Berkeley High student who posted racist message found

- Berkeley High School administrators have found the student who posted racist threats to a library computer on Wednesday that prompted a massive walkout at the school Thursday morning, a school district spokesman said.

The threats, found on a library computer at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, included several racial slurs, statements of support for the Ku Klux Klan and a specific threat of public lynching on Dec. 9.

Technology workers at the school worked quickly to gather evidence identifying the student, who was located this afternoon and brought in for an interview with school principal Sam Pasarow, district spokesman Mark Coplan said.

When confronted with the evidence, the student confessed, he said.

Administrators do not think that the student actually intended to commit any violence and there was no particular significance to the date of Dec. 9. School administrators are considering what disciplinary action to take, including possibly expulsion, and will turn over their findings to Berkeley police, Coplan said.

More than half of the students at Berkeley High School walked out of class Thursday morning to protest threats of violence against black students and statements of support for the Ku Klux Klan found posted to a library computer on Wednesday afternoon, according to social media posts.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 students at the roughly 3,100-student campus left class and marched to the University of California campus, according to Coplan.

Photos and video on social media showed students holding "Black Lives Matter" signs and screaming in outrage as speakers quoted the posted threats.

The students who walked out will not face disciplinary action and in fact were joined by principal Sam Pasarow and two district board members, who were supportive of the students' actions, Coplan said.

"Two things have to happen. One, the person who did this has to be brought to justice because there's no way we can feel safe as a student body if that doesn't happen. The second thing is that these people, the black students at Berkeley High need to heal," said Alecia Harger, a UC Berkeley sophomore. 

"We're really proud of our students, we think they did a great job in taking back the power that was really taken away from them (Wednesday)," Coplan said.

An investigation into who left the threatening message -- which included several racial slurs, threats of lynching and a specific threat of public lynching on Dec. 9 -- is "moving fast" and could even be completed later Thursday, Coplan said.

Pasarow said in a statement posted to the school's website Wednesday evening, "This is a hate crime and messages such as this one will not stand in our community."

"We are working hard to create a positive and inclusive school culture and we recognize the deep pain and rage that hate crimes such as this one bring to our students of color, as well as the damaging effects on our entire community," Pasarow said.

One speaker at Thursday's demonstration said the response from Pasarow only came after emails and posts from the school's Black Student Union.

The group drew a connection between the threats posted Wednesday to the recall of the school's yearbook in June because of derogatory messages about the school's Academy of Medicine and Public Service, which has a large portion of black and Hispanic students.

The students also pointed out that a noose was discovered on the campus last year.

"In the past acts of terror committed against the black student body have been ignored," Black Student Union members said in a statement. "We will not allow this to be trivialized like these other horrific instances."

The school is asking anyone with information about the source of the threats to contact the school at (510) 644-6121.
 

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