Berkeley High students walk out of class, rally against sexual violence

Hundreds of Berkeley High School students walked out of class Monday afternoon for a major rally and protest speaking out against what they call a dangerous culture of sexual harassment at their school. 

This protest follows a lawsuit the district says it received Friday about an incident that allegedly took place on campus last year. Both students and parents say it’s something the administration isn’t doing enough to stop. 

United with the color red, students from the rally eventually moved from campus to a park across the street. 

“As a cry for help, a few girls wrote a list down on a bathroom in the G building saying, ‘Boys to watch for.’ It was meant to be a list that people can add on to,” said Abigail Sanchez, a high-school senior. 

On Friday, a girl known only as Jane Doe, sued Berkeley Unified School District and individual staffers for allegedly failing to report or adequately address an attempted rape reported on the Berkeley High campus in May 2019, Berkeleyside first reported.

The school district will not say whether anyone involved in the suit is still attending the school. 

“Generally speaking, California education code permits districts to expel a student when there’s been a felony conviction. There’s obviously not been a felony conviction in this or any other case,” said Dr. Brent Stephens- Berkeley Unified Schools superintendent. 

One parent told us she’s no longer comfortable sending her 14-year-old daughter to Berkeley High and is taking action. 

“I’m at the point of taking measures to actually take my child out of this school,” said Tracey Paster, a parent from Berkeley. 

Other parents said they have received no communication from the school about alleged incidents in lawsuits. 

Students are working to change that and are speaking out to motivate change because some say it’s known that inappropriate behavior— and worse— is happening. 

“It makes me pretty upset because I know some of the guys who have done this sort of thing and a lot of their friends continue to defend them, which is disgusting,” said Benny Smith, a junior. 

Part of the students’ action included creating a list of demands they plan to give to administrators. 

“We need training for every single grade. We need training for teachers and we need a clear process that everyone knows of and that survivors can rely on from the administration,” Sanchez said. 

The students now say they are going to present their list of demands to the school board on February 19, but first they want input from their teachers.