Berkeley High School security force to decrease amid budget cuts

- While many schools nationwide are discussing ways to increase school security in the wake of the mass shooting in Florida, Berkeley High School's campus security force is about to decrease.

The reason: budget cuts.

And many students say it’s a bad move.

"In general, I don't think it is the smartest idea. If there is danger it would logically make sense to have more people respond," said Kiki Smith, a junior at Berkeley High.

The Berkeley Unified School District school board voted this week to reduce the ranks of the unarmed campus security force at Berkeley High from the current 15 officers to 13 beginning next school year. Berkeley has a student population of about 3,100.

"As soon as the shooting took place, we are firing officers instead of hiring more," said student Silas Koehn, who says he will feel less safe.

The cuts are part of a plan to tackle a budget shortfall of almost $2 million. The proposal has been in the works since before the mass shooting in Florida.

Initially, the plan was to cut four safety officer positions. But that's now been changed to two.

"I don't think the board would have voted for it if it was that big a risk to campus security," said Uma Nagarajan-Swenson, the student director to the Berkeley school board. 

One school board member told us off camera the district is adding conflict intervention specialists and that the board doesn't believe the reductions will affect student safety.

Oakland public schools Police Chief Jeff Godown wouldn't comment on Berkeley's decision, but says school security officers can often head off trouble before it escalates.

"They're also measuring the temperature. If a kid is having problems with another kid, there is a lot of mentoring going on," said Godown. 

The Berkeley Unified School District administration did not return our calls seeking comment.
 

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