Beverly Hills High School (usually abbreviated as "Beverly" or as "BHHS") is the only major public high school in Beverly Hills, California. The other public high school in Beverly Hills, Moreno High School, is a small alternative school located on Beverly's campus.

Beverly is part of the Beverly Hills Unified School District and located on 19.5 acres (79,000 m2) on the west side of Beverly Hills, at the border of the Century City area of Los Angeles. The land was previously part of the Beverly Hills Speedway board track, which was torn down in 1924. Beverly, which serves all of Beverly Hills, was founded in 1927. The original buildings were designed by Robert D. Farquhar in the French Normandy style. The school previously received income from its on-campus oil tower.

History

Beverly Hills High School was originally in the Los Angeles City High School District.[6] On March 23, 1936, the Beverly Hills Elementary School District left the Los Angeles City High School District and formed the Beverly Hills High School District; by operation of law this became the Beverly Hills Unified School District.[8]

Awards and recognition

During the 1999–2000 and 2004–05 school years, Beverly Hills High School was recognized with the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence by the United States Department of Education,[10][11] the highest award an American school can receive.[13] Newsweek ranked Beverly Hills High School as the 267th best public high school in the country.[14]

Admissions

Most students are residents of Beverly Hills. As of 1991 the non-resident students allowed to enroll in Beverly Hills High are employees of BHUSD, children of employees of the City of Beverly Hills, and a small number of students in the "multicultural program." Students in that program, which was financed by state funds tied to student enrollment, were required to supply their own transportation.[15] The program accepted 30 students each year.

The program began in the 1970s in order to expose the then-predominately Anglophone white/Caucasian students to other cultures. Until 1991 the program only admitted students who graduated from Emerson Middle School in Westwood, but in 1991 it was expanded to 11 LAUSD middle schools. It was expanded since there were complaints that it was taking away the best students from University High School, which Emerson feeds into.[15]

Student demographics

As of 1991 19% of the students were Iranian, and almost 20% of the students were either Asian, Black, and/or Latino. In 2008, Beverly Hills High School had 2,412 students: 70% Caucasian, 17% Asian, 5% African-American, 4% Latino.[16] In 2014, the student body was 72% white, 16% Asian, 6% black, and 5% Hispanic.[17]

The student body is, as of 2008, predominantly Jewish.[18] Many students are Iranian Americans, the majority of whom at the school are also Jewish.[18] Due to the large number of students of Iranian origin, the school has historically scheduled a staff development day on or around Nowruz.[19]

As of 2012 about 35% of Beverly's current student body was born outside the United States, and 41% of its students speak a first language other than English.[21] As of 1991 home languages other than English included Mandarin Chinese, French, Hebrew, Korean, and Russian.

Some television shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 have been criticized for not accurately portraying the student body.[18]

Student life

The 1988 non-fiction book Hard Lessons by Michael Leahy documents the life of six Beverly seniors for a full school year. In 1984, Beverly had a 100% graduation rate but three students committed suicide. These suicides piqued Leahy's interest in Beverly, and in 1985 he began writing Hard Lessons.

Leahy had heard many stories about Beverly having intense academic pressure, rampant cocaine abuse, and being a "den of hedonism." However, after speaking to Beverly students he concluded that sex and drug abuse were neither higher nor lower than at other local high schools. Beverly's social attitudes and morals were also nearly identical to these schools. Leahy did note that Beverly's academic pressure was unusually high which led to cheating and high anxiety amongst students.

In the media

Beverly has been featured in many films and TV shows, either as part of the plot or a filming location. Many movies, including Clueless, Real Women Have Curves, Whatever It Takes, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and It's a Wonderful Life, featured a scene in Beverly's unique "Swim Gym," perhaps the only gymnasium that has a basketball court that can split open to reveal a recreational-sized, 25-yard (23 m) swimming pool. The gym in Beverly Hills High was used in the video for boy band NLT's That Girl.

The front of Beverly High was shown in a short clip of Nickelback's music video for their song "Rockstar", although it only shows the part that reads "Hills High School" (the "Beverly" portion was cut off). The school was also in the cartoon show Totally Spies!, and it was often called "Bev High" for short. The book series The A-List follows a group of privileged teenagers and young adults from Beverly Hills, many of them who attend Beverly Hills High School and come from entertainment families and are known for their proactivity.

Initially, the producers of the 1990s television drama Beverly Hills, 90210 wanted the show to be set at Beverly Hills High School, and the show to be filmed on Beverly's campus. The Beverly Hills school board declined both requests. So, the TV producers created the fictional "West Beverly Hills High School" (or "West Beverly") and the show was filmed at Torrance High School, in Torrance, California. "West Beverly" is a clear reference to Beverly, because Beverly's campus is located on the western border of Beverly Hills. Although the real Beverly is mentioned throughout the first three seasons of the show. The fictional school, East Beverly Hills High School was in the book series The Privileged Life.

