North High School Principal Mauri Friestleben will maintain her position for at least another month after Minneapolis Public Schools had announced that Monday would be her last day with the school.
In a letter to parents and students on Sunday, the district shared that Friestleben "will continue as the North High School leader … in an effort to bring this school year to a successful close for North students." The district sent a similar note on Friday, stating Friestleben would be replaced for the remainder of the school year.
That decision was reversed over the weekend.
"We apologize for the difficulty this situation has caused the North community — and especially for our Polar students. Principal Friestleben will be welcoming students again at North on Monday," the letter said.
School board member Sharon El-Amin said the board of education was not informed of the decision to place Friestleben on leave until an hour before it went public. She said that normally a decision like that comes before the board to give final approval for termination.
El-Amin said she immediately took it upon herself to call administration "to stop something that's not fair or that seems to be extreme."
"How is it something like that, with such an amazing principal, that the board has no signs or anything about what's going to take place? When you have someone who has shown up and is doing amazing things within not only our schools, but our community? If something was that extreme for termination, we would have had some type of warning or … input to know that this was getting ready to even take place," she said, "and we had none."
Outrage flooded social media over the weekend after Friestleben shared that she had been terminated for joining students in a civil action in February in response to the death of Amir Locke. The 22-year old Black man was fatally shot by Minneapolis police during a predawn, no-knock raid. He was not the subject of the warrant.
On Feb. 9, students and Friestleben made their way to City Hall in protest. That same afternoon, North High absorbed the news that star athlete and honor roll student Deshaun Hill Jr., 15, had been fatally shot while walking home from school. Cody L. Fohrenkam, 29, was charged with murder.
Friestleben wrote a "roller coaster of an update" Sunday: "I'd known for about a week that termination was pending due to the protocol violation but that didn't soften the blow. I turned everything in and shared a goodbye letter," she wrote, in a note shared by the Facebook account for "Love Them First," the 2019 award-winning KARE 11 documentary following Friestleben in her fight to uplift the then academically failing students of Lucy Laney Elementary School.
Friestleben wrote Sunday that, despite deactivating social media and going phoneless, she heard the robocall sent to parents on Friday announcing she was no longer with the school.
"I was sad that my families were listening to that robocall while preparing for prom," she said, adding that she missed prom because she was "directly told not to attend."
"But today something changed. After church, a different call came in and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to return to North tomorrow morning to finish the year," she said.
Friestleben said that students in February engaged in "a lovely example of peaceful protest."
El-Amin agreed. "That was a true, live, in-person civic engagement," she said, adding that Friestleben acknowledged that there would be consequences behind it — "but never to the extreme of termination."
"It reminds me again of how we, as Black educators in our school system, whenever it's us, there's always this extreme measure that's applied to us, and I just couldn't sit back and let that happen," El-Amin said.
North High students planned a walkout Monday in protest of Friestleben's removal.
Disciplinary action still is pending for Friestleben, El-Amin said. Legally, human resources can decide to place someone on leave — at most for a 10-day suspension, she said. She added that she wants to understand the reasoning for the administration's decision that isn't supported by the board.
"If this comes before us," she said, "we're not going to vote to pass it."