Berkeley High’s ID card program, created to keep out potential troublemakers, is proving slow to catch on among the school’s famously cheeky student body.
Almost nobody in the lunchtime campus exodus Tuesday wore the tags, which came with thin metallic bead chains, nor did anybody appear to show them to a security monitor on the way back in. Amidst the hundreds of students heading toward Shattuck Avenue, only 12 were observed wearing their tags visibly – and some of those had them swinging at knee level, the chains strung from belt loops.
In Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, the consensus among a congregated group of juniors was that the tags were being largely ignored by the student body.
“I just sneak into school every day,” said Brett Morris, who added that he only began school this week and didn’t yet have a tag.
“I’ve never been asked for one,” said Kot Hordynski. “The fact that there were ID tags is something I learned about in your newspaper.”
The ID tags program was launched this fall as part of an effort to enhance security.
“There’s been a lot of violence on campus, and this is a simple way to kind of keep people out of there who are coming on (campus) to cause trouble,” said School Board Director Shirley Issel.
Board President Terry Doran agreed, noting that there is statistical data to back up the claim. “People recognized that it’s not possible to keep strangers off the campus because of the nature of how it’s built, and that’s what concerns people more than anything else,” Doran said.
Doran said he envisioned the cards eventually allowing students to check out textbooks, purchase food at the dining facilities and gain entry to student productions and athletic events.
“They’re for their safety above everything else, not to set up a police state,” Doran said.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks last week, Principal Frank Lynch sent an e-mail to parents and the school community on Monday that touched on security issues.
“Please remind your student to wear his/her identification,” it read. “It is very important for us to know each and every individual who is on campus.”
Lynch and other administrators did not return phone calls by press time.
Issel said she fully expected the ID program to be carried out.
“Our responsibility is to follow through, otherwise it is just an empty gesture,” she said. “Kids test parents all the time to see if there’s any consequences.”
Issel said she wanted it to become “a routine and unremarkable matter” for students and staff to wear IDs and for security personnel to wear identifying shirts, “so that the people who don’t belong are easily identifiable by the absence of their visitor pass or an ID tag.”
At the intersection of Milvia Street and Allston Way near the school Tuesday, a large cloud of marijuana smoke drifted out the passenger-side window of a passing pickup truck, and a sunburned man walked by, muttering darkly while he fingered a piece of aluminum foil and a rolled-up dollar bill. As hundreds of kids streamed back toward the narrow campus entrance between the Berkeley Community Theater and the fenced-off acreage under construction, only one monitor was on hand to check anyone’s ID.
“The reason a lot of students don’t like it is because it’s one step closer to wearing a school uniform,” said junior Andrew Gruen, who produced an ID tag from his pocket with a photo that bore an expression of exaggerated, cartoon-like surprise.
Devin Miller, a freshman, said the tags were “annoying.”
“I can see why they make us wear them, so people don’t come in and wander around, but I still don’t like it very much,” she said. “So I take it off.”
“I feel like it’s kind of like Apartheid or something,” said Hordynski, the junior, referring to pass books South African blacks once had to carry. “If they don’t have the support of the student body, they’ll never be able to do this.”