Enrollment controversies

The Beverly Hills Unified School District has faced controversies in student enrollment, mainly regarding diversity, and more recently, legacy enrollment (alumni preference).[22]

For many years Beverly has selected high-achieving students from twelve LAUSD middle schools on diversity permits in an attempt to increase the number of minorities enrolled. Selections have been made based on test scores, grades and writing samples. According to enrollment data for the 2006–2007 school year, however, seven out of ten students who entered the school this way were of Asian ethnicity. In April 2007 due to pressure from parents and activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who criticized the school for not recruiting more African-American and Latino students, Superintendent Kari McVeigh agreed to extend the application deadline until April 27, as reported in the Los Angeles Times and the Beverly Hills Courier, hoping that more students from these minority groups would seek to enroll. According to the Beverly Hills Courier (May 25, 2007), "civil rights leaders hailed the final student selections" as "an honest effort to obtain ethnic diversity."[23][6]

The school board voted 3–2 in the spring of 2008 to offer the children of alumni, who live outside the district's boundaries, preference in enrollment. The intended purpose is to influence these alumni to support the school district regarding bond measure or tax issues and fund-raising. Critics protest that, while legacy preferences are long established and constitutional for institutions of higher education (colleges and universities), legacy enrollment in public schools is anti-democratic, constitutionally questionable, and subvert public education to the benefit of the wealthy.

News services

BHHS has two award-winning news services.

KBEV-Channel 6 is a student-run television channel that began in 1974 on Theta Cable as part of the Public, educational, and government access (PEG) Channels requirements for cable companies (free access by Public-access television, Education-access television and Government-access television (GATV) entities in the community). KBEV airs a variety of programs, including the longest running high school news program in the country, The Norman Newservice (now The Norman News). KBEV has hosted many important guests, such as Ronald Reagan, in the past.

Highlights, the school's newspaper, has also won numerous awards for its reporting and writing. In October 2007, Highlights won first place in the 13th Annual California State University Northridge Journalism Skills Competition, with a total of seven out of twelve possible awards in news writing, feature writing, opinion writing, sports writing and photojournalism. The Highlights staff recently took home awards from the national JEA conference in St. Louis, Missouri. In April 2009, the Highlights staff ranked 3rd place among the nation in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to regularly winning individual awards at the JEA/NSPA fall and spring conferences, Highlights placed seventh in the nation at the 2011 Minneapolis conference in November.

Athletics

The Beverly Hills High School "Swim Gym" was designed by Stiles O. Clements and built in 1939 as a New Deal project. It features a basketball court that opens to reveal a 25-yard (23 m)-long swimming pool underneath. It is featured in It's A Wonderful Life as the location of the dance. Sports including volleyball, basketball, wrestling, swimming and water polo can all be played in this facility. Beverly offers the following sports:

BHHS's stadium is a multipurpose facility that is used for football, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and track and field.

Of the 90 football teams throughout the course of Beverly Hills High School's history, BHHS varsity football has won 12 state championships.

Beverly Hills' big rivalry is with Santa Monica and Culver City.

Performing arts

Beverly Hills High School has a Performing Arts Department that attracts casting directors, writers and producers to attend performances and to visit classes to speak with the students.[6]

Each year around late March to early April, the school holds its annual musical performance by performing arts students. The chair of the performing arts department was Herb Hall, also famous for his one line in the movie "Clueless". Many of these musicals are based on Broadway award-winning musicals. BHHS is also famous for its Theater Acting Workshop, where only Juniors and Seniors who audition get in. Nicolas Cage once enrolled in this class, as did his son Weston Cage.

The BHHS marching band has been selected to perform at Disneyland several times in its history. The marching band has also been invited to The London New Year’s Day Parade twice in its history, the last time being 2016.

BHHS now has a very successful competitive Winter Drumline. The BHHS Drumline is in its second competitive season. They compete in the SCPA and WGI circuits. The BHHS Drumline has performed such shows as "A Tour of Technology: The Inner-Workings of a Computer" and "Censor State: The State, The Conceded, The Resistance".[6]

Beverly Hills High School also has two award-winning groups, the Madrigal Singers (a chamber choir) and Minnesingers (currently an all-women's choir). Both groups have won a wide range of awards for their performances, usually at Heritage Festivals. They have traveled across the United States to well-known locales such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, Orlando, Washington, D.C. and even internationally to Mexico, France and New Zealand. Additionally, in December, both groups go Christmas caroling to raise money for their festival trips. The groups were founded by Robert Holmes, who also helped found the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts Summer Music Festival see Idyllwild Arts Summer Program.

