Teacher Fired over Trayvon Martin Fundraiser

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What do you do with a teacher who provides students with authentic learning opportunities? A teacher who invests her own resources to support students? A teacher who was voted Teacher of the Year two of the last three years?

If you’re Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence Middle School in Pontiac, Mich., you fire her.

When Brooke Harris contacted us last week, her first concern was not her career—it was her students. She worried that she had let them down by not fighting harder for her job. She worried that their essays on Trayvon Martin would no longer be included in the school newspaper. She worried that the superintendent in charge of their education would continue to underestimate them.

We’re worried about Brooke’s students too. 

Last month Brooke Harris’ eighth-grade class asked her about the “kid who was killed over some skittles;” she seized the opportunity to bring her students’ lived experiences into the classroom—a strategy we and other experts advocate.

Brooke’s students identify with Trayvon Martin. Many of them are African American. Many have been stopped by police who thought they looked suspicious.

In fact, her students engaged so deeply with the issue that they asked to take it beyond essays and class discussions—they wanted to take action to help Trayvon’s family.

They, like many students across the nation, wanted to show their support by wearing hoodies. Each student who participated would pay $1. Proceeds would be donated to Trayvon’s family.

Again, Brooke saw a teachable moment. She and her students began the formal process of organizing a school event. Students wrote persuasive letters to the principal and superintendent. Brooke and a co-worker filed the necessary paperwork. The principal immediately signed off on the fundraiser.

Superintendent Cassell was less enthusiastic. She refused to approve the proposal, despite having supported many other “dress down” fundraisers. Brooke’s students took the disappointment in stride, but asked to present their idea to Cassell in person.

And that’s when things got weird.

Brooke asked that a few of her students be allowed to attend her meeting with Cassell. Outraged by the request, Cassell suspended Brooke for two days. The explanation given—she was being paid to teach, not to be an activist.

Those two days morphed into a two-week, unpaid suspension when Brooke briefly stopped by the afterschool literacy fair (she had previously organized) to drop off prizes (paid for with her own money) and to pick up materials for several students whose parents were unable to attend. Supporting her students was insubordination.

The final offense? Brooke asked Cassell to clarify her original transgression so she could learn from her mistake. Cassell referred her to the minutes of their first meeting. Still confused, Brooke again requested an explanation. Cassell fired her.

The Pontiac Academy for Excellence is a nonunionized charter school. According to Superintendent Cassell, Brooke’s contract makes no provisions for formal appeal, and Michigan is an “at will” employment state. What does this mean to Brooke? She has no right to an explanation of why she was fired. She just was.

There is a reason Michigan’s English Language Proficiency Standards call for students to “engage in challenging and purposeful learning that blends their experiences with content knowledge and real-world applications.” Students learn better this way.

Real life is not clean. It is not clear cut. It is not safe. But it is the world our students live in and they will be required to navigate it as adults. Teachers must bring this outside world into the classroom.

The only way this will ever happen is if we create an environment in which teachers feel safe discussing controversial issues with their students. Stories like Brooke’s are outrageous in their own right, but even worse, they create an atmosphere of fear among teachers.

This fear is choking our educational system, but we can pry its fingers loose if we work together. In Brooke’s forced absence, her students held their own, unsanctioned hoodie day. They made their voices heard over the fear. So can you.

Sign our change.org petition calling for Brooke Harris’ reinstatement at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence Middle School and tell administrators we will not tolerate the silencing of our nation’s best teachers.

Pettway is associate editor for Teaching Tolerance.


As educators, we must stand

Submitted by Sara Cohan on 9 April 2012 - 11:12am.

As educators, we must stand up for Brooke. So many of us have been in this situation before and maybe saved only because of tenure- a luxury Brooke does not have. Teachers like Brooke should be applauded and not fired. This was a with hunt and should not be tolerated by an institution receiving state dollars.

As an advocate for many

Submitted by Home Educator on 9 April 2012 - 12:03pm.

As an advocate for many children and a teacher at heart, I would encourage parents to remain their child's MAIN educator! I want my children to learn what I believe and other options without pressure. I want to guide my child in growing up and becoming a social and valueable person. The public system incorporates many opinions and beliefs. The public school system, many times, confuses our youth and damages their trust in adults. The reason is that so many opinions are circulated amongst teachers and the administration tries to control the teachers by making them give up their convictions...it's too confusing to raise healthy people in that environment! Remain your child's MAIN educator and parents, SHOW UP AT SCHOOL AND STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE! You are the one who placed your children under the authority of the school to begin with! So if you disagree with the decisions of that authority then you should be the ones to contest it, not your children!

It's too confusing for

Submitted by JL on 9 April 2012 - 4:06pm.

It's too confusing for children to learn that in the real world people have a variety of different beliefs and values, and that maybe being exposed to that creates tolerance

*gasp* My god, if you're

Submitted by Jane Grey on 10 April 2012 - 9:30am.

*gasp* My god, if you're trying to be sarcastic it's not coming across as such. Work on that. If, on the other hand, you are SERIOUS, then you are both short sighted and small minded!!! Children (especially here in middle school) have a great capacity to learn about differences, and an even greater capacity to honor and embrace them. IF, of course, they are TAUGHT that respect. This requires development of respect for human differences both at home AND in the school, with one reinforcing the other. For better or worse, parents in the United States have shunted responsibility to teachers to teach many aspects of life, not just their classroom curriculum.

No, the commenter's sarcasm

Submitted by Josh on 10 April 2012 - 10:35am.

No, the commenter's sarcasm is perfectly clear. Nobody this side of Fred Phelps earnestly comes out in opposition to "tolerance." The outrage and stupidity perpetrated by this school is the kind of thing one can only respond to with sarcasm.

^ Like

Submitted by Dave S on 10 April 2012 - 2:41pm.

^ Like

I love the "Teaching

Submitted by Duane Edwin Little on 11 April 2012 - 10:18am.

I love the "Teaching Tolerance" website because of the many issues of tolerance introduced on it. I am not sure you are familiar with the Michigan law that deprives the people of Pontiac and several other cities in Michigan of their constitutional rights. These citizens do not have the right to elect their own political representatives and therefore, have lost local control of where they live AND how their children are educated! After expressing their tolerance for the administrator who fired Brooke without cause, the citizens (especially the parents of school-age children) of Pontiac should request that this superintendent be removed from her post immediately!

Sarcasm is not the only response available to this ridiculous, arbitrary and despicable act. Another example of why teacher unions are a necessary component of children receiving a quality education!

I completely agree with you

Submitted by Deni on 10 April 2012 - 4:41pm.

I completely agree with you about how the parents should be the primary educator when it comes to moral conduct and ethics. Also, the public education system does tend to go too far with their own agenda.

However, I feel in my heart that the teacher's heart was in the right place and that she meant well.

Parents should be the prime

Submitted by Tobias A. Weissman on 11 April 2012 - 8:26am.

Parents should be the prime educator of their children, BUT!! suppose they are the kind of parents who don't take their job as they are suppose to, which today, so many children commit untold crimes. In that case, if a teacher feels so morely strong about a situation that that teacher should have the right to express it to the students without fearing the consequences.

While I completely agree with

Submitted by Karen Livingston on 11 April 2012 - 5:54am.

While I completely agree with you, Home Educator, completely. I ran into so much trouble doing this. The schools "black balled" me, and listed me as a "high maintenance" mom. They treated my children differently, even poorly at times, and they were often not compliant even combative with me about my wishes for my children. And I assure you, my wishes were not ridiculous. It is a hard issue to balance, but I COMPLETELY agree, these are your children, and they need to learn from YOU.

I can agree that parents

Submitted by mary haley on 23 July 2013 - 1:54am.

I can agree that parents should be children's main educator, but these students inquired about it and were curious about it, the teacher was following their lead. Isn't this what education should really entail student directed learning, where the teacher merely guides them? This way they learn some higher order thinking skills and how to think outside of the box rather than merely memorizing and reciting facts from a textbook. I think that this teacher sounds like an excellent teacher and is very aware of the learning process. When the students guide the learning and lessons then they become the leaders of tomorrow. Do we want to train our students to be followers or do we want to train them to be the thinkers, scientists, inventors, and creators of the future. It sounds if the class was unanimous in it's decision and desire to learn more about the case and frankly when kids begin to grow older they begin to form their own opinions and thoughts of the world, often opposite of their parents opinion and they have a right to their own opinion on social issues as any one else. The more they are pressured to think as their parents the more they are likely to rebel. They need that freedom within reason, of course we don't want them to harm themselves, but what better way to express themselves on social issues than in a school environment, even if the class is split in its opinions, this provides a great opportunity to practice debating skills. I think that it is nothing short of child abuse and brain washing to demand that our children think the same way as we do. If the teacher was just following the student's lead and not injecting her own opinion or trying to sway them to think as she does, then I feel that she has done no wrong and was punished to harshly.

Ah. "Nonunionized charter

Submitted by Albatross on 9 April 2012 - 12:53pm.

Ah. "Nonunionized charter school" says it all.

Yes, it surely does.

Submitted by Ken Mortland on 9 April 2012 - 3:06pm.

Yes, it surely does.

It's a slap in the face to

Submitted by Dave S on 10 April 2012 - 2:42pm.

It's a slap in the face to the history of Pontiac Michigan.

We heard on the news that

Submitted by Pat Keller on 12 April 2012 - 9:50pm.

We heard on the news that Pontiac was being sold off in pieces. Now we know why. Maybe the Charter school should have been sold along with the superintendent.

Agreed. The concept of

Submitted by Jane on 10 April 2012 - 2:26pm.

Agreed. The concept of high-stakes testing and the business men driving it (pushing for a charter school system) are determined to remove educators from the classroom and replace them with automatons. Removing the protection of unions is one goal of their drive. Teachers must be vigilant and ACTIVE in opposing this lest we be the next person dismissed without explanation, without due process and without recourse.

We must stand up to this

Submitted by Michael Cain on 10 April 2012 - 9:55am.

We must stand up to this because you or I could be next.

So true Michael. I don't know

Submitted by llynch on 10 April 2012 - 9:20pm.

So true Michael. I don't know how we can stop this.

I dislike being a wet blanket

Submitted by Norman Gibat on 10 April 2012 - 2:20pm.

I dislike being a wet blanket when all are so enjoying their righteous indignation but I wouldn't be surprised if there were two sides to this story. Maybe even 3 or 4. And to most of the other difficult situations that are "tried" in the media.

Shakespeare gave us a good title for such things: Much ado about nothing

NOTHING???? This child's life

Submitted by e. collier on 10 April 2012 - 4:01pm.

NOTHING???? This child's life was NOTHING???? Please tell me you are not a teacher! But the young lady should find another job. You cannot teach folks who don't want to be educated!

Of course there are two sides

Submitted by PJ on 10 April 2012 - 4:03pm.

Of course there are two sides to the story; however, firing a teacher is beyond extreme unless something egregious has taken place, which apparently isn't being brought forward if it did. As a teacher, I would say this is the best thing that could happen to this young lady as she appears to be far brighter and more ambitious than most in education. Hopefully she'll take those talents into a profession that appreciates them and pays her a living wage.

I agree with you here. Right

Submitted by Mary Simas on 10 April 2012 - 7:00pm.

I agree with you here. Right now there are screams for the arrest of a man who did not violate the law under "Stand your ground" legislation If one does not like the law, one should seek to change the law. If the police can arrest someone who has not violated the law based solely upon the demands of profssional protesters,what kind of police statee will this leave us with? Do we want the police or the media to have that kind of power over us when it is ourselves that the public wants to hang?

