On Wednesday, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher Yvette Felarca returned to her classroom after six weeks of administrative leave.
The Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on administrative leave Sept. 21 after she was filmed physically attacking a self-proclaimed white nationalist during a protest in June. On Wednesday, a Berkeleyside article reported that Felarca was returning to teach at the middle school.
“I am very happy not only that I won this victory, but that this was a victory for other teachers and school workers,” Felarca said about her reinstatement. “It was a movement to defend quality public education in Berkeley.”
Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Burress confirmed that Felarca returned to teach yesterday, but would not comment on the topic any further because of “confidentiality requirements regarding personal matters.”
After the protest in June, in which some members including Felarca of the activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, were stabbed by white nationalists, the Berkeley school district started an investigation into concerns that were raised surrounding Felarca.
Felarca said she thinks she was reinstated because there was growing community support for her to return to teaching.
“I received new organizational support … not only from Berkeley, but (from) new supporters internationally,” Felarca said. “So this situation became untenable for the administration.”
Felarca said there was a meeting on Tuesday between her attorney Shanta Driver, the president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers Cathy Campbell and members of the school district administration, including Superintendent Donald Evans.
Felarca said she believes that the decision to end her administrative leave had already been made prior to that meeting, and that the meeting took place because of that decision.
On Oct. 26, Felarca filed a lawsuit against Berkeley Unified School District, alleging in part that the school district violated her First Amendment rights by placing her on involuntary paid leave based on her involvement with a political group.
Ronald Cruz, an attorney for BAMN who is involved in the lawsuit, confirmed that the lawsuit is still proceeding.
“We continue to … fight for her free speech right and academic freedom,” Cruz said. “We also seek damages for the violations on her rights … to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected.”