BHHS's Dance Company is renowned for their success in dance. They hold annual shows in January, which they practice for immediately when the school year starts. A few years ago, the Dance Company traveled to its sister school in Cannes, France, where they were invited to perform. BHHS also has a hip-hop group, AP Posse, which performs in between Dance Company numbers.

Robotics team

BHHS has a robotics team, MorTorq Team 1515, that was founded in 2004. In 2010, 2013, and 2014 MorTorq's business team brought home the Chairman's Award, the most prestigious award the business team can receive. In 2015, MorTorq's build team brought home the 1st place banner at the Los Angeles Regional. [6]

Oil wells

A cluster of 19 oil wells in a single "drilling island" on Beverly's campus, owned by Venoco, Inc., can easily be seen by drivers heading west on Olympic Boulevard toward Century City. The oil wells have pumped much of the oil from under Beverly's campus, and many have been slant drilling into productive regions of the western part of the Beverly Hills Oil Field under many homes and apartment buildings in Beverly Hills for decades.[6]

As of May 2006, the Beverly Hills High School wells were pumping out 400 barrels (64 m3) to 500 barrels (79 m3) a day, earning the school approximately $300,000 a year in royalties.[6]

In the late-1990s an art studio run by two Beverly High Graduates volunteered to cover the well enclosure, which at that time was solid gray in color, with individual tiles that had been painted by kids with cancer.[6] The studio created the design and drew the lines on the tiles, but children painted the tiles in between the lines. The studio made the design rather abstract: the design consists of random shapes on different-colored backgrounds. A ceremony inaugurating the design was held in 2001.

Beverly gained more notoriety when Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry announced having filed three lawsuits in 2003 and 2004 on behalf of 25, 400, and 300 (respectively) former students who attended Beverly from the 1970s until the 1990s. In April 2003, the Texas-based lawfirm of Baron & Budd partnered with the law office of Masry & Vititoe to lend its expertise in lawsuits related to health risks of volatile chemicals.[6] The number of actual cancer claims filed in Santa Monica was ninety-four.[6]

The lawsuits claimed that toxic fumes from the oil wells caused the former students[6] to develop cancer. The oil wells are very close to all of Beverly's sports facilities, including the soccer field, the football field, and the racetrack. Beverly students—not just athletes but students taking required physical education classes from the 1970s until the 1990s—were required to run near the oil wells.

The city, the school district, and the oil companies named as defendants disputed this assertion, claiming that they had conducted air quality tests with results showing that air quality is normal at the high school.[34][36] In 2003, the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine published a "Community Cancer Assessment Regarding Beverly Hills, California" which failed to support Masry's claims.[38]

After receiving complaints about Beverly's oil installation, the region's air-quality agency investigated Venoco Oil (doing business as Venoco, Inc) and in 2003 issued three Notices of Violation regarding the operation of the drilling island. Venoco, Inc's penalty settlement included requirements that the company maintain continuous air quality monitoring at the high school, and prevent any oilfield gas (which is primarily methane gas) from being released into the atmosphere.[40]

On December 12, 2006, the first 12 plaintiffs (of over 1000 total) were dismissed on summary judgment because there was no indication that the contaminant (benzene) caused the diseases involved and the concentrations were hundreds to thousands of times lower than levels associated with any risk.[42] In Fall of 2007, the plaintiffs agreed to pay the School District and the City up to $450,000 for expenses from the lawsuits.[43] This payment of expenses is without prejudice to any of the plaintiffs in the case, which is on appeal.

The oil wells may have inspired a 1991 episode of the sitcom Saved By the Bell titled "Pipe Dreams." In it, oil is discovered at fictional Bayside High School in Pacific Palisades, California. There's excitement about the financial possibilities, but when a company comes in to drill, the character of Jessie realizes that it could be detrimental to the local environment.

In June 2004 Beverly Hills Courier Editor Norma Zager was named "Journalist of the Year" in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards competition for her coverage of the Erin Brockovich-Edward Masry lawsuit.[45] Two books about the oil wells and lawsuit have been published, "Parts Per Million: The Poisoning of Beverly Hills High School" by Joy Horowitz was published in July 2007 and "Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills: Greenscam" by Norma Zager was published in October 2010.

Notable alumni

BHHS has a number of famous alumni, many of whom are entertainers, the children of entertainers or other prominent people. In addition, many famous people have taught at the school; soap opera actor John Ingle taught the drama and acting program at the school from 1964 to 1985. While Beverly Hills High School alumni are known predominantly for their connections with the entertainment industry, BHHS has also produced well-known scholars in many scientific disciplines.