Norman, You can be honest

Submitted by Alec on 10 April 2012 - 9:13pm.

You can be honest with us. I am certain you are the type who really does like being the wet blanket in any discussion.

I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but......
I don't mean to be racist, but....
No disrespect intended, but.....

all of these clauses are ironies because you end up being exactly what you supposedly pretend not to be interested in.

Sorry. Pontiac School

Submitted by Professional Educator on 10 April 2012 - 5:32pm.

Sorry. Pontiac School District was correct in firing Brooke. Teachers are paid to teach students whatever subject matter and curriculum their school district says they should teach.

This does not include political activisim. While a teacher has freedom of speech during their own time; this does not give them the right to express their own views in the classroom nor does it give teachers right to "organize a demonstration in support of any particular cause" (especially over an event as controversial as Zimmerman and Martin). I have seen other educators in the past who created trouble for themselves because they did not follow this standard. Parents do not expect a teacher to instruct their children in either religion or political activism.

Since this is an election year and a time when personal opinions run high--it is fitting that educators learn from Brooke's unfortunate experience to keep their personal political opinions to themselves while teaching their student!

All teachers whether tenured or not are obligated to this standard.

I will not comment on whether

Submitted by MikeJ2345 on 11 April 2012 - 8:56am.

I will not comment on whether the termination was appropriate. But I agree that it appears from the article, the teacher violated the terms of her suspension (whether just or not) and then kept pressing the issue when she was obviously being told to drop it. It appears that she was willing to fall on her sword for this.

I wholeheartedly disagree with your viewpoint that she was wrong to teach political activism. Part of the school's role is to teach students to become responsible citizens. Civics and political activism are certainly part of that. Again, it appears that the teacher was showing the students the proper way to demonstrate their feelings on the topic and raise money for what they deemed a worthy cause.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I certainly hope the teacher gets reinstated. The Superintendent should have taken the opportunity to explain himself better and should have taken a higher road.

Thank you for your comment.

Submitted by Kelly on 12 April 2012 - 5:27pm.

Thank you for your comment. Does anyone know that we have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights? I'm so glad we have that 1st amendment. I teach my students all the amendments and it becomes quite a discussion in my classes especially the 4th amendment. It's part of my curriculum at my school.

I am a parent and a

Submitted by Ursula on 11 April 2012 - 10:19am.

I am a parent and a professor, and I absolutely expect my children's teachers to instruct them in political activism. If a child in a classroom is being bullied for being gay, this is wrong and the teacher must speak up in his defense, no matter what some close-minded parents think. Similarly, this teacher is raising money for the family of a dead child, a child who was killed by gun violence. It doesn't matter what political party she belongs to (nor does this article tell us), a boy is dead because he was suspected of being a criminal for how he looked and dressed. Many of the children in her classroom look like this boy. Her "activism" is not only a helpful act of charity to Trayvon's family, but also a challenge to society to change its assumptions of young black citizens, a goal about which I would hope no parent in the district would complain. There are times when educators must take an active role in the education of American citizenry, and this is one of those cases. We cannot be silent when injustice surrounds us.

Ursula: "We cannot be silent

Submitted by WesternConnections on 11 April 2012 - 1:31pm.

Ursula: "We cannot be silent when injustice surrounds us." It's great that Brooke Harris, who twice was Teacher of the Year, did not slink away as this superintendent expected. Administrators can manufacture reasons to fire a teacher at the drop of a hat. That's what happened here -- insubordination apparently is anything the superintendent doesn't like, rather than the correct definition of insubordination used in employment law which requires understanding and refusing to comply with a directive from a supervisor.

Much the same is happening in Gilbert, Arizona where a National Board Certified Teacher is being fired after reporting bullying and racial discrimination. The superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools presented 20 charges against her in December 2011 in a bid to intimidate and humilate her into accepting his offer to resign or be fired. This teacher chose to have a public hearing, and she's still waiting for a hearing date. We have posted on our website the information regarding how administrators are taught to fire teachers and support staff, how complaints against teachers are manufactured and illustrate how administrators and attorneys use the cover of "independent investigations" to coerce people into resigning before they are fired. Sunlight causes cockroaches to scurry!

We're looking forward to the SPLC presentation at the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center on Monday, April 16th: The State of Hate and Extremism in America.

Amen... I’m appalled that

Submitted by Lauren on 12 April 2012 - 11:53am.

Amen... I’m appalled that today times we sugar code everything, and do not want to deal with an issue that affects our nation. It’s time for us educators to take a stand and unite with each other. I understand there are politic in every organization, but we must fight for what is right.

On the contrary - there are

Submitted by Christine on 11 April 2012 - 3:54pm.

On the contrary - there are numerous state standards which address the need to teach SEVERAL skills which would be well covered in this writing assignment. They include response to current events, critical thinking, persuasive writing, civics, media literacy, government, civil rights, multiculturalism, and event time-lines...just to name a few. I say this as a licensed teacher, who actually teaches middle school literacy (including writing). This was an absolutely valid, and likely very effective, lesson.

As a parents, I would HOPE that my child's teachers encourage my child to think critically about current events. I would HOPE that my child's teachers would encourage her desire to be an involved citizen.

You go too far in saying that

Submitted by mr on 11 April 2012 - 6:08pm.

You go too far in saying that teachers should teach only the curriculum chosen by their district. First, it is impossible to teach 'only' curriculum. Simply by existing, everyone teaches those around us. Secondly, you infer that Brooke is teaching political activism. HELLO! We here in the U.S.A have the responsibility to be active in our government to whatever level we are able. That is a cost of freedom!
When you say teachers should keep their opinions to themselves I agree completely. However, nowhere have I read that Brooke pushed the students to take one side or another. My perception is that the students came to her with questions and chose to act in a supportive, positive manner. All people act and react. Teens do this with more vigor and emotion that most of us. Since these are the people who will be running our world in a very few years, shouldn't they learn now how to evaluate a problem and deal with it in a positive manner?
Good teachers teach, and by this I mean encourage their students to think, draw them out, support them and direct them in the steps necessary to gather correct information from multiple sources and in how to use that knowlege. That just comes with the job and with a conscious responsiblity toward our students.

You go too far in saying that

Submitted by mr on 11 April 2012 - 6:09pm.

You go too far in saying that teachers should teach only the curriculum chosen by their district. First, it is impossible to teach 'only' curriculum. Simply by existing, everyone teaches those around us. Secondly, you infer that Brooke is teaching political activism. HELLO! We here in the U.S.A have the responsibility to be active in our government to whatever level we are able. That is a cost of freedom!
When you say teachers should keep their opinions to themselves I agree completely. However, nowhere have I read that Brooke pushed the students to take one side or another. My perception is that the students came to her with questions and chose to act in a supportive, positive manner. All people act and react. Teens do this with more vigor and emotion that most of us. Since these are the people who will be running our world in a very few years, shouldn't they learn now how to evaluate a problem and deal with it in a positive manner?
Good teachers teach, and by this I mean encourage their students to think, draw them out, support them and direct them in the steps necessary to gather correct information from multiple sources and in how to use that knowlege. That just comes with the job and with a conscious responsiblity toward our students.

Can't isolate the classroom

Submitted by John T on 13 April 2012 - 1:11am.

Can't isolate the classroom from all reality. Students see through the attempts and the institution attempting it are seen as just another brick in the wall.

Here is the email of the

Submitted by DrM2B on 11 April 2012 - 3:15pm.

Here is the email of the super who fired Brooke.

you can also find the email of all of Brookes co-workers .....sending them a quick note ...advising them to take a stand....for Brooke & their own futures might encourage them to stand together against this type of injustice. I know I sent an mail....why not join me? ....

Charter schools may not have

Submitted by Julia Smith on 14 July 2013 - 9:15am.

Charter schools may not have unions but they need your kids to make money & the superintendent seems to be forcing her ideology upon students. Be passive, docile, & not to question a system they know often times don't. Work in their favor. Take a stand to keep teachers that truly care about the total child.

As another teacher at the

Submitted by Not Given on 9 April 2012 - 12:07pm.

As another teacher at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence I stand tall in support of Ms. Harris. She is an excellent teacher as well as a constant student advocate. Our school lost a lot when we lost her on our staff. She will be missed and I support her fully. Due to feared repercussions I will remain anonymous.

The very fact that you have

Submitted by GuitarPunk_Jack on 9 April 2012 - 7:33pm.

The very fact that you have to fear repercussions is grounds for someone up in state, like OSHA or whoever, to investigate this superintendent's policies.

Can't that's what Charters

Submitted by e. collier on 10 April 2012 - 4:03pm.

Can't that's what Charters have over public...they can do whatever they want! Not a good idea in education, huh? Tell it to the idiots who are pushing this autonomous school crap!

This is a sad situation and

Submitted by Crystal Rivenbark on 10 April 2012 - 12:23am.

This is a sad situation and why teachers fear for their jobs..its sad that our society lets the districts get away with this kind of behavior and other teachers are fearful for standing up for whats right...if I was a parent of a student there I eould organize a petition to have this wonderful teacher reinstated immediately...Parents have choices and need to stand up for whats right...the school depends on the money they get from each student!!!!

Why must you have a personal

Submitted by Jane on 10 April 2012 - 2:29pm.

Why must you have a personal connection to the Academy to begin a petition to right this WRONG, WRONG, WRONG action. Facebook is a great forum for political pressure. Would you be willing to take the lead, since her colleagues can't for fear of losing their jobs?

Sign the Change.org Petition

Submitted by Teaching Tolerance on 10 April 2012 - 3:07pm.

Sign the Change.org Petition

We encourage Pontiac Academy for Excellence teachers, students and parents to join the over 50,000 people who have already signed our petition calling for Brooke Harris' reinstatement.


Better yet as a parent I

Submitted by sheild on 10 April 2012 - 2:53pm.

Better yet as a parent I would suggest that all the parent remove their children from the school until demands are met and i sure after realizing that they are abot to lose state funding they will come to some kind of agreement.

Better Yet-----every

Submitted by Jill on 11 April 2012 - 8:38am.

Better Yet-----every concerned parent needs to make a "face-to-face" appointment to see the administrator involved. Enough email and petition communicating--eye-to-eye has the most impact. That administrator has a responsibility to answer to the parents and patrons of the school.

If you truly stand tall for

Submitted by Non Given on 10 April 2012 - 2:34pm.

If you truly stand tall for her, you should turn in your resignation immediately, if they have no plans to bring her back. Why would you want to work there, in that kind of environment? Get your colleagues who feel the same to do the same. That is the only way those in charge of the Super will learn this is serious.

Lot's of people are in fear

Submitted by Christine on 11 April 2012 - 3:58pm.

Lot's of people are in fear for jobs right now - and the harsh reality is that jobs are scarce. Don't be quite so hard on those who need to keep their jobs - this is why educators tend to be unionized.....as protection from this very thing.

The real losers in the

Submitted by Kevin on 10 April 2012 - 2:40pm.

The real losers in the situation are her students.

Although it seems like there's at least a *little bit* of the story that hasn't been told, it sounds like she is a fantastic teacher and the students will sorely miss her dedication. However, there are a shortage of such driven teachers who can motivate and relate to students as she has so I have no doubt she'll find another job. Hopefully, her next employer appreciates her skills and drive.

I am outraged and disgusted

Submitted by M. Segel on 10 April 2012 - 5:26pm.

