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Berkeley High Scraps Photo ID Plan for Visitors

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 02, 2007

Berkeley High School has dropped a plan to ask visitors to provide photo identification to enter the campus after some parents complained that it was unwelcoming and discriminatory. 

The proposal, devised by the school administration last month, was to have contributed to added security measures at the high school, following a survey of high school safety in neighboring school districts. 

Principal Jim Slemp had told the Planet that photo IDs would make the school safer and help keep tabs on who was on campus. He did not return messages Thursday asking for comments on the demise of the plan. 

Slemp’s secretary Richard Ng said the school’s Governance Council rejected the proposal for checking identification of all campus visitors. The council instead voted on Oct. 23 to approve the current visitor policy, which requires all visitors make an appointment at the front desk to meet with a teacher, though they do not have to show any identification. 

“We are not going to ask for IDs because we are not sure what would be accomplishing with it,” parent volunteer coordinator Janet Huseby told the Planet. “We are trying to do a balancing act between security, safety and welcoming, and the idea of an ID check didn’t seem particularly welcoming.” 

Parent Teacher Student Association president Mark Van Krieken said that the ID policy would have been potentially discriminating against immigrant parents who might not have photo IDs. 

“It just creates more emotional distance between the families and the school,” he said. 

Most teachers and parents on the council agreed that the identification check would set an unfriendly tone for the school. 

“It was not enforceable,” said council parent representative Jon Marley. “We do not want to put people at the front desk, as police officers and ID checkers, some of whom are parents themselves. Signing in and checking what their business is is enough ... As a parent, I would not be okay with passing through a security process. It is intrusive and discourages people from coming on campus.”  

Phil Halpern, council teacher representative, said he understood the desire for a more secure visitors’ policy. 

“It made some sense to assert some control on visitors because we’ve had some scary incidents on campus,” he said. “Some of my colleagues have been through the uncertainty of a stranger walking in their corridor. That can get to you. I would like to have an open institution, but I think the well-being of teachers and students is also important.” 

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, another parent representative, said that the protocol should be put in all languages in the parent handbook. 

Berkeley High parent Laura Menard said that requiring all adults to present a photo identification wouldn’t have im-proved campus safety much since she believed the real threat comes from young non-students hanging around the campus to sell drugs and cause trouble. 

“Students should wear IDs off campus at lunch,” she said. “Police often fail to identify suspects involved in fights.” 

Dean of Students Alejandro Ramos and Berkeley High beat officer Casimiro Pierantoni did not return phone calls for comment.