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Police’s explicit language angers parents

By Juliet Leyba Daily planet Staff
Monday November 20, 2000

According to several parents at last week’s community forum held at Willard Middle School, a Berkeley police officer, whose job it was to explain to students the nature and consequences of the recent rape of a 12-year-old girl — used explicit, graphic and inappropriate language in describing the incident. 

The officer was asked to speak at a special assembly held on Wednesday as part of a series of classes and lessons to help educate students on how to resist peer pressure, avoid sexual harassment and resist sexual assault. 

“I feel like the assembly added fuel to the incident,” parent Beverly Dimes said. “I’ve heard from my child and others that the officer used extremely inappropriate language to describe what happened to the girl and I find it unconscionable.”  

Police Captain Robert Miller admitted that inappropriate language had been used and apologized. 

“I am aware that the office in question became too explicit in his explanations and for that reason I apologize. We made a mistake by saying too much. We’re not perfect but we will learn from this process.” 

Several other parents also expressed anger at the city and school district for what they perceive as mismanagement of the incident. 

“Sex and violence are being put together in the minds of our kids not only here but throughout the country. Why after all the workshops the school has provided are kids coming away using foul language and taking sides,” parent Jenny Hearst said. 

Hearst said that her eighth-grade daughter came away from the workshops placing blame on the victim and she asked the school board why. 

“Rape is never okay. No matter what,” she shouted into the microphone as many parents clapped and shouted out. 

School therapist Pat Salaam fielded the question. Salaam explained that many times when children are faced with situations beyond their immediate control they search for a place to lay blame to ease their discomfort. Salaam urged parents to be patient and talk with their children about three things: What they think happened, Why they think it happened and how to prevent it from happening in the future. 

“Once you get past the first two questions you should begin to have a better sense of where exactly your child is coming from and hopefully be able to guide them to proper conclusions.” 

Salaam also noted that school therapists as well as many psychologists in the community have offered their services pro bono to students, parents and teachers to help resolve any tensions or problems related to this incident. 

For more information call Berkeley Mental Health Services at 644-8562 or Berkeley Unified School District at 644-6438.