Berkeley middle school receives threatening email after teacher’s involvement in violent protest

Alexandre Bui/Staff

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An email was sent to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School principal Janet Levenson on Sunday threatening to harm the students unless teacher Yvette Felarca was fired.

Felarca, a middle school English teacher and an organizer for the activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, attended and helped arrange a counterprotest in Sacramento on June 26 that turned violent. Her involvement with the counterprotest is believed to be the reason behind the threatening email.

“I am appalled that anyone would even make a threat to kids,” said Donald Evans, superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District.

The rally in Sacramento, which Felarca was protesting with BAMN, was organized by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white supremacist political group. The protest became a violent clash between the two groups, with 10 people being hospitalized. In a news video of the incident, Felarca can be seen punching a protester, and she sustained an injury during the confrontation.

Parents of children attending schools in the Berkeley school district were notified of the email and the threats it contained in a letter sent out Monday. According to the letter, the school received multiple letters expressing concerns about the incident, which has garnered publicity from local media and induced strong reactions within the local community.

Several messages questioned whether or not Felarca would be fired, though whether the messages came from parents or concerned citizens is unclear, according to Evans.

Upon receiving the threatening email, Berkeley Police Department was notified and subsequently involved the FBI, who deemed the message a low-level threat.

The school district and BPD have increased BPD patrols and other security measures around the middle school campus and have moved the locations of several summer camps using the facilities. School is not in session at the moment, according to Evans, and there are no students at the school.

“At this point, we are just concerned with ensuring our kids are safe,” Evans said.

The school district could not comment on whether Felarca will be fired or face disciplinary action for her involvement in the protest because such matters are confidential. Unless Felarca is being investigated by police, she cannot be disciplined for actions she took in her off time.

Capt. Josh Ehlers with the California Highway Patrol in Sacramento said, though he cannot confirm whether one specific individual is being investigated, the California Highway Patrol is actively investigating multiple incidents and individuals that were involved Sunday.

“It is important to state that we do not support the use of violence in confronting speech,” said Evans and school district board president Beatriz Leyva-Cutler in the statement to Berkeley school district families. “While we may find beliefs espoused by racist and anti-immigrant organizations to be abhorrent, there are productive ways to respond to hate speech that do not involve violence.”

Felarca could not be reached for comment.

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].