Community holds rally in support of Berkeley Unified School District teacher

Lianne Frick/Staff

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Chants of “Ms. Felaraca back now” and “No Nazis, No KKK, Ms. Felarca has got to stay” rang outside the Berkeley Unified School District office Wednesday evening as students, teachers and community members rallied for the reinstatement of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher Yvette Felarca.

Felarca was put on administrative leave in September after her involvement in a protest against a pro-Trump rally, according to East Oakland Pride teacher and By Any Means Necessary activist Adarene Hoag. The protest took a violent turn as Felarca and other protesters were stabbed by self-proclaimed white nationalists. Additionally, there is video footage showing Felarca attacking one of the Trump supporters.

“We’ve got to get her back now and tell the school board to stop hiding behind closed sessions and saying that they can’t talk about this in public when the community demands a response and demands immediate action,” said Tania Kappner, a teacher at Oakland Technical High School, during the rally.

After an anonymous threatening email was sent to the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School principal, the Berkeley Unified School District released a statement that addressed the threat and stated that — with regards to Felarca’s punishment — teachers must adhere to board policies regarding discussion of controversial topics in the classroom.

Berkeley Unified School District could not comment further on the topic as employee disciplinary matters are confidential, according to the release.

“(Berkeley Unified School District) is scared of the militancy and the fight of its students,” Hoag said. “We’re just not going to accept Berkeley going down a road of any racist threat that they cave into and throw minority teachers or students or communities under the bus.”

During the rally, participants chanted and spoke openly about various racist incidents that occurred at Berkeley High in which a noose was hanged and racist messages were displayed on library computers.

Protesters also raised issue with the alleged interrogation of Felarca’s English Language Learners students by administrators, who, according to Felarca, did so without receiving parental consent.

“These are immigrant students,” Felarca said. “They are some of the most vulnerable students in the school and they just targeted them in order to try to manufacture whatever they’re trying to do in terms of this witch-hunt against me and I think that’s incredibly shameful.

The superintendent and board president released a statement the same day as the rally that said the Berkeley Unified School District could not comment on the recent student interviews as it would conflict with confidential employee matters. Additionally, release stated that the BUSD is actively working to address the concerns surrounding this issue.

The statement also stipulated that students are occasionally interviewed by administrators, and in some instances, parental notification before an interview is required and in other instances it is not.

“My teaching is something that helps me stay accountable to the young people … and I’m committed to continue to do that,” Felarca said.“Whatever they’re doing to me isn’t going to stop me from fighting for that and I don’t think it’s going to stop me, period.”

Contact Sydney Fix at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.