BHS Reacts to Oakland Shooting
On September 21, Oakland High School junior Raymen Justice was shot and killed on MacArthur Boulevard. Justice was a student at Oakland High and was known by many throughout the Bay Area, including students at Berkeley High School (BHS).
Justice was his school’s representative to the Oakland All City Council, and was involved in sports at OHS, as well as various programs both inside and outside of school. Those who knew Justice remember him as a warm, outgoing young man and a good student who was active in his community.
After news of Justice’s murder reached the Oakland High School administration, the principal of OHS contacted BHS Principal Pasquale Scuderi to communicate information relevant to the BHS student community.
“The OHS principal had received information that there were Berkeley High students, not involved with, but around the incident,” Scuderi stated. “She didn’t tell us that there was any threat or that our kids were somehow involved; nothing like that was articulated. It was just that they were somehow around the scene or in the area when the young man was killed.”
Security was increased on the BHS campus for a period of about an hour pending more information. The Berkeley Police Department was informed and BHS safety staff operated under awareness of the situation. Administrators were made more visible in the hallways during this time. “We played it safe,” said Scuderi.
Several BHS students witnessed the shooting, and additional students who had a relationship with Justice were aware of what had happened.
“We found out the extent to which they were connected with the incident,” said Scuderi about the students. “We were told that the Berkeley High students were safe, that their parents were involved, and that the Oakland Police were running the investigation.”
“It is not the first time something like this has happened, where there has been a loss of life that affected several different learning communities,” said BHS Dean of Students Ardarius MacDonald. “But I don’t know if people always communicate, and we got the word and were able to respond. The credit goes to [the OHS staff] for that.”
Scuderi maintained contact with the OHS principal throughout the day, and the BHS School Resource Officer and safety staff spoke with the OHS safety staff during this time as well.
As a result of this ongoing communication, it was affirmed that there was no real risk posed to the BHS community in relation to Justice’s death.
A space was subsequently set aside for grieving students to receive support from counselors. Though the administration remains open to students in need of support, Scuderi said that students are dealing with the emotional repercussions of the incident on a private level.
“I was able to talk to students who were close to Raymen,” said MacDonald. “I’ve been through this type of situation before. Sometimes, people just need that conversation.”
However, for the students who were involved as witnesses, the situation was different.
“We are providing for the grieving students, the students who knew [Justice]. But the way it stands right now for those students who were directly involved, we don’t have access to them as a school community,” MacDonald stated. “There were students that have transferred, I guess to get away from it all right now. It’s a lot to go through.”
The BHS administration does not has have reason to believe that the shooting was related to any ongoing conflict involving BHS students.
“We can all just speculate about things, but you can never really tell if you’re not intimately involved,” said MacDonald. “At Berkeley High, there is not an immediate risk. As far as our involvement at this point, we have to keep providing support to our student body.”