BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Students in Berkeley say their high school has become a hostile learning environment, saying they are being harassed in the hallways and administrators aren’t doing anything about it. They also claim the district is stopping them from talking to federal investigators looking into those complaints.
“Sexual harassment is everywhere at Berkeley High. You see students being catcalled all the time,” said Katy Thomason, a freshman at the school.
Liana Thomason, a Berkeley High senior, told KPIX 5 about classmates, “talking about how you have a nice butt.”
“Unwanted, people slapping a girl’s butt in the hallway,” Berkeley High freshman Eleni Salesin said.
They say the harassment isn’t just a Berkeley high problem it’s a district-wide problem.
“I was sexually assaulted by several boys on the school campus,” Katy Thomason said.
She said that happened at Berkeley Middle School and feels the school district has done little to stop and prevent sexual harassment.
Back in October, some boys at Berkeley High were caught using Instagram to harass female students.
“There was what’s called a ‘Slut Page,’ where they would post photos of girls drunk at parties, looking unflattering and would write really offensive things about the girls’ sexual habits even if they were not true at all,” Liana Thomason said.
After getting complaints from parents, the federal Office for Civil Rights came to Berkeley high last week to investigate the district’s harassment policies. But many people claimed the district stopped investigators from talking to the students.
They said the district told federal investigators that students would need parental consent and it would interfere with learning.
“To accurately investigate them, they need to be able to talk to all the people affected by it,” Katy Thomason said.
Rebecca Levenson, a mother of two girls, told KPIX 5, “How do I feel? I feel heartbroken. I feel devastated for the girls who’ve had the experiences over, and over, and over again.”
Parents and students hope the feds will force the district to do more in preventing sexual harassment on campus.
“To make it so that students are supported when they’re reporting. To make it so that students and teachers get education around what sexual harassment is and how to prevent it,” Liana Thomason said
Parents and students created a support group amid the reports of harassment.
The Berkeley Unified School District declined an on-camera interview, but said they are assisting federal investigators.