hool District (BUSD) students and their parent representatives filed a lawsuit on November 16 against BUSD officials on the terms of civil rights violations and damages on behalf of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School (MLK) seventh grade history, English, and English Language Development (ELD) teacher Yvette Felarca.
The lawsuit claims that the interviewers of the students committed acts of racial profiling and racial intimidation. The interviews were conducted as a part of an investigation of Felarca. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status on the counts of violations of California’s Civic and Education Code, California’s constitution, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States.
Between September 21 and November 1, Felarca was placed on administrative leave following an incident in June of 2016 in which Felarca was documented physically assaulting a neo-Nazi protester at a Sacramento rally. “I think the administrative leave that they placed me on was a continuation of the administration’s retaliation against me for the role I played in protesting the neo-Nazi’s and fascists in Sacramento” said Felarca.
It is alleged by the lawsuit that during Felarca’s leave of absence, district officials, including Superintendent Donald Evans and other members of BUSD’s Board of Education, questioned many of Felarca’s current and former ELD students.
According to the plaintiffs of the case, the nature of the interviews were aggressive and intimidating. Students were asked questions relating to their experiences discussing immigration and slavery in Felarca’s class, their personal and family immigration status, and their English speaking abilities.
“[They] interrogated the students about me, but more importantly interrogated the students in order to intimidate the students,” said Felarca.
According to the lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs was alarmed by the questions because they believed the the alleged interrogation resembled questions commonly asked by immigration officials.
Allegedly, students were interviewed without parental consent. Parents of the students said that they would have never agreed to the interviews and argue that school district officials violated a section of the California Education Code: “Parents’ and Guardians’ Right to Participate in the Education of their Children.”
The suit also claims that the students were told not to speak to others about the interview.
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants asked questions pertaining to their own political activities.
The plaintiffs’ attorney and organizer for BAMN Ronald Cruz said, “The only reason they interrogated her was because they had showed up at a school board meet and had spoken in defense of Ms. Felarca.”
Similarly, Felarca believes that the interrogations of the students are directly related to her own affairs with BUSD and her period of suspension.
Leyva-Cutler said that “the district is a strong proponent of our … right to free speech, civil rights, and all protections as provided by laws governing schools.”