I am outraged and disgusted to live in a state where we have a Governor who aggressively attacks teachers and the educational system, then to hear a dynamic teacher from Pontiac gets fired for relating real life experiences in the classroom. I wish all the teachers at Pontiac Academy for Excellence were brave enough to stand up to that narrow-minded superintendent and demand a revocation of the firing, although if I were Ms. Harris, I'd never set foot in that building where education is not the priority, nor is it an "Academy for Excellence"

I would like to offer my

Submitted by A. N. H on 9 April 2012 - 12:22pm.

I would like to offer my perspective as a fellow middle school educator AND if I were an administrator; because I truly see BOTH sides of the spectrum.

As an educator: This is VERY messy! I question the Sup's motive other than racism and offended that her decision was challenged by students. Brooke did EVERYTHING according to the book in regards to getting approval for fund raisers from the principal. Why is the principal not being reprimanded for signing off on it? Why does a dress down day have to be approved by the Sup? I sense a conspiracy here between the principal and the SI. Nevertheless, many districts do not follow due process for teachers that are not tenure. I had to work FIVE years until I was tenure until then, each year I could not be renewed without any reason. With this being a charter school.....that's messy. Many of the charter schools ARE "at will" and they will just fire a teacher mid year. Many here in STL are notorious for that. I am not familiar with Michigan's charter school's; but I know here MANY teachers in charter schools are not even what MO considers "Highly Qualified" meaning they have their MO Certification. She should've fought! However without a union to provide legal services it would be very hard for her to prove she was terminated maliciously.

Administrative Perspective: A teacher must know when to pick his/her battles. As a middle school teacher I agree wholeheartedly that real world applications are necessary for the learning of our children in Title I schools or lower socio economic areas. I often have discussions about what is going on in our world and community with my students. YET....I leave it at that. Sometimes the discussion is all they need to get their minds going and with more questions I tell them to get online and do some research. They have the world at their fingertips. I tell them to go home and discuss these things with their caregiver. Doing something like that encourages the student to take control of his/her own learning which at middle school is also important. The Trayvon Martin case is VERY racially motivated and while my students have discussed it between themselves I have not said anything other than for them to watch the news, read things online and decide where they stand. Want to make it a TRUE TEACHABLE MOMENT? Instead of involving money to raise, TEACH, the students who struggle with the written English language how to WRITE a persuasive letter to the powers that be in Florida to bring justice for Trayvon. Teach them to write a friendly letter to his parents offering their prayers and support. THAT is how you take a REAL WORLD situation and apply it in the classroom. Money, though a good thought, NEVER truly has to be involved. The written language holds more power than many students realize...........

WOW.... This is worse than

Submitted by David Greene on 9 April 2012 - 5:18pm.

WOW.... This is worse than the 1950's and McCarthyism. It is exactly why Teachers formed unions starting in 1959. Check the history.

When the Little Rock Crisis was going on back in the 50's (before the Civil Rights Movement gained traction) my 2nd grade teacher in the South Bronx had us write letters to President Eisenhower to tell him what we thought and why it was important to do something for integration... WE WERE PUBLISHED IN THE NYT...and she became a world famous Professor of Education..

Here we are, 55 years later.....Way to go backwards...

I avidly and proudly teach

Submitted by Jo on 10 April 2012 - 2:02pm.

I avidly and proudly teach tolerance in my classes using the Teach Tolerance lesson plans, videos, etc. I disallow homophobic, hurtful, dismissive, and inappropriate language from anyone at my school and students know I will get on them and make them apologize, mediate, or do whatever is necessary to quash the situation and try and minimize reuse of such language. But, as Jim Fay teaches us, there must be ample doses of love and logic in getting students to do better. The decision made at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence Middle School is one that ought to be reversed. The principal ought to have taken the hits for this teacher. I understand the the issue about Harris being on school property, but I probably would have taken the prizes so the students would not feel slighted. She spent her own money and went out of a limb to help her students understand the situation by helping her students experience something more than a fund raiser. They were learning about life and looking at the opposing perspective. Superintendent Cassell, reinstate this teacher ASAP.

Can we fire cassel, she's a

Submitted by bey on 9 April 2012 - 1:02pm.

Can we fire cassel, she's a horrible example of an administrator

Or just a good example of why

Submitted by jana on 9 April 2012 - 1:06pm.

Or just a good example of why a healthy democracy needs public education?


Sign the petition, call/email

Submitted by Laura on 9 April 2012 - 2:09pm.

Sign the petition, call/email the supe and the board and tell them they are acting in an unjust manner, and teaching the students that you need to be quiet and not make any waves if you want to keep your job. Ask if Cassell would have done the same thing if the teacher hadn't been black? If the students weren't black, if Trayvon Martin had not been black. Why are they silencing this teacher's voice now? The fact that the supe herself is black does not mean that this might not be discrimination.

debra autrey...signed

Submitted by Debra Autrey on 9 April 2012 - 8:07pm.

debra autrey...signed

And people wonder why

Submitted by Ken Mortland on 9 April 2012 - 3:05pm.

And people wonder why professional educators are against charter schools and for educators right to organize.

Absolutely Ken!As a teacher

Submitted by ANONOYMOUS on 10 April 2012 - 11:41am.

Absolutely Ken!As a teacher in a charter school, I can see the value of the union as an educator. I was an union member for 13 years, and decided to seek out another position which landed me in a charter school. It is a battle as you are not sure when to speak up and when to keep quiet. With a lot of issues that I go through, I know now just to document and find those educators that know the law to back me with any issue I may face. I hope this young lady is reinstated as this is just utterly RIDICULOUS!!

Just one more example of why

Submitted by Deven Black on 9 April 2012 - 3:19pm.

Just one more example of why teachers need unions and tenure. Unions and tenure don't protect the bad teachers, they protect the good ones.

Except that's obviously an

Submitted by Jonathan Callan on 9 April 2012 - 3:57pm.

Except that's obviously an over simplification. They do both. That's their job.

Teachers should not be

Submitted by john on 9 April 2012 - 4:00pm.

Teachers should not be protected by tenure. If they break the rules they should accept the consequences . If it is found after a proper investigation that Travon was the real threat then what, a fund raiser for Zimmerman. People need to quit convicting people without a trial. She should have been fired if she violated company policy. Get rid of the unless unions.

Tenure doesn't protect bad

Submitted by jennifer boyer on 9 April 2012 - 7:21pm.

Tenure doesn't protect bad teachers. It gives them 'Due Process' and the expectation that there will be 'Just Cause' to fire. Teachers can, and should be fired, if AFTER 'Due Process' there is 'Just Cause' found to fire. I am a teacher, and a teacher's union rep'. Our union makes sure you get Due Process, but if you need to go, you will go. Unions make sure there is a "policy". This charter school policy is "I do what ever I want to you because I have all the power and there isn't jack you can do about it. Nice policy.

I disagree with you about

Submitted by Linda on 10 April 2012 - 8:08pm.

I disagree with you about tenure. When teachers or anyone who gets tenure doesn't do their job it is very hard to get them out of their position. I have seen very bad teachers still have their jobs because they have tenure. Unions only protect those that do not do their jobs. I have seen it too many times. I do not like Unions and never have. The problem with Unions also is that everyone is classified the same. Even if you are superior in your position and do more than your position you can not make any more than a person who is doing the minimum to get their paycheck. I have seen it not only in schools but in other places.

No one should ever have tenure. It makes them complacent and they get an entitlement attitude. Maybe not everyone but most people. Saw it too many times.

Unions were put in place for a reason years ago but now it is nothing but about money. You don't get much of a raise but the people in control of the Unions certainly do. Plus teachers and government workers have way too much power. Why would they not want to vote for someone who is paying them. That is why this country is in the shape it is because too many people are being paid by the government. The bigger government gets because they pay for the jobs the more we are losing control of what needs to be done in this country. Do you think all the people who are getting paid by Welfare and such are going to vote against their bread and butter? I think not.

Did you actually read the

Submitted by David2 on 9 April 2012 - 8:40pm.

Did you actually read the position on tenure evinced by the author to whom you are replying?

Tenure is not a system to protect the bad teachers; it exists to protect the good ones from the knee-jerk capriciousness of superiors.

The next time you want to reply, you might want to invest your eyes in actually -reading-.

Oh, by the way, thank a union member for your precious 5-day work week and the ability to have your weekends free. It wasn't always that way.

Tenure is not the problem.

Submitted by Annie nonymous on 10 April 2012 - 8:56am.

Tenure is not the problem. Lack of due process is - Situations like this is exactly why due process is necessary. She didn't break the rules -- but she had no recourse because there is NO due process for her in this charter school in her state. Teachers who DO break the rules (like using restraint and seclusion even to the point of a student dying) are still teaching. Teachers who break the rule in the context of what the administrative wants from them are promoted and those who are actively educating get the boot. There is a huge problem with our educational system and this is just one (of sadly) thousands of examples.

Due Process does not always

Submitted by Michelle c on 10 April 2012 - 10:24am.

Due Process does not always result in justice prevailing
I was fired from my position in a Massachusetts public school-given no reason at all-had nothing but positive reviews for the three years I was employed-
My Union went to bat for me, with little they could do since Massachusetts has a three year policy where you can be fired for any reason for the first three years of your employment-after three years and given tenure, firing becomes more difficult.
I think that this is not an issue with charter schools as much as in issue with teachers generally being treated with little respect and the profession of teaching treated as less than other professional jobs.

It is a sad day to see such a good teacher, who was inspiring youth to be involved, to stand up for what they believe, to be fired.
Let's not make this a charter school issue but an issue where teachers need to be respected and treated as the professionals that they are.

Sounds to me like these kids

Submitted by Tamara on 10 April 2012 - 12:45pm.

Sounds to me like these kids did not need to be convinced.

Why can't I find any mention

Submitted by Sara Huizenga on 9 April 2012 - 4:00pm.

Why can't I find any mention of this in the news?

I don't mean to imply that I

Submitted by Sara Huizenga on 9 April 2012 - 4:16pm.

I don't mean to imply that I am trying to diminish the intolerance of this - I just need to verify it further prior to doing more to spread awareness of ... I have also shared this with Trayvon's family.

Thanks so much for all that you do ... xoxo

Sara, Ms. Harris told us her

Submitted by Maureen Costello on 9 April 2012 - 6:13pm.

Sara, Ms. Harris told us her story and we broke it and issued a press release. Other news media in Michigan have picked up the story. The Detroit Free Press covered the story.

I just saw it - thanks for

Submitted by Sara Huizenga on 9 April 2012 - 8:26pm.

I just saw it - thanks for being so on top of things and a voice for the silenced!

I can understand the

Submitted by TJ on 9 April 2012 - 4:15pm.

I can understand the intention of what she wanted to do but I feel that it wasn't right for her to create this kind of fundraiser. It's about something no one really knows the truth about, and it shouldn't become such a high profile interest. If I had children in that school I would pull them from her class. It reminds me of the same sort of thing the Roseville Highschool Principal did by having his students come to school with hoodies on and the hoods up. For all we know Trayvon may have been the predator in this, but we do not know, so why come to the quick judgement that he is completely innocent. I would still feel the same way if it was the other way around and it was to claim Zimmerman was innocent, we have no right to make public statements let alone bring this to our schools because it's such a deluted subject matter.

But we DO know Trayvon wasn't

Submitted by charliesmum on 10 April 2012 - 5:47am.

