MICHIGAN, PONTIAC – Brooke Harris, a teacher at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence Middle School in Pontiac, Michigan, was fired recently for helping students with a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin.
Harris said that she was was fired after supporting a group of students who were planning a wear-a-hoodie-to-school day in order to raise money for Martin’s family. Harris told ABC that she was confused by her dismissal since she did “everything by the book.”
“I was told I was a bad teacher, that I was being unprofessional, that I’m being paid to teach, not to be an activist. When I tried to defend myself, it was construed as insubordination.”
Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell didn’t comment on the teacher’s dismissal but did say that she does not oppose activism. Cassell did say, however, that the wear-a-hoodie-to-school event would have distracted students from their studies.
“I’m a child of the civil rights movement (but) this is not the time in the school year (for a protest). In every situation, there are work rules… When rules are violated, there are consequences.”
Boston.com reports that the idea for the hoodie fundraiser came from the students after Harris asked her students to write an editorial about Martin’s death. The students wanted to ask the school’s administrators if they could pay $1 each to wear a hoodie to school. The Pontiac Academy for Excellence has a dress code but often holds fundraisers where students are allowed to “dress down” in order to raise money for a cause.
Jerri Katzerman, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director, said:
“Schools should encourage teachers to challenge their students to think critically about the world around them, rather than condemn them. What sort of message does it send to young children when their teacher is fired for helping them understand the world around them?”