School Board President Judy Appel and her wife, Alison Bernstein, back home after crash

Berkeley School Board President Judy Appel (right) and wife Alison Bernstein are home, four months after they were struck by a car and seriously injured. Photo: Judy Appel/Facebook

Berkeley School Board President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein, a defense attorney, have returned home four months after they were hit by a car and seriously injured while walking across the street.

The women have made significant progress after spending weeks in rehab programs, said Appel, reached by phone Thursday.

Now back at home, “we’re spending our energy healing,” she said.

Appel said she and Bernstein are grateful for the outpouring of support they’ve received since the Jan. 4 South Berkeley collision.


“It’s really humbling, and a beautiful thing to see,” she said.

The couple was crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Stuart Street shortly after midnight when they were struck by a car. The driver, an 81-year-old Berkeley man, was found at fault for failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, police said. He was not arrested.

A statement shared with Berkeleyside by a close friend of the couple in February said Appel sustained numerous fractures from the crash, while Bernstein suffered a brain injury. They were initially taken to Highland Hospital.

Appel, who is serving her second term on the School Board, had just begun a year-long stint as the board’s president in January. The board has continued regular operations in her absence, with Vice President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler facilitating most of the meetings. State law does not limit the amount of time a board member can take medical leave, according to a district spokesman.

Appel had been set to lead the district’s search for a new superintendent, following an announcement by Donald Evans that he would retire this summer. Her colleagues have selected Brent Stephens, a San Francisco Unified administrator, as the finalist for the job. The official vote will occur May 8.

Appel is also director of special projects at the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation in Oakland. Bernstein, who has represented clients who’ve been sentenced to death, was also formerly a member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission. The couple has two children. Both women have been outspoken advocates of LGBTQ rights.

Their collision and several others this year involving pedestrians and cyclists have prompted loud calls for stronger traffic safety and brighter streetlights.

The Berkeley City Council met recently to continue working on an update to the city’s pedestrian master plan. Berkeley’s stated goal is to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and serious injuries by 2028. Staff members have identified high-injury streets and are developing improvement projects.