But we DO know Trayvon wasn't the 'predator'. There's plenty of proof pointing to the fact that Zimmerman approached the boy AFTER calling 911 who told him not to. Maybe Trayvon fought with the guy, but he was approached by someone who was questioning his right to be in the neighbourhood.

And the bottom line is, Zimmerman took the law into his own hands, something he really had no right to do and was warned against, and shot and killed someone's child. That is the basic problem here. Doesn't matter if Treyvon wasn't the perfect little angel. He was unarmed, a minor, and was murdered by someone with delusions of power.

Zimmerman wasn't innocent. His motives may have been, I believe he thought he was doing the right thing, but the bottom line is he shot and killed someone, and needs to face the consequences of that.

And seriously, saying we can't debate this in schools? Last time I checked we still had the right to do that in this country, but granted, it's early and I haven't checked the news yet.

Finally someone makes sense.

Submitted by RJ on 10 April 2012 - 10:54am.

Finally someone makes sense. The case of Trayvon Martin is far from over. Unfortunately, the public makes uninformed knee-jerk decisions that create an atmosphere of intolerance. Until the investigation is completed no teacher should be "teaching" either side.

Amen!!! All of the facts are

Submitted by Michelle P on 11 April 2012 - 2:47pm.

Amen!!! All of the facts are not in yet. The media is trying Mr. Zimmerman before all of the evidence has been weighed. I would not want my child to participate in a "fund raiser" of this sort. What about Mr. Zimmerman's defense or a fundraiser for the poor couple driven from their home by a so-called celebrity activist tweeting the wrong address (theirs!) while advocating for violence against Mr. Zimmerman?

As a professor in teacher

Submitted by Dr. Ellie Larmouth on 9 April 2012 - 4:37pm.

As a professor in teacher education, I applaud Brooke Harris for teaching students how democracy works......we become involved....we take a stand after gathering facts and information. We do not passively retreat or remain silent when we perceive injustice. Brooke Harris is a remarkable role model for her students. Those who choose to silence her by firing her are teaching what an authoritaive state does...... an authoritative state uses punishment to control others.....diverse viewpoints are silenced through threats and coercion and punishment. How sad.

You are correct, except we

Submitted by Concerned on 10 April 2012 - 5:25am.

You are correct, except we don't have all of the facts and information yet. The media has made a very deliberate attempt to make this appear as a racially-motivated hate crime against a inncocent-looking 12 year old boy. Jesse Jackson has made this into a "blacks are under attack from whites" issue, and that should not be what we teach our students in school. We should respect all cultures. We shouldn't make whites students, or black students, uncomfortable with these type of violent, lynch mob accusations. Not in a classroom.

I agree with you. This was

Submitted by Linda on 10 April 2012 - 7:57pm.

I agree with you. This was actually started by the President. How many children, black or white, have died and shouldn't have. How many times did you hear the President ever say anything about it. This is nothing but the media and the government trying to pit us against each other. I do not know what really happened but I can not believe we have such media about it. It is sad and I feel bad that a young person has died. I feel bad for the parents.

I have to agree with you though that we do not know all the truth yet. I feel bad for the teacher but I think it was wrong for her to do what she did. Children are very impressionable at this age. It is one thing if they wanted to help the parents because of medical bills and such and do a fundraiser but she went too far.

I do not believe she should've been fired. But I also do not believe in Unions. I worked for the government and was in a union and hated it. They protect the people who do not do their jobs. I never saw them protect a person who did their job. they are no different than anyone who has a job and can be fired at will.

If she is as good they say she is than maybe she should go some where else and get a job. There is a reason for everything.

Has anyone looked at the test

Submitted by Susan on 9 April 2012 - 5:49pm.

Has anyone looked at the test scores for this school? Latest scores are for 2007 and their proficiency rating is way low 67% barely proficient? How is this a super performing school?


Even though Michigan is an

Submitted by Joy on 9 April 2012 - 6:04pm.

Even though Michigan is an "at will" state, doesn't she have a contract to teach for the school year? If so, then the district should still have to explain her termination. This smacks of a wrongful termination and discrimination.

As an educator at a very

Submitted by Concerned on 9 April 2012 - 7:00pm.

As an educator at a very diverse school I understand the superintendent's course of action. The Martin case is a racially charged event, made so more with comments by the likes of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee, Louis Farrakhan, and the New Black Panther Party. Furthermore all of the facts are not known about that night or the individuals involved. Just this past weekend, NBC apologized and fired an editor for editing the 911 tape to make Zimmerman appear racially motivated. The original police video originally showed a grainy video and many journalists and activists jumped on that video as proof Zimmerman was not injured. When the video was enhanced it indeed show a large gash on the back of Zimmerman's head. There is a silent majority in this country who is very upset by the "lynch mob" demanding for the arrest of Zimmerman and one can only remember the Duke lacrosse incident and the Tawana Brawley incident as well that turned out to be completely false, even though numerous riots took place. I am not saying do not stand up for what you believe in, but this type of activity is not appropriate for a school and a learning environment. And, how are the students going to view their white teachers when Jesse Jackson states that black males are under attack from whites? How are students going to view white teachers when newspaper articles are published about black mothers giving their boys "The Talk" about how to fear whites? Again, those conversations are fine to have, but there is too much racially charged accusations to make it appropriate to have a school-supported fund raiser. Everyone in a school should be allowed to feel equal, and when this controversial topic is promoted, it could make a lot of white students, or non-black students, feel very uncomfortable. One aspect of this story that is not being reported is how upset and uncomfortable members of the black community are making members of the white community feel. Another aspect is how some groups have attempted to put a bounty on Zimmerman, published addresses of his parents, and threatned civil disobedience. That is not justice is America. That is a lynch mob. Is that the type of behavior we want to promote to our students?

cassellj@pontiacacademy.org T

Submitted by barry on 9 April 2012 - 8:19pm.


This is the Superintendent's e-mail. btw

i totally disagree with

Submitted by mastertwilight on 9 April 2012 - 8:26pm.

i totally disagree with everything you just said because even "white" people a re protesting this issue so how is this so called "lynch mob" promoting in schools i think you need to restate your facts again

Kids shouldn't be encouraged

Submitted by Uncomfortable on 9 April 2012 - 8:57pm.

Kids shouldn't be encouraged to learn about and consider the realities of racism because it makes white people uncomfortable? Are you kidding me? I'm a white person, and I am more than aware of the privilege inherent in the color of my skin. Sometimes it does make me feel uncomfortable to know that I am able to walk down the street without being suspect. And you know what? It's good that it makes me uncomfortable. I welcome the fact that racism makes me uncomfortable, because it makes me question my own thoughts and actions. It makes me grow as a person. It makes me a better human being.

You know what else makes me uncomfortable? Learning about the Holocaust. It makes me sick to my stomach to know in great detail the atrocities that were committed against people who were "other." Does that mean that it shouldn't be taught because then people might feel uncomfortable if they have German ancestry? Should we stop discussing slavery because it might make white people feel uncomfortable to consider that this country was built on the backs of forced laborers who were stolen from their own country? If we as a country decided to ignore everything that could possibly make someone uncomfortable, we would have to erase the entirety of history.

And while I in no way condone publishing addresses or attempting to place bounties on someone's head, to use the term "lynch mob" in this case is ridiculous. Historically in the United States, lynching was used as a tool of fear against oppressed minorities. It was used to enforce Jim Crow laws and deter African-Americans from expressing the freedom that they had theoretically earned. It was used to punish those who fought for abolition. It was used to remind Jewish-Americans that they did not belong in this country. It was used to punish a fourteen year old black child for daring to whistle at a white woman. To equate actions against Zimmerman, however deplorable they may be, with a term that carries so much historical weight is exceedingly ignorant at best.

The fact of this case is that an unarmed 17 year old was shot at point blank range while walking in a neighborhood that he had every right to be in. Maybe Zimmerman truly did feel threatened, but he continued to follow Martin even after he was specifically told not to. To me, that is the crux of the case. Motives can be debated, beliefs can be debated, rationale can be debated. What cannot be debated are the facts. A young man, who had committed no crime, is dead.

No a "lynch mob" was a way of

Submitted by Rick Claussen on 9 April 2012 - 9:02pm.

No a "lynch mob" was a way of white southerners to vent their frustrations by killing a black man. Part of the problem is that some people don't knopw when to stop fanning the flames. Calling written information or opinions a "lynch mob" is exactly the type of exaggeration that promotes further violence. Whites ARE treating blacks as inferiors. They have been for centuries. Do you really think that the black kids in this school don't know this? Civil disobedience equals a lynch mob? I guess that a black man hanging from a tree must be pretty common where you come from, if it is so easy to equate everything with a lynch mob. Ghandi(civil disobedience)= lynch mob. Your "silent majority" are all wearing white hoods and carrying burning crosses. p.s. they aren't a majority, nor are they very silent.

How quickly you defend the

Submitted by Concerned Parent on 9 April 2012 - 10:49pm.

How quickly you defend the shooter. How quickly you cite the groups that support a simple arrest. How quickly you point out how uncomfortable the Whites in that community feel.

How slowly you defend the murdered. How slowly you cite the groups that contribute to Zimmerman's campaign. How slowly you address the grief that the Martin family feels, the Blacks in the country feel.

Perhaps you are living in the wrong times... Perhaps slavery or the Jim Crow era might have fit you more perfectly...

Justice in America involves an arrest when an unarmed person (in this case a child) is killed by an adult who blatantly disregards police instruction and "neighborhood crime watchers" protocol. You really might benefit from researching the names Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima....... then perhaps you may see justice with new eyes.

" One aspect of this story

Submitted by activated on 10 April 2012 - 7:30am.

" One aspect of this story that is not being reported is how upset and uncomfortable members of the black community are making members of the white community ofeel." Seriously? Like Zimmerman? Like the NYPD? Discomfort is a part of life sometimes. More times when you aren't a part of the minority. If you raise children in a bubble, someone will burst it sooner or later. This is a luxury that the least of us cannot afford.

Heaven forbid that white

Submitted by Tamara on 10 April 2012 - 12:58pm.

Heaven forbid that white people should feel uncomfortable!! That very discomfort is what will make us open our eyes and see the inequality that still exists. 'Every one in a school should be allowed to feel equal'. I agree. Let's ask black and Hispanic students if they feel equal in racially diverse schools.

This isn't a black vs. white

Submitted by unknown on 15 April 2012 - 12:26pm.

This isn't a black vs. white issue. Zimmerman is Hispanic, is he not? This turned into something it shouldn't have because people began running their mouths without any true knowledge of what happened. I feel awful that a young life was taken; everyone should have the chance to live their life to the fullest extent. Don't diminish the fact that both sides are hurting greatly because of this awful event, and stop being so pig-headed about this. I'm a teacher, and students deserve to know what's going on in current events. But raising money for his family was a risky move, especially after she was warned to stop.

You know what's worse than

Submitted by xian barrett on 10 April 2012 - 1:29pm.

You know what's worse than having to read about black mothers giving their son's "the talk"? Having to give your kid "the talk" or worse having to bury them as a result of the violence.

As people of color, we have to confront "controversial" issues everyday without a choice in the matter. That choice is one of the largest privileges of all.

School is a great place to confront this in a safer atmosphere.

Concerned: perfect. Question

Submitted by drokkon on 10 April 2012 - 4:17pm.

Concerned: perfect.

Question to everyone here in support of the teacher: what if her fundraiser had been for the Zimmerman Defense Fund? It would be just as legitimate since nobody has the full story and he is being sentenced by the media and forced into hiding thanks to the aforementioned "lynch" mob.

