Updated: Tuesday, 10 Apr 2012, 11:41 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 10 Apr 2012, 11:41 AM EDT
PONTIAC, Mich. (WDIV) - Former literature teacher Brooke Harris claims she was fired from Michigan's Pontiac Academy for Excellence for helping students organize a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin, the teen fatally shot in a Florida neighborhood earlier this year.
"I feel bad for my kids," Harris said. "I feel bad that now not just society is underestimating them, but so is the woman who is suppose to be looking out for their education."
Academy Superintendent Dr. Jaqcueline Cassell said those allegations are completely false.
"While I cannot comment on specific personnel issues, I will say I would never fire anyone over the reason stated, it"s just not who I am," Cassell said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an American nonprofit civil rights organization, has called for the reinstatement of Harris' job.
When Harris was asked by her eighth-grade journalism students if she knew anything about the Martin case she decided to assign her class an editorial writing project about the subject.
The students then wanted to help the Martin's family by starting a fundraiser.
"Each student who wanted to participate would pay $1 to wear hoodies for one day instead of their mandatory uniforms," Harris said. "The money raised would be donated to the Martin family."
Harris had her students write letters to the school's principal asking permission to do the fundraiser, but Harris claims the idea was ultimately rejected by Cassell.
"I went to the students and told them while freedom of expression is important, when it comes to donating money, I feel the students need to the recognize the need for fundraising here in their own community," said Cassell.
Harris said she asked Cassell if the students could present their idea in person but was criticized for even making the request.
Harris was suspended for two days.
She said was told she was being paid to teach, not to be an activist.
"When you have an idea it needs to go through the ranks, it's how to respond to the decisions that makes all the difference," said Cassell.
Harris also claims she had briefly stopped by an after school literacy fair she had organized while she was suspended, that was considered insubordination and she was therefore fired.
"I don't even know if the superintendent knows why she fired me, if she says its not about Trayvon Martin, I'd like to know what it is about," said Harris.
While the academy could not comment specifically on Harris' termination, the superintendent wants to reassure everyone that no job was lost due to a Trayvon Martin fundraiser.