Mpls Schools apologizes to teacher it intended to fire

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.

  • Neil

    FWIW, in my experience, Thomas is a competent, effective official and I hope he sticks around long enough to get a chance at the permanent job when the new guy inevitably leaves in a few years.

  • Jeff

    No apology for Theo Olson…funny how there’s a double standard…

    • Theo Olson was employed by St. Paul Schools. Not Minneapolis.

      • crystals

        …not to mention these are two entirely different situations. Apples & oranges. Maybe even apples & carrots.

        • Kassie

          Apples and spaceships.

  • MarkUp

    “While in the squad car, handcuffed next to the man she sought to protect, the man predicts the teacher would be let go because she is white. Instead, she is jailed, later placed on administrative leave and faced a likely firing.”

    And she was ultimately let go, with no repercussions whatsoever, and with an apology from her superiors for even bringing it up. He was spot on.

    Meanwhile, there is no reporting on who the black man is, what he was doing, where he is now, why the police were called in the first place, or how he was actually treated by the police.

    “Marietta Marie Green was listed as one of three witnesses on the report. I asked Green if she thought Spring was interfering with police. ‘Yes, I do,’ she said before hanging up.”

    Ms. Green and two other people were so scared by this guy they called the police, and the only thing the Star Tribune reporter wants to know about is the one white woman who got herself involved.

    What happened to all the black people in this story?

    • Erik Petersen

      Thats a decent question.

      Re Green, its not obvious from reading that Freeman doesn’t still have a bullshit disorderly citation hanging over her head.

  • Sue

    I don’t understand how this became a thing that a person could lose their job by observing a police incident. From the accounts that I have read, she does not sound like she was being disruptive or offensive. The police just did not want her observing what they were doing.
    I guess I am just naïve to think that this sort of stuff only happens in countries where the military is in charge and not in a democracy.

  • kennedy

    So the police and witnesses claim the teacher was interfering with the police as they interviewed witnesses. Sounds like there is reason for an investigation and maybe a trial. I would be interested to know the school district’s HR policy regarding teacher behavior and/or criminal record. Administrative leave may be justified if a teacher is accused and on trial, as may termination if there is a conviction. With concern for protecting children (and protecting school districts from lawsuits) I imagine there are policies (both good and bad) regarding teacher conduct that is grounds for dismissal.