Teacher Fired over Trayvon Martin Fundraiser

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.


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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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!!

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Reinstate or have your school

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

Reinstate or have your school charter revoked.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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!