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Brooke Harris, 26, has demanded an explanation from the administration after she was allegedly fired for supporting her middle school students' Trayvon Martin fundraiser.
Brooke Harris, a Michigan middle school teacher, was allegedly fired for supporting her students' Trayvon Martin fundraiser, the Associated Press reported.
Harris, 26, has demanded an explanation from the administration at Pontiac Academy of Excellence (PAE) as to why she was dismissed, the AP reported. She was let go from the school on March 29, after she supported her students' efforts to plan a wear-a-hoodie-to-school day in honor of Martin, who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot. The school traditionally allows students to "dress down" from their usual uniforms to raise money for various causes, according to the AP.
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After the students' Trayvon Martin fundraiser was nixed by the school's superintendent Jacqueline Cassell, Harris asked if the students could meet with administrators to discuss the refusal, Reuters reported.
Harris was suspended, then ultimately let go.
"I was told I was a bad teacher, that I was being unprofessional, that I'm being paid to teach, not to be an activist," Harris told the Detroit Free Press. "When I tried to defend myself, it was construed as insubordination," Harris said.
Harris' dismissal has received national attention: the Mississippi-based Southern Poverty Law Center has taken up the fight for her reinstatement, and diversity non-profit Teaching Tolerance started a petition at change.org on Harris' behalf which had nearly 150,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Free Press reported.
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Local civil rights leaders also held a rally in support of Brooke Harris on Tuesday, demanding that Pontiac Academy for Excellence rehire her, and condemning school officials, The Kansas City Star reported.
"You should not be penalized for an article of clothing that you are wearing," said the Rev. Charles Williams II of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit.
Superintendent Cassell told the Free Press that she was legally prohibited from discussing the reasons for Harris' termination, but said she has no problem with students expressing their opinions on the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
"I am a child of the '60s. I lived the civil rights movement," Cassell said. "If anybody has a reason to want to be sympathetic, empathetic, the whole nine yards, it would be me. I certainly would not use this issue as a reason to terminate anybody."
Harris has not taken legal action, but said that the charter school has no union, nor do their teacher contracts offer due process.
"I want my job back, but I'm not entirely sure if that's even possible," Harris told the Free Press.
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See our complete Trayvon Martin case coverage.