So...should she be fired for a fundraiser for the Zimmerman Defense Fund?

"Her fundraiser"? I thought

Submitted by alburnet on 10 April 2012 - 9:16pm.

"Her fundraiser"?

I thought that the article said that the kids decided that they wanted to help Martin's family. What if the kids had decided that they wanted to raise money to defend Zimmerman (who, as I understand does/did/may still have a website set up for just this purpose)? It seems like either way, the students getting involved in a real life event, and deciding that they wanted to contribute to the world around them is a good and practical lesson. The important part to me is that it doesn't seem that she was pushing her views onto the students, but that the students came to her and asked her questions about what they had heard. The students came to her and asked if they could do something.

Also nobody has the full story - and while there are some fringe groups who have in fact already sentenced him based on the evidence provided - all most of us want is for the man to stand trial for admittedly killing a teen. All most of us want (OK, maybe not most of "us" want to see him stand trial...I should say, but "most of the people who are vexed by the implications at hand" and "most of the people who are marginalized, angry, afraid, or all three") is to hear the full story and for the case to be decided in a court of law.

I would like to suggest that

Submitted by Cbash on 10 April 2012 - 9:33pm.

I would like to suggest that you look into a training course called, "Courageous Conversations". If you teach at a diverse school and you think having discussions that make white people uncomfortable is bad, then you need to be educated about why that very thing is so good.

I applaud this response. TRUE

Submitted by Bill on 10 April 2012 - 10:52pm.

I applaud this response. TRUE tolerance is patient. It takes all people, all FACTS into consideration. Teaching students to be tolerant must mean teaching them to pursue the truth, even if those truths become painful to know. I do not know how this lesson was being addressed in the classroom of the teacher who was terminated.Obviously, it became very concerning to people who loved this teacher dearly. I wonder why?
In my room, we are praying for BOTH individuals. Our compassion sees two victims and two horrible tragedies. Our love and prayers extends to both families. We are praying that justice will prevail. We are addressing truth and bias in media. We are exploring gun control issues, crime statistics and fear. We are resisting the call to run from the complexities of the terrible event. It would be so easy, right now, to only understand this catastrophe as an 'us' vs 'them' occurrence. It might very well be that the man with the gun set out to make it just that. But, my students and I do not yet know the truth. Our hope for healing and hunger for the truth must be larger and more bold than the story which has already prompted the call for a lynch mob. My room will not be a part of that. We are on the side of truth painfully and lovingly.

I don't see where the issue

Submitted by K on 9 April 2012 - 7:51pm.

I don't see where the issue in the fundraiser is. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, Trayvon Martin is dead. Whether it was a result of a wrongful deed by Zimmerman or an act of self defense by Zimmerman, it doesn't change the fact that a teen lost his life that day and left a grieving family behind. Why is it an issue to help out his family? I don't see that as "promoting an agenda" at all.

This is an egregious error on the superintendent's behalf. Sounds like intolerance to me.

Thank you K!!!! That is the

Submitted by Kenz on 10 April 2012 - 2:41pm.

Thank you K!!!! That is the point everyone is missing... This little boy is dead and no amount of debating or fighting is going to bring him back. A family now has a hole in it and it can't be filled. If people want to help Trayvon's family with fundraisers and donations let them do it! And people should be proud of those kids for not only asking about the topic but also wanting to do something! They could have done what thousands of people do and turned their back and said "this isn't my problem so I'm going to ignore it and carry on with my life." These kids saw that this was a horrible situation and wanted to help as best they could. Since when did having a fundraiser for someone become a crime?

Hmmm...okay... seems to me

Submitted by D Merchant on 9 April 2012 - 8:38pm.

Hmmm...okay... seems to me that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that the Superintendent is on a power trip. Nope. I am not a teacher. And all of my children are adults now. HOWEVER: racism is a real American social issue. Problem is: too many people want to sweep it under to rug as past history when its not. I have always found the teachers who encouraged young people to seek, to learn, to expand their thoughts and opinions, to become active in social issues to be shining stars and assets to communities, as well as the school they are employed with. Learning by experience and encounter: the hands on approach.

So here's the scenario to those of us on the outside of the teaching world looking in the peephole of this story. Students had an idea that the teacher endorsed, that went beyond expounding feelings and opinions in essays and classroom discussion. With the approval of the Principal they created a plan to become more actively involved in what they concluded was a social injustice with the Trayvon Martin case. (Possibly some of them could relate to the overt racism that exist now in America, and no, its not a black thing: its a real social injustice that is viewed by the majority as a silent social norm). Cassell, whom I have read is also African American, quickly dispels the project, and when Harris passively CHALLENGED her, she began to flex her power to show her that she was in charge and that was the end of it. But Harris pushed back, passively, because she either didn't understand her bosses contention with the student initiated proposal or Harris, deep down inside, didn't like the position of neutrality that Cassell took. The cat game began with the word war vs. the power structure. Because there is no union involved, management has absolute power in decision making with no accountability (used to work for a union company-and I DON'T regret it! Thank GOODNESS for the grievance procedure!) So pushing back NICELY, she gets suspended for 2 days for CHALLENGING Cassell, because Cassell PRIDES in the authority that comes with her position and probably doesn't like being bucked. In her mind, her word is the final authority, which without a union, can be the case, unless the parents and community get involved as well, then things may change depending on the Board of Trustees. Harris, while on suspension, continues to support and assist her children with an after school activity, as if, being on suspension means that she has to be holed up for 2 days with no interaction with anyone directly related to her job. (Bull-when you get suspended EVERYONE is calling to get the scoop or ask about it if they see you in public. Suspension doesn't mean you hide under a rock). Because it OUTRAGES CASSELL that Harris has the audacity to publicly, yet passively, CHALLENGE HER AGAIN, it turns into a two week suspension. However, Harris, not being one to bow down begins to INCENSE CASSELL by questioning her justification for her actions. Not feeling that Harris is worth the time to clarify her pseudo cause of action (while its really a power thing) she brushes her off with business jargon. BUT Harris, who is a passive aggressive person it seems, puts the icing on the cake with not being satisfied with the brush off and all heck breaks loose with her termination.

Yup. Power tripping. Power struggle. What kind of lesson does this teach the kids? Know your place??? Like I said in the beginning: Hmmmm..... Okay. (Just my opinion)

As a middle school teacher

Submitted by Debbie Rosenberg on 9 April 2012 - 9:25pm.

As a middle school teacher and administrator, I find myself of two minds. I applaud the teacher for bringing real-world relevance into her classroom and making the study of democracy accessible to her students. Discussing this issue, writing opinionated letters to democratic representatives, all of this would be meaningful education. As a principal, I question the principal's judgment in permitting this to become a politically-driven fundraiser within the school community. It is a very politicized issue, and certainly had the potential to divide the student body. *But the principal approved it.* Thus the principal should take responsibility for it. The teacher should get at most a reprimand. And frankly, this shows why teachers need contracts that provide employment security. Providing real-world relevance in a classroom, which we are pressured to do, means that teachers will sometimes step into real-world politics that have the potential to create political enemies within the educational system who are not obligated to "follow" fair and just employment procedures.

This sucks! That is why we

Submitted by Jenny on 9 April 2012 - 9:50pm.

This sucks! That is why we have unions people so things like this can NOT happen!

How is this any different

Submitted by Concerned Parent on 9 April 2012 - 10:33pm.

How is this any different from the sympathies that were sent to Chardon High School in Ohio? Well, I didn't hear of any teacher being fired for spending class time preparing letters and cards regarding the death of those students. All those teachers and students should have walked out and the parents should have kept their children home in protest.

As yet another educator, I am

Submitted by Sarah on 10 April 2012 - 6:25am.

As yet another educator, I am astonished by how many of my fellow educators seem completely unable to read or think critically, especially the several that condemn Harris's decision to try to hold a fundraiser as "inappropriate" and who therefore approve of the superintendent's actions in firing her. Except that the superintendent did not fire her because she wanted to hold a fundraiser--she fired Harris on trumped-up charges of "insubordination" and "asking to know why she was being suspended" (the nerve!). All Harris did was ASK to hold a meeting about a POSSIBLE fundraiser, a meeting that might hopefully include some of the kids who were most excited to organize it. In reply, the superintendent suspended her. How is this an "appropriate" response? If the superintendent did not want Harris to hold a fundraiser, all she had to do was follow Nancy Reagan's timeless advice and just say NO. That's an authoritarian's job, after all. Instead, she seemed to have a complete nervous breakdown over it and fired what appears to be one of her best teachers. (By the way, even if this teacher WAS asking for something inappropriate, well, young teachers need older educators to take advantage of "teachable moments" too--the superintendent should have acted as a mentor in this situation, and explained why it was inappropriate, rather than acting as a paranoid dictator.)

Some of the fault for this conflation of issues lies with the writer of the article, who couched the whole sordid story in terms of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, but the derailed fundraiser is not the key story here--it's about how and why this teacher was fired, and whether it was unjust--and an educator ought to have the critical eye needed to decode that truth even when a media source does its best to jam two issues together in order to pump up the pathos. Shame on those of you who got pulled in by standard rhetorical tools. It doesn't matter if Harris's request was unjust; that's not why she was fired, meaning that matter is now mostly irrelevant to the story at hand.

For the record, I do not believe extra pathos was needed here; the facts as presented, if true and complete, paint a pretty ridiculous story of a superintendent who was looking for any reason to get rid of one of her teachers. A sad, messy, and stupid affair, and also a reminder of why teachers need unions.

The superintendent behaved

Submitted by Edy Chamness on 10 April 2012 - 8:22am.

The superintendent behaved exactly as we would expect her to; she fired a good and dedicated teacher who was well-liked by faculty and students. Typical. This is what schools do. They continue to force the best teachers out of the profession and their bullying tactics send a clear message to any potential dissentors; "If you want to keep your job, shut up and do as you're told."

As a Civics teacher,I always

Submitted by Joe Saylor on 10 April 2012 - 9:14am.

As a Civics teacher,I always thought it was my job to get kids excited about important social issues. This teacher did just that and got fired. Now I'm really confused. Maybe the superintendant of the school wanted her to read a chapter out of the book and answer the review questions. That type of lesson presented over and over will surely turn kids off. I applaud this teacher for bringing the real world into her classroom. Chalk another injustice up to "charter schools".

Haven't we all come to the

Submitted by radioman kc on 10 April 2012 - 9:41am.

Haven't we all come to the conclusion that most headshed administrators have been given their jobs because they've been promoted to their level of incompetence? We hear so many reports of stupid admins around the country overreacting to their customers' behavior or firing/suspending teachers who use innovation and imagination. Administrators are the ultimate EdD bureaucrats!

Although a union would be

Submitted by Sarah on 10 April 2012 - 10:01am.

Although a union would be helpful it isn't the only answer and not a possible solution in this case. If the parents and teachers of this school feel that injustice has been done they can petition the board for the superintendent's removal and/or make their voice heard by removing their child from the school. Charter schools cannot exist without community support.

So...So far, this teacher has

Submitted by Steve on 10 April 2012 - 11:45am.

