Petitions calling for Felarca’s dismissal have been circulating since at least June 2016, and no other media outlet, as far as The Heartland Institute has been able to discern, has reported Felarca has been recruiting middle schoolers to join the militant left-wing group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), putting them in harm’s way without their parents’ permission, and usually in direct defiance of the school principal, and has been caught lying repeatedly about these activities.
Felarca brought a lawsuit against the school district when it put her on paid leave to investigate her past misconduct. Felarca’s attorney, Shanta Driver, is BAMN’s national chair.
On its website, BAMN declares itself “a mass, democratic, integrated, national organization dedicated to building a new mass civil rights movement to defend affirmative action, integration, and the other gains of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and to advance the struggle for equality in American society by any means necessary.”
Court documents show Felarca has been receiving official reprimands from her employer since at least 2009. She has recruited students to participate in protests facilitated by BAMN, transported them to protests without permission in her personal vehicle, and abused sick and personal leave by lying about her absences so she could attend riots. At one point, Felarca took a student to a protest and left him behind, claiming later he had “wandered off.”
Court records show Felarca has a history of insubordinate, antagonistic behavior, and despite numerous warnings, official reprimands, “Notices of Unprofessional Conduct/Unsatisfactory Performance,” and arrests (even the liberal BUSD worried she would “indoctrinate students and use them to support [her] own political agenda”), the district announced in September 2017 it was only “monitoring developments in [Felarca’s] case” and would “respond in an appropriate manner, in keeping with federal law, the California Education Code, and the BUSD collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.”
The district waited until 2016 to discipline her formally and put her on paid leave, only to reinstate her two months later. Felarca is a member of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers union.
Contradictory Accounts of Conduct
After she was placed on paid administrative leave in September 2016, Felarca filed a lawsuit against the district, claiming the involuntary leave violated her First Amendment rights. The district said its decision was unrelated to her most recent arrest and the placement on administrative leave was in response to her insubordination and “safety and liability concerns” over her refusal to stop taking students on unapproved field trips in her personal car.
The introduction to the lawsuit Felarca filed against BUSD states Felarca “has received only positive evaluations over her ten years of teaching with BUSD” and the defendants were conducting “a political witch-hunt against [Felarca].”
Students Confirmed Accusations
Felarca provided as evidence notices she received from her employer, one of which shows the district interviewed Felarca’s students, who said their teacher constantly solicited them to join her at protests. She took advantage of non-native English speakers, the records show, persuading them to agree to send their children to her protests when they didn’t understand the trips were not school-approved. She even showed up at a student’s house to “manipulate [the student’s father] into signing a document that related to whether the school district had the right to interview his son without his permission,” the documents show.
The notices also detail Felarca repeatedly lying about sick and personal leave, with the district later finding out she took the time off to attend political rallies. Her lawyer demanded she be repaid for time the district docked when they determined she was abusing her leave, and court documents show she was being paid more than $77,000 per year even though BUSD claimed in September 2017 she was a part-time employee.
During the court proceedings, Felarca also presented copies of letters she said she received from supporters. The letters sound suspiciously alike and have a recurring theme of non-sequitur attacks on President Donald Trump.
One letter is attributed to “a Mexican 13 year old boy, who once lived and studied at Berkeley,” who writes, “[Felarca] wants justice, she wants to make better citizens. Isn’t that what teachers are meant to be? I want to say that Donald J. Trump has a chance to win the presidency of the U.S. Trump is a racist man, a fascist, and in my point of view ‘the stupidest man alive’…. Like once Yvette Felarca said, and I quote: ‘We need to take them head on, confront them, but with as many people as possible.'”
BAMN members encouraged protestors to “fill the courtroom” for Felarca’s October 4 hearing and to bully the Sacramento district by “demanding” she drop the charges against Felarca. No plea was submitted during the October hearing. Felarca was scheduled to appear again in court in November.
Teresa Mull ([email protected]) is a research fellow in education policy at The Heartland Institute.