New details on the Wednesday afternoon assault at Berkeley High School emerged Thursday, as the district began weighing a shift in the BHS safety plan.
According to Sgt. Kay Lantow, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, the four young men who attacked a BHS student behind the “C” Building Wednesday were apparently Oakland Technical High School students, who first became entangled with the victim at an Oakland Tech prom over the weekend.
Lantow said the victim and a group of his friends went to Oakland Tech Wednesday morning, before the attack at BHS, to confront the Oakland students over the prom dispute.
Later in the afternoon, at around 2:30 p.m., the Oakland students traveled to BHS to “finish that argument,” Lantow said.
The police department would not release the name of the victim because he is a minor.
Walter Mitchell, an instructional aide and former safety officer at BHS, said he knew something was wrong when he saw the assailants “pick up a jog” after crossing onto campus grounds from Martin Luther King, Jr. Way Wednesday afternoon.
Mitchell said one of the attackers carried a tire iron wrapped in a towel, and all were keenly focused on the victim.
“Evidently they knew who they wanted to deal with,” said Mitchell.
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Mitchell said the assailants punched the victim, knocked him down and began kicking him.
“They caught the kid with a couple of good ones,” said safety officer Shannon Brown, who arrived on the scene quickly and covered the victim with his body.
According to Brown, the assailants fled toward Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and sped off in a late-model white car when other safety officers arrived.
Shortly thereafter, Lantow said, two groups of Berkeley High School students got into a fight. She said the brawl apparently involved one group of the victim’s friends who blamed another group of the victim’s friends for abandoning him during the attack.
Brown said the safety officers were short-staffed Wednesday, allowing the assailants to get on campus. But he said the officers handled the incident well once it happened.
Oakland Tech Vice Principal Julius Green said the administration is investigating the school’s ties to the BHS incident. A spokesperson for the Oakland Police Department said the case is in the Berkeley Police Department’s jurisdiction.
New safety plan
District spokesperson Marian Magid said the central administration, working with a group of staff, parents and community members, has been developing a new BHS safety plan to be put in place in May.
Magid declined to offer specifics while the plan is still in the works, but the Board of Education has voted on one element already. In February, the board elected to lay off BHS security manager Barry Wiggan next year and hand over control of the security operation to a pair of discipline deans who have been in place since January.
Superintendent Michele Lawrence and high school officials have discussed other potential pieces of the plan in recent months:
• Lawrence has indicated that she will hire more safety officers.
• The superintendent has argued that the move from a seven- to a six-period day next year will tighten students’ schedules and prevent extensive wandering around campus.
• BHS officials have suggested that the school may put more video cameras in place to cover the “dead spots” on campus.