Berkeley school district President Judy Appel returns from hospital after accident

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Berkeley Unified School District President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein have returned home from the hospital after they were hit by a car four months ago, which left them in critical condition, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Appel and Bernstein were crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way when they were struck by a vehicle driven by an 81-year-old Berkeley resident. Appel and Bernstein were then transported to a local hospital and have remained there since Jan. 5.

According to BUSD Director Julie Sinai, in Appel’s absence, BUSD Vice President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler has served as the acting president, and BUSD Director Ty Alper has served as the acting vice president. Leyva-Cutler said in an email that because Appel serves on various committees, other board members have temporarily filled her position during her absence.

“We have made it very clear that we are holding Judy’s seat,” Sinai said. “We want her to spend the time she needs to recover.”

Sinai said BUSD does not have any updates on when Appel will return to the board. Leyva-Culter added in an email that the board is “deferring” to Appel to determine when she is ready to return to work.

Sinai said BUSD will not hold any discussions until Appel announces her plans.

“It is understandable that much healing needs to happen,” Leyva-Cutler said in an email. “She has just returned home after months away from her family, so this time with family is also part of the healing.”

According to Berkeleyside, Appel and Bernstein are grateful for the outpouring of support from the Berkeley community. Appel said the support is “humbling” and a “beautiful thing,” according to Berkeleyside.

While Appel and Bernstein were in the hospital, Berkeley community members created online support networks to aid in Appel and Bernstein’s recovery. A GoFundMe page that was launched by family friend Jessica Behrens raised more than $14,000.

“It has been wonderful and heartening to feel the expressions of love and concern being given to Judy and Alison,” Leyva-Cutler said in an email. “I am sure this has contributed to their recovery.”

Leyva-Cutler said Appel and Bernstein’s accident has raised awareness for pedestrian safety. She said Berkeley and surrounding communities are looking to use the Vision Zero Network to build safer streets for all.

The Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit collaborative campaign aimed at eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe and healthy mobility, according to its website.

“Judy and Alison are two great partners that love and embrace their family, community, and their commitment to social justice,” Leyva-Culter said in an email. “We all want them to be confident that we are doing the work so they can … focus this time on their healing and well-being.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.