So...So far, this teacher has been punished worse, legally, than Zimmerman. Shoot a kid, start a website, beg for donations for legal defense.
Start a fundraiser for the victim's family...get fired. Nice.
Zimmerman builds a website, wraps himself in the flag, shows zero remorse, shows zero responsibility, acts like HE'S the victim...and now he is begging for, and getting, mind you, donations....
But, all this teacher wanted to do was have a fundraiser for the victim's family...and she get's fired?
I sincerely hope, we are kept up to date on this, and that the "superintendent" os the school is the one who ends up being let go, and that this teacher gets her job back, or abetter offer somewhere else.

The role of an Educator is to

Submitted by William Walton on 10 April 2012 - 1:08pm.

The role of an Educator is to teach Critical Thinking. This is just what this teacher did. One should keep in mind that We Are A Democracy!

Were a democracy, perhaps.

Submitted by David Seager on 10 April 2012 - 4:14pm.

Were a democracy, perhaps. Those days are over.

We are not a democracy! I am

Submitted by ashamed on 12 April 2012 - 10:44pm.

We are not a democracy! I am ashamed that so many teachers have stated this in their posts. Democracy is mob rule. This is a terrifying idea. The United States of America is a democratic republic. We are a representative democracy. There is a difference between a pure democracy and a democratic republic. This is a point that drives me crazy. Just because a large number of people think that something is a good idea, like slavery, it doesn't mean that we should all do it. A democracy works like that. Thank goodness we don't have one, yet.
As for those of you who are uncomfortable and apologetic for being white, you are one of the main reasons that Jesse Jackson and the like have so much power. They feed off of the idea that all white people are responsible for what happened more than 100 years ago. I am no more privileged than anyone else. I grew up poor in a rural area with little advantages. There were no scholarships for me because of my race, no affirmative action, nor any other helping hands for me. That is ok. My best friend is of mixed race and personally I don't really care what race you are it is only important to me what type of person you are. That is what I teach in my classroom, character. This is what Martin Luther King taught, character not skin color.
All of the white people in the world did not own slaves, all of the Germans did not participate in the Holocaust and personally I did neither. Just because I am white and of German decent does not mean that I am racist or prejudice or responsible for what other people did. I live in the South where I am accused of being racist unjustly at least weekly. Until we all stop seeing ourselves as one race or another this will continue. I am not "a white", I am just an American. When we begin to look at the Martin/Zimmerman case as a case between two men (Martin was a 17yr old - not exactly a child) and not between a black man and an Hispanic man (Zimmerman is not white, he is Hispanic) the perspective changes and you can see how two lives now are changed forever.

The future starts with us...

Submitted by Respect on 10 April 2012 - 3:18pm.

The future starts with us... We are all the same color on the inside and we are the ones that need to come together. There is no Social, Civil, or Political Organization that can achieve this for us.

We are the ones that need to start. Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Green, Purple.

We are all the same Human on the inside.

I am baffled as to why this

Submitted by Leslie MacPherson on 10 April 2012 - 3:18pm.

I am baffled as to why this young woman was fired. Not that I think what she did was out of line, but if the school's administration deemed that she had acted inappropriately, why not just give her a written warning? Completely unjust.

Ms. Harris: The best teachers

Submitted by David Seager on 10 April 2012 - 4:13pm.

Ms. Harris: The best teachers are those who use current events to teach life unforgettable life lessons. You are a obviously a great teacher, and I hope you are either re-instated or find a better job soon.

I think based on the

Submitted by Deni on 10 April 2012 - 4:36pm.

I think based on the information provided that the firing of this teacher was very wrong. However, it is important to keep in mind all information is rarely presented in the news.

It is typically opinions vs. facts. For instance, the pictures of this child that was murdered was 17 years old yet a picture of the child shown is from when he was only a scrawny 12 year old. At 17 Trayvon was far from being a short scrawny child vs. the fact that he was tall (6'3") and practically an adult.

That being said this is still an opportunity to correctly focus on a lack of tolerance like the teacher correctly did with her class. Hoodies do not equal a bad person and neither does race!

I believe that the dismissal

Submitted by Sandra Hinojosa on 10 April 2012 - 6:32pm.

I believe that the dismissal of this teacher is ridiculous. She was hired to teach, and she was teaching. I love teaching, and I myself was put into a similar position for teaching about Cesar Chavez. I left the school system because all the stupidity from the administration was affecting my health. I now own a small tutoring center. The truth is that most schools want you to teach-up to a certain point. If teachers cause students to think then we are actually in trouble. Most administrators that I have know don't want anyone to rock the boat. As long as everyone is coasting along. The administrators are happy. I'm proud of the teacher for standing up for Trayvon. Her students have learned something that they will never forget. First, that their teacher is exceptional. Second, that most administrators don't want students to think and take action. Just think, then the administration would loose their power over the students and the teacher. Therefore, administration must deal by causing intimidation and fear. Their behavior is shameful.
Sandra Hinojosa, Lardo, Texas

I agree with this. There are

Submitted by Heather on 11 April 2012 - 7:13am.

I agree with this. There are two sides to every story. Although I'm inclined to side with the teacher, my thought is that she probably shouldn't go back to that school. If the superintendent fired her in the first place, going back will just lead to more intense scrutinization and misery. My suggestion to Brooke is to write a book about it, move on and find another job. If she was that excellent, it shouldn't be a problem for her. Or she could get a job as an activist! I just wouldn't want her to go back to a worse situation. I've seen way more people get kept on when they shouldn't be because of their tenure than I have seen people fired because there was no union--just as a side note.

Right to work state. Yeah.

Submitted by The Tim Channel on 10 April 2012 - 5:12pm.

Right to work state. Yeah. And it isn't torture it's enhanced interrogation. Add inhumane working conditions to the list of reasons the 99% are screwed.

I have no trouble with a

Submitted by Mike Griimm on 10 April 2012 - 6:38pm.

I have no trouble with a teacher taking a stand for something she believes it. However, the facts in this case are so muddled, and the reporting so full of deliberate misinformation (what the hell is a "white latino", and has that term EVER been used before now?) that she has an obligation, as a TEACHER, to not jump the gun. Obviously, she has. As an educator she should strive to teach her charges the value of critical thinking...instead, she's teaching them to believe what the press tells them and to jumpt to conclusions based on limited or poor information. We don't know enough about what happened to start fundraising. I think the fact that NBC deliberately altered their 911 recording is evidence enough that we're not getting an accurate telling of the story. It doesn't help that our President's only comment was that if he had a son he would "look like Trayvon", when what he SHOULD be doing is counseling everyone to calm down, and wait until the facts come out. My God, the Black Panthers publicly offered a bounty on Zimmerman. Is this the wild west, or modern America? This teacher is setting a bad example, not because she's willing to take a stand on something, but because she's taking a stand on something when she doesn't know the truth of what happened and has no business trying to convince children of what she thinks really went down. She should keep her personal politics out of it.

How remarkable, the number of

Submitted by Jason on 13 April 2012 - 7:03pm.

How remarkable, the number of people who think they can slip a "straw man" argument past a discussion board full of teachers.

Ms. Harris did not "take a stand on something she doesn't know the truth of." It is true that Trayvon Martin is dead. It is true that his family is bereaved. It is true that it would be nice to help them. The fundraiser was not to prosecute Zimmermann. The fundraiser was not to defend one side or the other in a public debate. The fundraiser was an effort to do something nice for parents who suffered the horror of losing a child.

Mr. Griimm, I am appalled that you (and so many more like you on this board) insist on pretending that Ms. Harris was leading children into an ideological fight. The facts contradict you: the children appear to have come up with the fundraiser on their own, and the fundraiser was not an ideological act - it was an act of mercy for parents who lost a child.

The mere fact that you and your ilk continue to willfully misconstrue the situation shows the bankruptcy of your argument, your character, your ethics. You're so caught up in your own politics, you're projecting your own politicization upon a teacher and a group of school children who have been victimized terribly by an incompetent administrator.

One can't help but wonder if that incompetent administrator was doing precisely the same thing.

You and your allies on this board *want* this to be about bringing unsettled politics into the classroom. You *want* it to be a case of a teacher making a Duke-Lacrosse-style error. You want that, because it would confirm your twisted narrative in which (as one commenter put it above) an unholy conspiracy of teachers, media, and government is trying to break everything.

You want so badly for that paranoid fantasy to be confirmed, you can't even see that you're making it all up.

This is not about Black Panthers. This is not about NBC, or the President. This is about some kids who wanted to raise money to help bereaved parents. Approached by those kids, a teacher thought it might be educationally useful to help them. She asked for permission to help them. She was fired for having the sheer temerity to even ask.

That's the situation. And it's a terrible injustice. Everything else you're writing is a fantasy you've invented to reinforce your own outlandish politics.

I was a teacher in a

Submitted by Xjy Xjy on 10 April 2012 - 6:46pm.

I was a teacher in a difficult school in Sweden for more than 15 years. Sweden has a tolerant tradition and a great deal of freedom for teachers to plan and carry out lessons in a way that helps the kids to learn. Teachers are unionized and there are strict rules in place to protect teachers from arbitrary harassment on the part of school and political authorities.
The subject I could have taught the kids most about, and affected their lives for the better doing it, was Social Studies (history, geography, civics). However, my instinct for self-preservation kept me away from that. What I did teach was Swedish language and literature (the equivalent of English in the US), and English (compares roughly to French for English speakers in Quebec, or Spanish for English speakers in Southern California). Keeping the kids stimulated and attentive meant that I used methods and examples every day that would have got me fired immediately in the States. But languages are more "neutral" than directly engaging with social issues.
Regardless of all this, at one school (before I got my official teaching certification) I stimulated discussion in an English class about the relationship between politics and sport. In this case, should Swedish tennis players have boycotted a visit by players representing a bloody dictatorship. The discussion was stimulating, but some kids were uncomfortable, and told their parents, who knew the principal, who suspended me immediately. Another teacher was sent into the class while I sat in the staff room. This teacher asked the kids what had happened. Most of the kids were as amazed as she was. So the class dug into who had said what where to make this happen. It turned out that four kids out of thirty had felt uncomfortable. They also felt superior and arrogant because of their parents' contacts with the principal. So they loosed the attack dogs on me.
The upshot of this object lesson in real-life, real-time civics was that these kids were exposed as undemocratic snitches and cowards. The principal got egg on his face too. In fact, I was escorted back to the classroom and even cheered as I came through the door.
All's well that ends well. Maybe, but this kind of bullying and mind control happens even in progressive Sweden.
In reactionary countries like Britain (where I come from) and the US it is taking place all day every day. No mercy. I would never dream of teaching in a school in these countries. Higher education maybe -- I taught at a university for a couple of years in the early 1970s, and enjoyed what used to be the rule - "academic freedom".
All this to underline that in an unjust system like the US (or Britain) you put your career and professional life on the line each day you enter a classroom. It's the norm. In fact it's just like the systems everyone used to snarl at in the old Soviet Union or in Iran today. Toe the line or you're out. Don't get uppity or we'll blacklist you. Teachers like Brooke Harris deserve the same admiration and respect as any dissidents anywhere who fight intolerance and injustice.
Those who spit on her for rocking the boat don't exactly deserve to be jailed or shot for their bigotry and bullying, but they deserve contempt and derision.
I suppose the moral is that if you don't stand up to them and fight back in an organized fashion they'll throw you on the floor, stomp all over you and kick your head in.

Someone needs to explain to

Submitted by Corey on 10 April 2012 - 6:52pm.

Someone needs to explain to this superintendent that her job is to sit in a chair and pretend to be important, and make announcements from time to time, not to be an activist, or anti-activist, or all around perfect example of why chartered schools are a conservative, anti-government, crock of un-learned, moronic, BS.

