- (Photo: REUTERS/Ed Linsmier)
Local civil rights leaders in Detroit held a rally Tuesday, in support of a teacher who claims that she was fired after supporting a black hoodie fundraiser to raise money for the family of Trayvon Martin.
Brooke Harris, an 8th grade literature teacher, has claimed that the she was fired for supporting her students in an attempted fundraiser that she believes followed school guidelines.
Civil rights leaders who caught on to the case, held a rally on Tuesday to support the teacher and demand that she be reinstated to her position at Pontiac Academy for Excellence.
Harris said the issue began when she assigned an essay to her students regarding the Trayvon Martin case. Harris explained that her students became so "engaged" in the project that they developed a desire to push the issue further.
"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," Alice Pettway, a reporter following Harris' story, wrote for the Huffington Post.
After identifying a good opportunity to teach her students a lesson, Harris proceeded with the fundraising project and got approval from the school principle. However, despite having achieved the principal's approval, the superintendant Jacqueline Cassell did not agree with the plan.
"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," Pettway said.
Harris received a surprise reaction when Cassell suspended the teacher for being "an activist" and not a teacher. Following a two week unpaid suspension Harris approached Cassell while dropping things off at a school fair and asked why she had been suspended. After asking twice for the reason behind her suspension, Harris claimed that Cassell fired her.
"It's logical that the students would be the ones to take the lead," Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality told local reporters.
Another side of the story was revealed at the rally however, when one parent, Marylou Distry, revealed that Harris had acted after being denied permission. She reported that students had shown up to school wearing black hoodies with Martin's face after being told it was impermissible.
"I love Ms. Harris, she's a nice person," Distry said adding that she didn't think it would justify Harris' actions. "What kind of message are you sending the kids if you let a teacher break the rules?"
Despite accusations, Harris still insisted that she had followed school protocol and that everything about the fundraiser was "by the book."
Others charged school officials with supporting racist stereotypes. "You should not be penalized for an article of clothing that you are wearing," Rev. Charles Williams II commented to local reporters.