By Ken A. Epstein
Andre Mouton, longtime youth mentor in Oakland and San Francisco schools, had his criminal record cleared recently when he was pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Mouton, 51, was one of 21 whose pardons were approved by Brown from among more 50 names that the Department of Corrections had recommended to the governor.
“It kind of offsets my record. The significance is that this restores most of my civil rights,” Mouton said. “I can serve on a jury and serve in public office. I also can hold jobs in probation and parole.”
Mouton currently works at UC Berkeley as a mentor and runs a mentoring organization, Students Advocate for Education (SAFE), providing services at the three small schools at Castlemont High School in East Oakland.
He was convicted in 1989 of second-degree burglary, which is classified as a nonviolent and not a serious felony.
“When I got out, I started working as a principal’s secretary in 1994, because I type 80 words a minute,” he said. The district was aware of his record and had no issue with hiring him.
He started a mentoring program at Castlemont in 2000, supervising a staff of five that was funded by the school district. He also began a transitional program for homeless students at the school.
When the state took over the school district in 2003, he was “ousted” by State Trustee Randy Ward. “They used my criminal record against me because they wanted to use the money my program was getting,” he said.
At that point, he went to work in San Francisco schools and at a charter school. When Randy Ward left, he was rehired in Oakland.
Former School board member Paul Cobb said he remembered Mouton´s activism on behalf of students.
“If more teachers, churches and counselors followed Mr. Mouton´s example, our schools would be a better place,” Cobb said. “Maybe Mr. Mouton would consider running for a seat on the school board some day.”