A Lack of Civility at BHS

Nov 2000

It was interesting to read the item on truancy at Berkeley High, not because of the truancy issue but because of the lack of civility the parent encountered as she talked to the people who run the school. Every time I go onto the campus (and that is thankfully not very often) I am appalled at the way the staff talks to the students. They are belittled and talked down to at every opportunity. Generally, there's no respect shown towards the students. When I've said something to my kids they've replied, it's ok, you get used to it. That, in itself, is very sad.

On the truancy issue itself, my son tells me that students are told to get off campus if they do not have a class. They are told they are a liability to the school if they have no class and stay on campus. Someone out there might be able to shed some light on this.


I certainly agree that the staff at BHS treats the kids very rudely. They don't set a good example. It's kind of like being at the DMV or some other agency with rude, cursory service. When I took my son to the Junior Prom last year, the Principal was meeting every student at the door with a metal detector. What a hostess! I understand concerns for safety but my feeling was that, for every kid who may have caused trouble, there were probably 500 who didn't and they should have been treated like the wounded veterans that they were. They went through a lot last year. There were oodles of security guards there that night. If a metal detector was necessary, it should have been anyone but the Principal who wielded it. I feel that she should have been greeting them with a big smile and kind words instead. Barbara


I wholeheartedly agree with the comments about the lack of civility in the way staff at Berkeley High interact with students - with some notable exceptions, since there are some wonderful people on staff who are respectful and helpful, but those who are not poison the atmosphere and and fuel the lack of civility on the students' part. It is part of the very unpleasant atmosphere at Berkeley High. With some staff members, both students' and parents' statements are met with suspicion, as if there is the assumption that the student is probably lying or guilty of something. I realize they are overworked and, especially since the fire last year, working in adverse, chaotic circumstances, but that doesn't make it any easier on the students or the parents. Anonymous


After reading about the uncivility of BHS teachers for several issues, I am moved to add some comments based on two years of personal experience. My son has never complained about rude behavior--in fact he has enjoyed civil and helpful relationships with many of his teachers. A few are not very responsive or helpful, but not disrespectful. I have had many contacts with teachers (because my son can be forgetful about assignments and turning in homework so my husband and I have to monitor his progress) and I have never been treated with disrespect or rudeness. Just the opposite. My personal experience is that most teachers are delighted with the parental involvement. They want their students to learn and participate. I hope other parents will speak out and correct the skewed perception that BHS is full of rude, nasty, uncaring teachers and staff. It is a great disservice (and disrespectful) to lump all teachers and staff into the "rude" category.


I am starting a Writing Center pilot project to support all students (as the program grows it will reach all students through their English classes.) My contacts with the English faculty have been not only civil but appreciative and helpful. MLC

RE: Rudeness at BHS: My issues about rudeness at BHS were not about teachers. With a couple of notable exceptions, the teachers we have had have been excellent and I have been impressed by their willingness to be respectful and encouraging to the students. My kids have really appreciated and respected almost all of the teachers they have had at BHS. It is the STAFF that treats the students like they are a big pain - they shuffle them around like cattle and show very little energy for helping them out in a courteous manner. It's not a pretty picture. Barbara


I didn't think the discussion about rudeness at BHS was about the teachers. My contacts with teachers at BHS have always been courteous and helpful, and some teachers have gone out of their way to be help my kids and others' kids. Ginger


I am one of the people who posted about incivility of staff at Berkeley High. After reading the last newsletter, I want to clarify that I have never experienced this from teachers. I was talking about other staff members, mainly office staff in the administrative areas. Anonymous


I must also say that generally I've been most impressed with the teachers and staff at BHS. I've especially been impressed with the enthusiasm and availability of my son's teachers after attending Back To School Night. Almost all of his teachers said that they are available to their students daily during lunch or after school. In addition, many of them distributed their home phone numbers in addition to their email addresses!!! I just hope no one takes advantage of this openness! We need to support these dedicated teachers and model for our children appropriate respective behavior. Shelley


I, too, have experienced rudeness and disarray in the administrative offices of BHS and have listened to my student be appalled by it. Besides being a parent, my job takes me into many schools in other districts. In many places staff is overworked, security is a routine part of the campus environment, there are language and cultural complexities, yet I have never experienced anything approaching the chaos that is routine in BHS front offices. Other schools often seem conventional and much less creative and vital than BHS but, even in schools that struggle with the same problems BHS has, staff is helpful and, most importantly, can find what you ask for. I've been aware of this for many more years than my child has been going to BHS and I've thought there are entrenched attitudes that don't change even though school principals come and go with the seasons. I've wished for some housecleaning. A. Non


I would like to ask whether the office staff 'incivility' people refer to in this discussion took place this fall, or in the past? I have found the staff in the administration trailers this year to be friendly and helpful, though also, naturally, very busy. I try to respect these constraints, and find I am treated respectfully in return. I also try to give the staff a hand when possible: e.g., making a few extra copies of the master schedule so that they have some to give to other parents, feeding back information about SAT test schedules when they don't have it at their fingertips. These people are riding a tiger -- let's help them out.


I also want to single out for praise the gentleman who serve as the administrative assistant for the counselors (wish I could remember his name.) Although the BHS counseling situation has a long history of chaos which is not yet cured, he did a lot in the first two weeks of school to bring some order and method to the system. The counselors themselves deserve credit for supporting this, as well.

Finally, I also think that if a staffer is truly rude or uncivil, you should take it to VP Lee, who is in charge of administration, or to Frank Lynch. Putting up with it just creates a downward spiral.