Apr 16, 2012
Brooke Harris, a young 8th grade teacher in the Pontiac Academy for Excellence charter school, was fired in March for helping her students organize a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin’s parents.
Harris has taught at the school for three years, and has won the “teacher of the year” award twice.
Harris says that after her 8th grade journalism students were talking about the Trayvon Martin case last month, she used it as a teachable moment and had them write editorials on the case. “And they were deeply affected. They made it very personal, so much so that they wanted to do more. They wanted to do the fundraiser,” Harris said.
The charter school has a uniform dress code, but regularly schedules “dress-down” fundraisers. Harris’s students wanted to organize a fundraiser where students would pay one dollar to be allowed to wear a hoodie on a “dress-down” day. The money would go to Martin’s parents.
Harris received approval from her principal, but had it rescinded by the school’s superintendent, Jacqueline Cassell. After students approached Cassell directly, Harris was suspended. After Harris asked for an explanation, she was fired for “insubordination.”
This is a charter school, so teachers are not unionized and can be fired for any reason.
It seems that in this charter school, helping your students to take a stand on social issues – even on something so basic as racist violence – is enough to get you fired!