Student group protests sex harassment, assault policies at school district board meeting

Jihoon Park/Staff

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Members of BHS Stop Harassing piled into the Berkeley Unified School District board meeting Wednesday to protest the district’s policies and processes regarding sexual harassment and assault.

During the meeting, students spoke before the board and read out the story of former Berkeley High School student Tori Burns and her experience as a survivor of sexual assault and harassment at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and later Berkeley High School. Members of the group wore shirts that read “Stop blaming my body for your harassment” and carried signs with phrases such as “BUSD Violates Title IX” and “she’s not the only one” while students read out Burns’ story.

The students detailed how Burns was forced to repeatedly confront her harasser as a freshman at Berkeley High, despite informing administration of their encounters, leading Burns to feel unsafe and dread going to school.

According to Heidi Goldstein, an adult advisor for BHS Stop Harassing, the group has gone before the board multiple times with stories of various students in the school district who have experienced sexual harassment or assault and faced problems with administration in handling their cases.

“Every girl who comes here comes here because she wants to tell her story. She comes here because she has had trouble being heard by the current system of policies and processes that you have in place here at this school district,” Goldstein said at the meeting. “These are policies and processes that give a pass to perpetrators. These are policies and processes that rely on remedy systems that don’t exist.”

During public comment, various community members also spoke before the board to express support for BUSD teacher Yvette Felarca after an eight-month-old petition calling for Felarca to be fired recently resurfaced. The petition garnered thousands of signatures after Felarca appeared on Fox News on Feb. 13 in an interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Felarca said at the meeting that she had been made a target of supporters of Donald Trump and followers of Fox News and urged the board to not “give in” to pressures from the right wing. Felarca was put on administrative leave in September 2016 after a video surfaced of her reportedly punching a white nationalist during a protest in Sacramento in June.

“It’s really important to me as a parent in this community that people outside of the district who have white supremacist tendencies not be given a voice in our district in any way whatsoever,” said Selena Ellis, a parent of a BUSD student, at the meeting.

BUSD board directors Judy Appel and Beatriz Levya-Cutler expressed appreciation and support for the students and members of BHS Stop Harassing who had shared their experiences during public comment.

“I’m committed to finding ways to work with you in our district in effectively improving our protections for our students in cases of sexual harassment and bullying,” Cutler said at the meeting. “Safety is an important priority for our district, I know it is. I know that we can do better, and I’m committed to that.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.

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  • Jay Beswick

    BAMN is the organized source of the West Coast riots, look at Wikipedia linked with Antifa
    BAMN who they are! Cause of 2016 Riots in Sacramento
    2017 Berkeley Riots who organized it
    Exploiting School children, minors, by BAMN, Teachers & Imigration Movement
    BAMN founder has ties to MAN BOY LOVE NAMBLA
    BAMN & Yvette Felarca tied to NAMBLA Man Boy Love Group! Riot Organizers!
    BAMN – Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary

  • ShadrachSmith

    Imagine being married to one of them.

  • Paul-Kealoha Blake

    Yes I support Yvette Felarca… and apparently so does Simon and Schuster who cancelled the neo nazi Milo Yianonpolous’s contract.. in essence revealing a need to halt his abuse of “free” speech in his support of pedophilia as sometime providing security to vulnerable children. As if we need any further help in abandoning our children to predators and assaulters. Perhaps that is the logic that our School Board uses, as it tells the victim of a graphic sexual assault that the best they can offer… is that she should change schools. Resistance now… not after the fact.

  • Citizen Smith

    Why has Ms Felarca not been arrested for assault? Here is the evidence of her crimes:

    • Jay Beswick

      Here is Why!

      ***************** BAMN AFFILIATES ************************ (affiliated with both organizations)

      AAAED was founded in 1974 as the American Association for Affirmative Action

      * AAAED – American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity
      * LEAD – The Fund for Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity
      * UEAALDF – United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund
      * BAMN – By Any Means Necessary
      * DAAP – Defend Affirmative Action Party

      Donations come primarily from the following

      Kellogg Foundation
      Detroit Federation of Teachers
      The Ford Foundation
      The Impact Fund
      California Federation of Teachers
      Society of American Law Teachers (SALT)
      Southern Poverty Law Center
      Volunteers for Affirmative Action (Flint)
      Michigan Federation of Teachers
      Judge Gregory Mathis
      Inner City Miracle
      Law Students for Affirmative Action
      Center for Constitutional Rights
      Citizens for Affirmative Action’s Preservation
      San Francisco Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
      AFSCME Local 312 (DOT)
      UAW International
      Michigan AFLCIO
      Judge Greg Mathis
      UAW Local 6000
      Buck Dinner (Fund for Equal Justice)
      International Longshoremen’s Assoc. Local 1414
      Movement For Justice
      SEIU Local 79
      Bowling Green State University (several departments)
      Michigan Education Association
      Committee to Elect Sharon McPhail
      AFSCME Local 207 (Public Workers)
      SEIU Local 790
      Oakland Education Association
      Steelecase Inc.
      Women Law Students Association
      Laborer’s International Union Local: 645
      SEIU Local 535
      Michigan Human Right Campaign
      United Steel Workers of America Local 295
      Steve Conn & Heather Miller
      Dr. Melvin Murphy
      Wilma Chan, California State Assembly Majority Leader
      United Educators of San Francisco (UESF)
      United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)
      Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 (AC Transit workers, Oakland, CA)

      [ BAMN

      BAMN are supposedly the “militant” faction of UEAA made up of cultural
      marxists and other degenerates who’ve never lived under communist rule.

      • Jay Beswick

        She is politically funded and supported by the teachers unions plural.

  • MrEFQ

    “During public comment, various community members also spoke before the board to express support for BUSD teacher Yvette Felarca after an eight-month-old petition calling for Felarca to be fired recently resurfaced.”

    People actually support that psycho? That is scary.

  • nobody

    What, no great orgy to reward their nu-males allies for their support? Not very progressive, it’s like they like to discriminate them.