An eight-month-old petition to fire a Berkeley Unified School District teacher gained thousands of signatures after her Monday appearance on Fox News.
Yvette Felarca, who is also an organizer for activist group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss the Milo Yiannopoulos protest. During the interview, Felarca said Yiannopoulos should not be allowed to speak at universities because he invokes violence.
“What Yiannopolous has done is whip up a whole lynch mob mentality,” Felarca said in the interview. “But in Berkeley, we made sure that didn’t happen because we were able to shut him down.”
The Fox News segment sparked the public’s renewed interest in the petition, which was created after Felarca yelled at and reportedly punched a man at a June 2016 white nationalist rally in Sacramento. About four months after the incident, Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on paid administrative leave, but did not provide a reason.
The petition gained about 500 signatures soon after it was created. Following Felarca’s appearance on Fox News, the petition has garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
Although the petition’s original goal was 1,000 signatures, it has since increased to 7,500.
Felarca was unavailable for comment as of press time.
Additionally, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans and Board President Ty Alper released a joint statement Wednesday addressing the controversy surrounding Felarca’s interview.
“Many have asked us whether the teacher in question will be disciplined for her political activities and for public statements she has made,” the statement said. “We do not discuss personnel matters in public.”
According to Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Burress, there has been no official discussion on the petition, although Berkeley Unified School District is aware of it. He added that he was unable to speculate what Berkeley Unified School District might do if the petition reached its goal.
Berkeley Unified School District PTA President Christine Staples said the PTA declined to comment on the petition.
David Craig, treasurer for the Berkeley College Republicans, said he understood why people were upset that Felarca was a public school teacher. He said he believed that advocating for the violation of free speech is not acceptable.
“I don’t think she should be allowed to teach our kids,” Craig said.
In their statement, Evans and Alper emphasized that Berkeley Unified School District firmly supports the right to free speech. They also added, however, that the district “strongly (condemns) the use of violence in confronting speech,” even if the speech is contrary to the community’s values.
Contact Connor Bunnell and Gibson Chu at [email protected].