Berkeley Unified School District placed Yvette Felarca, a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher, on administrative leave Wednesday, following community criticism after a video showed she physically attacked a self-proclaimed white nationalist during a protest in Sacramento, California on June 26.
The Berkeley school district is currently conducting an investigation into concerns that were raised surrounding Felarca, according to school district spokesperson Charles Burress. Burress declined to comment further on the situation.
Felarca has personally filed a state and federal lawsuit against the school district, and the teacher’s union has also filed a grievance with the district on Felarca’s behalf. The administrative leave was put in place about three weeks after classes began Aug. 30.
Over the summer, Robert Jacobsen, a former Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School student, created an online petition, which has garnered 571 signatures, to have Felarca removed from her position.
“Felarca’s activity would get a student expelled at best, or jailed at worst,” Jacobsen said in the petition description. “And yet she’s meant to be a role model for students.”
Felarca was attending the June protest as a member of By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, a coalition in support of civil rights. BAMN protesters, including Felarca, were stabbed later in the day by white nationalist protesters.
“It’s about so much more than me,” Felarca said. “If the district can get away with manufacturing a witch hunt against me, then that means they can get away with this against any teacher who has differing political views.”
According to Felarca, the Berkeley school district sent a letter dated June 30 stating that she would be docked 25 days worth of pay, more days than she works in one month.
“I teach students how to think critically,” Felarca said. “I teach students how to be proud of who they are. I teach students how to question authority, including me.”