More than half of the students at Berkeley High School walked out of class Thursday morning to protest threats of violence against black students and statements of support for the Ku Klux Klan found posted to a library computer on Wednesday afternoon, according to social media posts.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 students at the roughly 3,100-student campus left class and marched to the University of California campus, according to Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan.
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),”
An investigation into who left the threatening message — which included several racial slurs, threats of lynching and a specific threat of public lynching on Dec. 9 — is “moving fast” and could even be completed later today, Coplan said. The student who left the message could face expulsion and possible criminal charges.
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,” Pasarow said.
One speaker at today’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 to 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.
“In the past acts of terror committed against the black student body have been ignored,” Black Student Union members said in a statement. “We will not allow this to be trivialized like these other horrific instances.”
The school is asking anyone with information about the source of the threats to contact the school at (510) 644-6121.