Race in America is still a

Submitted by Carol Reiner on 10 April 2012 - 7:20pm.

Race in America is still a tabbo for some institutions such as some school districts. I am an ESL teacher in Durham, NC. I have been helping the students inside and outside the classroom for many years. In some places, I am percieved an an asset to the educational field, but here in the South I am perceived as a threat for building leaders from a minority group. I was about to be fired from my school too for presenting, "the opportunity to bring...[real life] experiences into the classroom. So I know that exposing the truth of our serious issues related to race in some places can have serious concequences and Ms. Harris's situation is a clear example of that. I recommend Ms. Harris to seek legal help like I did. It's ridiculous that we teacher have to seek legal help just to get to do our job.


ESL Teacher
Durham, NC.

I'd bet good money we will

Submitted by NJ1447 on 10 April 2012 - 7:43pm.

I'd bet good money we will see a union organizing campaign there in no time.


Reinstate or have your school

Submitted by Jaye Harding on 10 April 2012 - 8:52pm.

Reinstate or have your school charter revoked.

Ms Harris is not the only

Submitted by llynch on 10 April 2012 - 9:14pm.

Ms Harris is not the only teacher that has been faced with cruel, at will treatment by those in positions to evaluate and fire at will. Teachers all over America are being treated unprofessionally while working in an unhealthy, antagonistic environment without recourse.Unions are being broken and are noneffective against the new strategies being used to berate and eliminate teachers at will.Change that does not serve to educate our children is destructive.How beautiful the bulletin board is, how well written and extensive the lesson plans are, how well the smart goals are written, ( which actually came from corporate)how fearful teachers are in the academic environment, etc, is not the reason for being an educator.Ms Harris was engaging her students in a very rich lesson but lost her job. Where are the parents who should not stand for this kind of treatment of Ms Harris? The wrong person is being fired if we look at the situation in reference to our children.Business is taking over education. That is certainly not the way to go.As we can see, corporate America has not made out so well.

It is a shame that a

Submitted by mia on 10 April 2012 - 9:58pm.

It is a shame that a supportive teacher such as Brookes who goes above and beyond the 8 hr work day to ensure that students feel like citizens with voices that will be heard by adults in their communities, is not only not positively recognized for bridging book learning with the real world application, but BROOKES was actually punished/ retaliated against. We should all question if the RIGHT TYPE OF PRINCIPALS ARE IN CHARGE, bc anytime we pretend that we shouldn't talk about or get involved in making efforts in our community to make positive changes, we are squelching a Little more of our countries hard earned freedom of thought and speech, which breeds contempt and egocentric attitudes instead of peaceful problem solving. IT IS A GREAT DISSERVICE TO OUR INTELLIGENT AND HARD WORKING. FUTURE LEADERS OF OUR WORLD!

In part, she suffers the fate

Submitted by Angela Wolf-Guthrie on 10 April 2012 - 10:48pm.

In part, she suffers the fate of working at a non-union, charter school in a 'right to work' state.

When I was 'written up' by my principal, it was suggested that I not be the 'sacrificial lamb' ( by a Union that seems to feel less and less vested in working on behalf of teachers and more for the Democratic Party). But, thank goodness there IS a Union but I had to make it work for me. Only by filing a formal grievance and having that grievance subsequently granted by the toss who tried to curb my PROFESSIONAL involvement with students was I able to regain some of the lost ground.

I am very sorry for this teacher and really, all employees who have no redress. May Day is coming soon. What a great time to rally and remember what GOOD Labor Unions have done for all of us and COULD continue doing with our support.

The firing of Ms. Harris is

Submitted by grace on 11 April 2012 - 4:24am.

The firing of Ms. Harris is despicable but more common place than we think. The growing national anti-union sentiment encourages this type of dismissal at will. As a member of a local public school system, our Superintendent fired ALL the high school teachers two years ago as part of the NCLB "turnaround" policy. The ensuing national exposure, teacher/management strife hurt not only the adults must importantly the students.

I for one agree with the

Submitted by Concerned Educator on 11 April 2012 - 11:15am.

I for one agree with the Superintendent's decision related to this case. The author of this article describes a teachable moment when the students engaged and wanted to help Trayvon's family. While I agree that this family is in grief and would provide a great opportunity for students to act selflessly, the problem is larger than that. We know Trayvon was shot and killed by Mr. Zimmerman, but Mr. Zimmerman has not had a chance to undergo his rights to due process. Because of that fact alone, coupled with the fact that NBC misrepresented vital information to the case, we do not know for sure why the event happened yet, until a trial occurs.
So, while I support engagement in activism, and in acting selflessly to help others, we cannot throw out the most important lesson - our rights as citizens - based on assumptions.

I'm not sure how expressing

Submitted by Maureen Costello on 11 April 2012 - 1:51pm.

I'm not sure how expressing sympathy for the family of a shooting victim throws out anyone's right as a citizen. The Constitutional right to due process operates when the government tries to take away someones "life, liberty or property" without going through the established procedures. Mr. Zimmerman's treatment -- particularly the closing of the investigation under the first policy chief -- cannot be construed as a denial of due process. His life, liberty or property were not threatened by the state. He won't be able to "have a chance to undergo his rights to due process" until he is arrested.

The salient fact in Ms. Harris' situation, however, is that she had her students read about the case. They also wrote editorials for the school newspaper. And then they wanted to do something. I'm not sure any rights of citizens were thrown out in her classroom.

This is about a fund raiser

Submitted by Thomas Hodges on 11 April 2012 - 2:31pm.

This is about a fund raiser for the parents of the victim. It is a separate issue from whether or not the shooter has had his day in court or not. It's about a fund raiser. Period.

Respectfully, I think that

Submitted by Tammie on 11 April 2012 - 8:34pm.

Respectfully, I think that you are missing the point. The crux of the matter is that this teacher was dismissed without due process. She was not told what she did wrong. Her principal supported the students' choice of activities. She went through the proper channels. How can we pass anti- bullying laws to punish children when all around they see adults bullying those with little or no power.

I admire Ms. Brooke Harris

Submitted by Monica McClain on 11 April 2012 - 12:10pm.

I admire Ms. Brooke Harris courageous spirit!! I truly understand why she was the recipient of the Teacher Award for two consecutive years. This young woman is amazing. And for those of you who do not agree you are definitely a problem to the development of our childrens precious minds and their ability to learn. Thank YOU Ms. Brooke Harris. . .you are a gifted teacher for our children!! PEACE.

As an educator, I am appauled

Submitted by Hope Coleman on 11 April 2012 - 1:24pm.

As an educator, I am appauled about the dismissal of Brook Harris. What she did with her students is exactly what a teacher (a good one) is suppose to do. She used what was going on in the media and the children's interest of it to teach a lesson. Not only did she have them write an essay, which builds cognition and written comminication skills, her assignment encouraged them to take it a step further and get involved with a fundraiser. Then, even after her unflawful suspension, she attended the Literacy Fair to drop off prizes to students and gather information for parents who would not be able to attend, she gets fired. I think there is something dreadfully wrong with our education system and the superintendent who fired her instead of honoring her. She is devoted to her students and their families. Incase you didn't know this is what a real teacher does. GIVE HER HER JOB BACK.

I wonder if this sensitive

Submitted by docsabre on 11 April 2012 - 2:09pm.

I wonder if this sensitive teacher also tried to get her predominately black classes to understand how blacks in America represent 13% of the population but that they represent 42% of homicides. According to FBI stats from 1975 to 2007, 94% of blacks murdered in America were commited by, wait for it..........other blacks! Where is the outrage? It is interesting how some groups have already judged George Zimmerman without a trial so they can whip up racial division for their own evil purposes.

I would hope that SPLC do

Submitted by Thomas Hodges on 11 April 2012 - 2:29pm.

I would hope that SPLC do what it can to make Superintendent Cassell own her actions. Make her work hard to defend such an idiotic move. And I agree with some here: THIS is why Teachers' Unions exist.

I read on a different website

Submitted by Justin on 11 April 2012 - 3:50pm.

I read on a different website the teacher encouraged the children to disobey the dress code. That is grounds for dismissal. Also, to those that are clamoring on about inequalities still existing. Please contact the SBA, ask if they provide loans for white males. Go to retailers motels and restaurants and ask the foreign owners where they got the money to start the business. Inequality effects more than just African Americans. Please look further into situations unreported by the mass media.

I stand with Brooke. What

Submitted by Ryan Commerson on 11 April 2012 - 11:17pm.

I stand with Brooke. What she was/is doing is exactly what this country failed to do for centuries. Reinstate Brooke and FIRE CASSELL.

Wow! Can't believe she was

Submitted by Shenell Collier on 12 April 2012 - 3:48am.

Wow! Can't believe she was fired. She asked permission and followed the procedures. One of my students had a similar request and wanted to express support for the Martin family. However, in light of this, I will back off. I have other 'fires to burn' so to speak. I, too, am a former teacher of the year so this really hits home. It is a shame that you can't support students in an effort to 'learn'...how hypocritical. This is just one of the reasons that our educational system is in the shape it is in now. Many minorities fail to graduate and we wonder why...there voice is not heard in our educational system ...just as our voice has been lost in the justice system.

While symptomatic, those

Submitted by Steve Light on 12 April 2012 - 10:20am.

While symptomatic, those responding that the problem is lack of unions, tenure or due process are missing the forest for the trees. This type of attack on basic democratic rights and the basic social right of education, and others like it including the killings of innocent youth like Trayvon Martin, will be increasing as social inequality of a society rooted in profits and exploitation increase. That is why we see the world crisis of capitalism increasing struggles internationally. They cannot afford to maintain democracy. The unions that support the Democrats and Obama, who promotes charters and the other attacks on public education and other social programs, would not fight to stop charters or protect teachers' rights by breaking with the existing political structure that defends the interests of the corporate elite. If this makes sense to you, go to www.socialequality.com and consider supporting the Socialist Equality Party and its presidential candidates.

Question: Did the writer

Submitted by Jay J on 12 April 2012 - 11:05am.

Question: Did the writer interview the Superintendent? Did she do any research on this? I have no idea, when looking at this article if any of the information is really what happened. As a parent I DO NOT want a teacher to try and instill THEIR values on my child. I DO NOT want them encouraging social activism. There are clubs and non school environments to pursue that. By doing a little research, it looks like the teacher was told not to do certain things, and she ignored the warnings. So, take your medicine. People are always wanting to live by their rules. Well, it doesn't work that way.

Why do you think that she

Submitted by Nannette V. on 12 April 2012 - 4:10pm.

Why do you think that she would lie? It doesn't sound as though the teacher was forcing her views on the students. Young people aren't stupid and many of them have their own well developed ideas about injustice. Turning a blind eye to what happens in society helps create people who are selfish and insensitive. The teacher seemed to be encouraging CRITICAL THINKING skills which obviously offends some people.

I was not able to sign the

Submitted by Sabrina Chase on 12 April 2012 - 7:22pm.

I was not able to sign the petition it goes to a page which ask for pass wored. I would like to sign the petition.

This is what happens at

Submitted by Brent Keller on 13 April 2012 - 9:53am.

This is what happens at Charter Schools, and what they are trying to create in Public Schools.

My advise, if you want an administration that cares more about your students, stay away from Charter Schools. Now more than ever, because it will only get worse as these schools turn into FOR PROFIT schools.

Unfortunately there are too

Submitted by Amy Schickel on 15 April 2012 - 8:39am.

