Berkeley High student admits to racist threats

Berkeley High School administrators said they found the student who allegedly posted racist threats to a library computer on Wednesday that prompted a massive walkout at the school Thursday morning, a school district spokesman said.

The threats, found on a library computer at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, included several racial slurs, statements of support for the Ku Klux Klan and a specific threat of public lynching on Dec. 9.

Technology workers at the school worked quickly to gather evidence identifying the student, who was located this afternoon and brought in for an interview with school principal Sam Pasarow, district spokesman Mark Coplan said. When confronted with the evidence, the student confessed, he said.

Administrators do not think that the student actually intended to commit any violence and there was no particular significance to the date of Dec. 9. School administrators are considering what disciplinary action to take, including possibly expulsion, and will turn over their findings to Berkeley police, Coplan said.

More than half of the students at Berkeley High School walked out of class to protest the threats this morning. Between 1,500 and 2,000 of the school’s roughly 3,100 students left class and marched to the University of California campus, Coplan said.

Photos and video on social media showed students holding “Black Lives Matter” signs and screaming in outrage as speakers quoted the posted threats.

The students who walked out will not face disciplinary action and in fact were joined by principal Sam Pasarow and two district board members, who were supportive of the students’ actions, Coplan said:

“We’re really proud of our students, we think they did a great job in taking back the power that was really taken away from them (Wednesday).”

Most of the students returned to class after the protest, he said.

Pasarow said in a statement posted to the school’s website Wednesday evening:

“This is a hate crime and messages such as this one will not stand in our community. … We are working hard to create a positive and inclusive school culture and we recognize the deep pain and rage that hate crimes such as this one bring to our students of color, as well as the damaging effects on our entire community.”

One speaker at Thursday’s demonstration said the response from Pasarow only came after emails and posts from the school’s Black Student Union.

The group drew a connection between the threats posted Wednesday and the recall of the school’s yearbook in June because of derogatory messages about the school’s Academy of Medicine and Public Service, which has a large portion of black and Hispanic students.

The students also pointed out that a noose was discovered on the campus last year.

Black Student Union members said in a statement:

“In the past acts of terror committed against the black student body have been ignored. … We will not allow this to be trivialized like these other horrific instances.”