After being placed on leave, Minneapolis North High principal returning

After a weekend controversy and talks of a protest, Mauri Friestleben will be resuming her duties as Minneapolis North Nigh principal after being placed on leave, the superintendent announced Sunday.

In a letter sent out on Sunday, Superintendent Ed Graff wrote:

Dear Polar Community,

I am writing to share that Principal Mauri Friestleben will continue as the North High School leader through the end of the school year in an effort to bring this school year to a successful close for North students.

We apologize for the difficulty this situation has caused the North community—and especially our Polar students. Principal Friestleben will be welcoming students again at North on Monday.

Students and supporters of the North High principal were set to hold a walkout and a protest on Monday after reports that Friestleben had been fired by the district. Friestleben, a widely admired leader in the school system, said in a letter Friday that she was terminated for encouraging students to conduct a sit-in and protest at Minneapolis City Hall on Feb. 9 following the police shooting of Amir Locke.  However, Minneapolis Public Schools issued a statement saying that the district had not "terminated" Friestleben but has placed her "on leave."

"The community understandably has many questions and unfortunately, MPS cannot publicly answer many of them," the statement said.

The Minneapolis NAACP issued a statement Saturday demanding that the district reinstate Friestleben and called for a protest Monday morning at the district headquarters. Students had also planned their own protest.

Minneapolis NAACP Vice-President PJ Hill, who graduated from North High in 2006, told FOX 9 he was outraged by the prospect that Friestleben had been fired.

"Mauri is on the front lines serving some of our most underserved youth. And if we think about what she does for these kids and her access and her power to be able to steer them in the right direction, then removing her off the board is just completely a fail on the part of Minneapolis Public Schools leadership, he said. 

Hill added that in his view, Friestleben's efforts to encourage her students to protest were in line with her role as an educator, as she was teaching them "How to express yourself and operate within the confines of the law," he said. 

"What Principal Mauri did is just encourage and advocate for her students. And the reason why she was even there and showing up is to make sure they stayed safe," Hill said. 

After the protest on Feb. 9, North High student and star athlete Deshaun Hill Jr. was shot while on his way home after brushing shoulders with a man while walking near a bus stop, seemingly killed randomly and in cold blood, according to the charging documents. Friestleben addressed the shooting in her letter, saying, "The devastation will always and forever overpower, for me, what was a lovely example of peaceful protests..."

Some have criticized Friestleben for Hill Jr.’s death, an idea that PJ Hill rejected. "That’s absolutely ridiculous. Mauri was nothing but an advocate; she was nothing but a beacon of hope for a kid like D. Hill."

Friestleben, whose efforts to turn around Lucy Lane Elementary when she was principle there were the subject of an award-winning documentary, The district says she will be back to work on Monday.

The NAACP is hosting a rally in support of Friestleben at 9 a.m. on Monday at the John B. Davis Education Service Center in Minneapolis.