Berkeley High student behind ‘public lynching’ post that spurred protest confesses
A 15-year-old high school student has confessed to posting a threatening and racist message that turned up on a school computer and prompted a mass student walkout in Berkeley, California, police and school officials said on Friday.
As many as 1,000 Berkeley High School students left class on Thursday morning after school district officials notified parents the night before about the hateful message, Berkeley Police Department spokesman Byron White said.
The message, shared on Twitter by the school’s black student union and then published by local news outlets, included racial slurs, a claim of past racial violence, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan and a threat of a “public lynching” in December.
A 15-year-old boy from the school has claimed responsibility for the writings, White said on Friday.
School officials have not released the student’s name or race.
Police are investigating the message as a hate crime, White said. Findings will be turned over to a district attorney who handles juvenile to consider whether to file charges.
It was not immediately known whether the school had taken any disciplinary action against the student.
The school’s principal, Sam Pasarow, said in a message late on Thursday that the school learned the identify of the student who wrote the “hateful threats on a library computer” during an investigation by administrators and technology staff.
“We are considering all available consequences for the individual in response to the widespread hurt that these actions caused,” Pasarow said.
School district spokesman Mark Coplan, who also said the student had admitted to writing the message, said the principal was “pursuing disciplinary action, which could include expulsion or lesser punishments.”
The black student union called the message “terrorism” in a statement and demanded immediate action.
On Thursday, students staging the walkout assembled outside the high school and marched a few blocks to the campus of University of California, Berkeley, chanting and carrying signs.
Among the chants was “Black lives matter,” a refrain that has come to define a national movement against systemic racism and police violence in the wake of numerous high-profile police killings of unarmed black men during the past year. White said the protest was peaceful.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editng by Steve Gorman and Bill Trott)