Case of M.S.

YELP successfully reached an agreement with the Berkeley Unified School District that allowed their client, who had been recommended for expulsion, to complete his senior year of high school and receive a diploma from Berkeley High while fulfilling his credits through Independent Study.

Over a period of time prior to YELP’s involvement, the Berkeley High School campus had witnessed a number of race-related attacks and harassment. School officials and security had been notified of the ongoing problem on several occasions but had not taken effective action to keep the students safe. This failure to act culminated in an unfortunate incident: After receiving a phone call from a young friend, crying for help during a racially motivated attack, YELP’s client and two other students entered a fight on school grounds. Outnumbered and afraid for the young friend’s safety, the client grabbed the steering wheel locking device from his car. Although he was immediately thrown to the ground upon entering the fight and in no way used the device as a weapon, he was recommended for expulsion for possession of a “lethal weapon” and “attempting to cause great bodily injury.”

Through intensive witness interviews and investigation and collaboration with a local advocacy group, YELP students Lance Alarcon (’11) and Cara Gray (’11) uncovered the hostile environment in the school and the administration’s failure to maintain the safety of all of its students. During pre-hearing negotiations, the school district recognized that their failure to intervene in the escalating racial tension led to the fight and was therefore willing to settle our client’s case. M.S. received a stipulated suspended expulsion and was required to remain out of trouble until the end of the school year.

Upon successful conclusion, M.S. received his Berkeley High Diploma and his record was expunged. Afterwards, YELP continued to work with the advocacy organization in its efforts to ensure a safe and secure campus for all Berkeley High students.