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Berkeley's Unequal Punishment of Teachers

The school district disproportionately disciplines black teachers and older educators with higher salaries. Are students paying the price?



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"I miss teaching and I miss the students," said Crowell, who lives with his wife and two young children in Oakland. But, he added, "I don't plan to go back to work under the same hostile conditions."

As things stand, a return to Berkeley High for Crowell could likely mean entry into BPAR, since he was referred last year but never began the process. He remains staunchly opposed to the program and what he sees as its inequitable application at Berkeley High — but he also does not want the school to lose an African-American teacher due to BPAR. As he and his supporters have noted, it can be detrimental for students of color to see one of the few black teachers at the school face this kind of backlash; when the BPAR controversy first ignited last year, students created a Facebook page called "Save Mr. Crowell from B-PAR, keep the best teacher at Berkeley High." He said he still gets emails of support from students today.

"His classroom was a safe place to talk about real issues," said Cat Priestley, Berkeley High's 2007-08 student body president, who had Crowell for economics and government in her senior year. She recalled engaging discussions on the presidential election. "His class was the best, because it was actually taking us seriously as voters. What I really appreciated about his class was he didn't take the approach of, 'Let me tell you about this election, let me tell you about this process.' It was, 'I want to hear your voices.'"

At Berkeley High, Crowell said he has regularly heard a similar comment of support that he felt was especially revealing. Upon graduation from high school, students of color would tell him that he was the only black teacher they had had in their entire K-12 education in Berkeley.

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