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Berkeley High School ‘takes back’ Dec. 9 after message threatened public lynching

Berkeley High School students rally against racism

Berkeley High School students rally against racism at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus on Nov. 5, 2015. 

(Laura A. Oda / Associated Press)

Berkeley High School officials increased security at the Bay Area campus on Wednesday and scheduled a series of events intended to fight racism after a student posted threatening comments last month about a “public lynching.”

The actions come in response to a message posted on a campus library computer that read “KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015.” A male student was arrested after being identified and confessing to creating the Nov. 4 post, school and police officials said.

Although they determined that the student had neither the intention nor the means to carry out such a threat, officials said they were boosting security at the request of students and treating the matter as an educational opportunity.

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In a letter to parents, school principal Sam Pasarow said the campus would “Take Back the Day” on Dec. 9.

“If we and our students are going to create a world of greater justice and equity, we can’t forgo opportunities like the one we’ll have on December 9th to work together to teach, learn and commit to moving beyond racism,” Pasarow wrote. 

At the request of students, two additional school resource officers from the Berkeley Police Department and four security officers were assigned to monitor the campus Wednesday. More than 50 parent volunteers were providing additional security on campus.

Student instruction throughout the day will emphasize anti-racism themes, including lessons on racial profiling in math or history classes and reparations for African Americans in social science classes. By the end of the school day, more than 3,000 students will participate in an assembly, where they will watch performances, hear speeches and engage in discussion about hate crimes.

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Up to 500 students are expected to attend a Black Student Union Sankofa Assembly, where they will celebrate black culture, learn about black history and talk to black community leaders.

“We have promised students a safe and confidential place in the Sankofa Assembly, as this is also a place for deep conversation and healing,” said Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District.

The lynching message sparked a massive student protest that overflowed into city streets. School officials said students were frightened and angry over the message.

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