday, March 1, on the front lawn of the district office building adjacent to Berkeley High School on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Given the long history of advocacy and activism in this community it is not surprising that some Berkeley High School students are organizing and publicizing a non-violent political action for Thursday that would coincide with the local actions being planned in support of public education. 

Preliminarily, we have been given an indication that the student organizers will ask BHS students to walk out of classes during period 6 on Thursday (roughly 2:40 p.m.). At present our understanding is that the plan includes a very brief gathering on the BHS campus followed by a short march across the street and to the district office steps on Martin Luther King Jr. Way to hear speakers and performers. That location will serve as the site of the aforementioned rally scheduled for 4:30 p.m. that will be attended by BUSD teachers, classified staff members, administrators, parents, and community members.

The BHS administration has to be clear with our students, staff, and parent community about the fact that responsibilities and legal obligations require us to insist that students be in all of their assigned classes for the entire school day; however, we also have to strike a balance and maintain a firm focus on student safety and student welfare even if and when students leave the campus without our consent on Thursday. 
Berkeley High School respects the initiative and commitment of the student organizers and respects their right to introduce their voices into wider political concerns. Nevertheless our staff is ultimately responsible for student safety during the hours that students are scheduled to be with us, and we feel that we can meet that responsibility most effectively when students are on campus.

As with any other school day, students will be given unexcused absences if they are not in their assigned classes. Teachers assigned to 6th period classes will teach class as usual. Furthermore, we ask all of our parents and caregivers to engage in discussions with their students in order to help us ensure that kids make smart decisions on Thursday, and to hold their participation in the rally until after the school day has ended.

We are not naïve to the fact that despite our stance a number of students may in fact opt to leave during 6th period on Thursday. In light of this we will be considering our options and contingency plans to ensure student safety throughout the afternoon. Again, our expectation is that students remain on campus for their entire day and attend all of their classes. Students leaving campus in large numbers will increase our supervisory challenges and stretch resources. We are communicating with BPD as well as BFT and exploring options on how to best handle a variety of scenarios.

BHS sees the initiative, activism, and consciousness of our students as qualities far preferable to the apathy and indifference sometimes exhibited by young people where social and political issues are concerned, and while we can celebrate that spirit of activism, and agree in principal to what they are demonstrating for, it is our charge as as an administrative team to see that students remain safe and encourage them to find the most productive and responsible ways to advocate for change during the school day.
We will keep our parent community informed of any additional developments or additional details as they become available.

Pasquale Scuderi
Berkeley High School

Pat Anderson, Diane Douglas, Marguerite Fa-Kaji and Lisa Sibony are the parent-volunteer facilitators of the etree; please direct any questions to them at bhs-owner at lmi.net. 
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