October 6, 2017
By Daniel Martinez-Krams
Why do we seek retribution as a solution? Why do we continuously condemn individuals as if that will absolve the community of pain and hurt? Why do we pretend that this is an isolated incident? Why do we consistently fail to realize that this problem is universal, systemic, and institutional?
It would be wonderful if this space could be used to applaud the incredible resiliency, determination, and efforts of the Chicanx Latinx United Voices in the face of immense hatred. However, now, and all too often, it feels that our time, effort, and resources are being redirected — misdirected — to reactionary discipline, leaving us no ability to proactively educate, celebrate, or honor heritage. We as a Berkeley High School community have to stop excusing perpetrators of racism by claiming that they are not racist. We cannot excuse bigotry by attempting to explain that they “really are good people.” When we vindicate the latest offenders by asserting that they did not truly believe what they said, that they were passive bystanders, or that it was a joke, we are excusing racism.
The argument that any one of those individuals is not a racist, an ableist, or an anti-Semite is wholly invalid. Any individual who could tolerate the sight of such egregious writing without being abhorred, disgusted, and revolted, retains explicit biases.
Our community wants to find a culprit. This allows us to pretend that the issue is atypical. We want to punish our culprit. Suspension, expulsion, social ostracization. We want to discuss, but only if that discussion lasts less than a week and does not take away from class time. None of that addresses the problem. Racism, bigotry, hatred, injustice, and discrimination will not be expunged if we contextualize the problem as a singular issue. We must denounce those who to take action with the sole objective of making themselves feel better. We must unify to confront hatred at its source, we must be absolutely intolerant of intolerance, and we must never excuse bigotry — whether it is thrown in our face or swept under the rug. Instead of focusing on individuals, we should be asking how we have failed as peers, as teachers, and as a community.
Our conviction must be evident in every facet of our lives. Berkeley is well aware that these actions do not represent our community. Now we must work to ensure that they cannot persist in our community.
September 22, 2017
Everyday, students suffer from sexual harassment. There is no reason that students should be forced to endure additional trauma when the administration becomes involved. However, that is often the situation in which Berkeley High School (BHS) students find themselves after reporting harassment.
For too long, complaints of sexual harassment at BHS have not been taken seriously. Reported cases of harassment have often been handled without the degree of respect necessary.
No matter how much effort the administration puts towards making the process of reporting harassment easier, the history of mishandled cases still stands and will continue to deter students from coming forward with their experiences. This has proven to create an additional barrier to the already incredibly intimidating task of reporting experiences of sexual harassment.
Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) needs to improve upon sexual harassment policies that guide the handling of reports of sexual harassment that occur on and off campus.
The administration is clearly making an effort to better the conditions for students at BHS through the numerous sexual harassment assemblies held over the last few years. The assemblies focused on educating students about what sexual harassment actually is; however, they do not address or change the way real life cases of harassment are handled. Even though they have tried to mend a part of the issue, administrators continue to be unclear about what students should do if they experience or witness sexual harassment or if they witness it.
The BHS administration needs to be completely transparent with students about how they will handle reports of sexual harassment. There needs to be an accessible way for students to report sexual harassment and it has to be clear to students what steps the administration will take after the harassment is reported.
It is precisely the administration’s objective to foster a safe environment for all students. This includes one in which sexual harassment is universally regarded as inexcusable and students are comfortable to reveal experiences of assault without fear of backlash. Student groups have done more than enough to advocate for their righteous cause. It is now up to the administration and the district to step up to the plate to finally confront the systemic issues perpetuating sexual harassment at our school.