Unfortunately there are too many charter schools in Michigan. Many teachers would rather teach for the public schools but the jobs are not available. Governor Snyder passed a bill in December to lift the cap of the number of charter schools. It still does not make this situation just.

It is always refreshing to

Submitted by Elizabeth Cooper on 13 April 2012 - 11:10pm.

It is always refreshing to hear of a teacher bringing american history and critical thinking out of the realm of allegory and fiction and relating it to everyday contemporary life and the world we live in. Hooray for this teacher and her students for caring enough to "take it to the streets."

This incident is

Submitted by Michael Paul Goldenberg on 14 April 2012 - 10:28pm.

This incident is all-too-typical of many for-profit charter schools. Teachers and students are routinely treated like dirt. Parents are disrespected. The only thing many such schools value is the bottom line. Pontiac is particularly notorious for having charter schools that heavily recruit students prior to Count Days (the crucial period during which attendance determines how much money the state will pay to a school) then ridding themselves of the "difficult" and "challenging" and incorrigible students, who return to their home schools (that is, their public schools), places that are legally responsible to teach them EVEN WHEN THEY DON'T GET ANY MONEY for so doing. And the regular public schools can't pick and choose whom to teach: they have to teach everyone.

Unions are easy to criticize and have become popular whipping boys for the educational deformers and their mouthpieces. But all it takes is a case like this one to see both why teachers' unions became necessary and why they remain necessary. The contempt for professionalism, real academic freedom, and meaningful learning experiences for students, combined with a supremely conservative political agenda that is generally handed down from the corporate management companies that run these charter schools, is unconscionable. And yet places like the ironically-named charter school in this case continue to flourish, and politicians, many of whom have been bought and paid for by the companies that run the charters, tell us that we need more of these horror shows to "save" kids in poverty. What a cynical, nauseating joke.

I wouldn't have believed that

Submitted by jan mearkle on 15 April 2012 - 8:44am.

I wouldn't have believed that this could happen in the U.S. Like most of us, I only know about this incident second hand, but it certainly is a 'teachable moment' in education.

I would like to see some other progressive teachers start asking questions about freedom. Does this firing mean that teachers should not discuss current events that directly effect students?

Did the principal who originally signed off on the project get fired, too? Or reprimanded?

This whole episode seems ridiculous in the extreme.

In this day and age, being a teacher = being an activist - for students, for community, and apparently, for self!

Creative approaches in

Submitted by Dan Welch on 15 April 2012 - 1:30pm.

Creative approaches in education should not be surpressed. Its not in the best educational interests of the superintendent to have not realized the opportunity Ms Harris was giving her students.

Her fellow teachers need to

Submitted by Dr Woods on 15 April 2012 - 12:10pm.

Her fellow teachers need to walk out and DEMAND the removal of the Superintendent. She works for us not the other way around!!

If these actions have not

Submitted by Sonya on 15 April 2012 - 11:31pm.

If these actions have not already been taken, I suggest that someone develop a change.org petition, and contact the ACLU. This sets a dangerous precedent for all teachers who seek to bring issues of social justice into their classrooms...

From my understanding, the

Submitted by Ohio Teacher on 16 April 2012 - 9:58am.

From my understanding, the students asked the teacher for her help because they wanted to do more to help the Martin family, therefore it should not have been a problem. The teacher did nothing wrong and did what she was taught to do in the many education classes teachers take.

Beautifully written. My heart

Submitted by Ann on 17 April 2012 - 1:26am.

Beautifully written. My heart goes out to Brooke, AND her students. To the parents who actually agree with her termination, well, shame on you. Social issues are going to come into the classroom-it's inevitable. To even suggest that a teacher should not open the floor for discussion on social topics, well, it's quite naive. It's those moments, the ones that deal with social issues, where real teaching begins. A quality teacher will allow for discussion, for debate, for moments of passion - they will not PREACH, but they will guide the students on their road to realization, which is exactly what Ms. Harris did.

Its funny when humans say

Submitted by Kuroi on 3 May 2012 - 6:25pm.

Its funny when humans say such things boldly and unflinchingly. saying they got what they deserved, cause a teacher wanted to teach kids how to effect change, how many schools and teachers where pumped with political views and urgings to vote and how the process works. how many schools got flooded over the Bill Clinton scandal, and what of the Gena 6 or the Af Am male in Texas whose "friend" chained him to his truck and dragged him down the street at high speed, or even the election race or now President Barack Obama. For goodness sakes we have our kids cutting up news papers to present for Current event projects. Folks are running round here being Sheepeople and not seeing where this is going. You know Jim Crow and other segregation practice where considered LAW as well but it was fought and over turned at the price of a myriad of lives lost. Some even spiritually befuddled cause they dont know the answer to how many bubbles are in a bar of soap....mah This person the most under appreciated under paid person who believes every child deserves a series of chances so they can become a productive citizen, is charged with educating young people so they too can take over the reigns of leadership and forge ahead to prosperity to all and not to the few. And the best one can come up with is "She got what she deserved" You have ask your self what happens when you try to stand for whats right and show your kid, little goats or children how to stand and fight for those who can not or will not.... We forget that teachers have a gun to their heads from three sided Faculty giving the "Kids better pass these standardized tests or else...." Parents "You better not discipline my disruptive kid, who ironically is destroying everyone's opportunity to learn" and the final gun held by the Student which often gets pulled and is supported by all "You better not defend yourself from me when I spit or punch you in the face". You wonder why kids are going to jail more, did you know that each time schools fail in succeeding in passing standardized test they add on or open up a new prison, based off 3rd grade results(jb7). The fact that kids are actually taking interest in something not about the flippin Kardasians or name your WTH reality series, is a step in a great direction. its shows we are not lost it shows our new generations are not without hope, they do care just like our generation did. I hope that teachers kids are taking a collection for her. We need to care how cruel and wrong it was for the people in power to try to break and instill a sense of collective institutionalization and not collect conscientiousness You gotta remember also schools are using the same curriculum as they did back in the start of the industrial revolution, which is to learn how to work in a factory. Going along with your idea, they should stop teaching history American or other wise cause history classes teach nothing but political activism and how this country started and battled its way to greatness. Just like every other country. Bottom line do help those whom are trying to human spirit cause your reward is your long and arduous destruction at your own hand. Look at what happen to the Africans who helps enslave other Africans, they LOST A LOT.

This is an outrage. Why would

Submitted by Jesse on 21 May 2012 - 8:47am.

This is an outrage. Why would a teacher be fired for trying to voice her students opnion. Superintendent Cassell was out of line firing her for just teaching to her students concerns.

I feel that Brooke Harris was

Submitted by Alexis on 22 May 2012 - 8:11am.

I feel that Brooke Harris was only doing her job. She felt that this should be something shared with her students because it could give them achance to weigh in on the issue. She didn't want to do it cause he was Trayvon was black, she did it because she felt like that it could have been one of her kids that she teaches. She wanted her students to be involved with helping out Trayvon's family, not only did she want to do it,the studnets themselves wanted to help out because they felt it was ther right thing. This is not a racial issue with; it's the fact that a young boy got killed over a bag of skittles. For the superintendent to fire Ms.Harris for just wanting to get her students involved in this issue is really uncalled for. Ms. Harris went through all the legal steps before her she really got her students involved with the issue.

This situation is really sad.

Submitted by Diamond on 22 May 2012 - 8:13am.

This situation is really sad. how could she get fired because she did a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin. She was tryinig to help a needy family that need prayer. Teachers should teach their students critically about what's going on in the world.

reading this article helps me

Submitted by micah on 22 May 2012 - 8:14am.

reading this article helps me realize that not all people care about what goes on with others. i personally think that Brooke did a good deed to help her students understand different situations. with the children understanding and wanting to help out is a good start to help get justice. this young boy did not deserve to die so young over something that was assumed. with different people trying to help out to get this situation down pack. we need to understand and starting off with helping others understand is a very good way to start.

We need to change the law in

Submitted by Deb Hearon on 10 July 2012 - 12:53am.

We need to change the law in Florida. Because in Florida, it does not matter what you do, they can fire you for anything. We need to start a petition to change this law. Employees are harrassed, bullied, treated terribly, and fired for no reason at all. Florida has the law that it does not matter what they fire you for. They can fire you for just not liking you or even the color of your shoes. Companies, etc. in Florida can fire you for no cause. The employer has way too much power and an employee has little recourse when being fired even if it is unjust. Everyone help make up a petition that changes this law. I am starting one to Governor Scott. I hope this terrible law gets changed so employees have some recourse for being fired for anything. Employees should have a way to fight harrassment and unjust cause firing.

Come to Oregon and Teach! We

Submitted by Linda Barrow on 18 August 2012 - 7:34am.

Come to Oregon and Teach! We need better teachers! We had a teacher who threw a chair in an angry rage two years ago, screams in kids faces, makes kids feel demoralized and we are still waiting for a decision from our complaints from 4 months ago by the Oregon teachers standards and practices commission! Out with the bad in with the good! The school district's administration and superintendent found no fault with this educator! This district superintendent just got promoted to State Superintendent of public education and was approved by Governor Kitzhaber.

Hello! I've been reading your

Submitted by Tharaa Krishna on 8 September 2012 - 1:19pm.

Hello! I've been reading your site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic work!

My spouse is a HS Social

Submitted by CMartinez on 24 September 2012 - 10:14am.

My spouse is a HS Social Studies teacher and is fighting with a similar issue. Following a Current Affairs class discussion, a 14 yr old student went home and told her parents that my spouse was voting to re-elect the President and wanted to confiscate all guns. The mother called the school and complained, adding that "she had media contacts." My spouse now has a written reprimand in his files--despite the fact that he is registered to vote as a Republican and coached the Jr AF ROTC Air Rifle team.
In researching his options, I have found that if you are teaching K-12, there is no such thing as Academic Freedom. Even without "political activism", just mediating a discussion can get you thrown under the bus. If it isn't in the book approved by the district, it can't be defended in the classroom. He also, teaches in a publicly funded Charter School that can fire him for any reason, with only 7 days notice.
This is his second career. He served more than 20 years in the AF, visiting and working alongside people from Ecuador to Norway and mentoring hundreds of young people. He has so much experience to offer, but is now wondering if the stress is worth it.

Again, Brook saw a teachable

Submitted by auto diagnostic tool on 20 December 2012 - 1:44am.

Again, Brook saw a teachable moment. She and her students began to organize a formal school activities program. The students wrote persuasive letters principals and managers. Brook and colleagues to submit the necessary documents. Immediately signed a major fund-raising activities.
There is a reason Michigan’s English Language Proficiency Standards call for students to “engage in challenging and purposeful learning that blends their experiences with content knowledge and real-world applications.” Students learn better this way.
Real life is not clean. It is not clear cut. It is not safe. But it is the world our students live in and they will be required to navigate it as adults. Teachers must bring this outside world into the classroom.

I agree, she was allowed to

Submitted by stan omeara on 14 July 2013 - 1:40pm.

I agree, she was allowed to teacher about the incident, but not allowed to fundraise at school. She and the students should have done this outside of school on their own time.

From the description here,

Submitted by Susan Mullis on 21 July 2013 - 12:32pm.

From the description here, Trayvon's teacher should be training other teachers. Sounds like she is incorporating the most effective research-based teaching strategies we desire in all teachers, strategies for 21st century students. After this publicity, she should be able to teach wherever she likes with more knowledgable educators. Trayvon's peers at his school will be the losers. Parents, you have a voice!