Michael Thomas, the interim superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, did the incoming permanent superintendent a huge favor today, cleaning up a developing mess after the system’s human resources department moved to fire a teacher who was arrested while monitoring the arrest of a black man last month.
Last week, the department sent a letter to Crystal Spring, a teacher at Washburn High School, saying she’d likely be terminated when the full school board met this afternoon. It had taken the police department’s side in a disputed account over what happened when Spring watched the police arrest.
Police and some witnesses say she continually confronted them. She says she parked and moved her car twice at their request and when they asked her what she was doing at the scene, she said she was watching.
She was arrested.
After a social media outcry, the termination was to be reduced to administrative leave.
But today, Thomas issued an apology in a letter to members of the school board, who’ve now removed the topic from today’s meeting.
The original letter to Spring from Steven Barrett, Executive Director of HR Operations at MPS, asserted conduct unbecoming a teacher.
“…the District became aware of your arrest on Thursday, May 19, 2016. In that incident, you allegedly approached police officers involved with taking someone into custody. You parked your vehicle near the incident and confronted the officers on several occasions despite being told to step back. You then proceeded to follow the officers across the street and began to confront witnesses who were being interviewed by the officers, telling them not to cooperate with the officers and accusing the officers of being racist. Witnesses at the scene corroborated the officers’ account of your behavior. You were arrested and charged with obstruction of legal process and disorderly conduct.”
“This behavior is especially troublesome on multiple levels. You had no connection to the parties involved in the police action. You did not know the circumstances of why the police were taking someone into custody. Yet you determined that repeatedly confronting the police officers, and shouting accusations about the officers to potential witnesses to the police investigation, was necessary.”
“This is my life’s calling,” Spring told the Star Tribune’s Jon Tevlin today. “My students inspire me to get up every day. They fill me with life. I need to live my convictions and be a role model.”
It’s still unclear who tipped Barrett to the incident and suggested a teacher be fired tonight before the facts of the arrest had been sorted out.