Tevlin: Plot twists in case of Minneapolis drama teacher's arrest
Crystal Spring, a Washburn High School drama teacher, was arrested in May by Minneapolis police after she stopped to witness an altercation and was facing firing until Tuesday.
It’s a plot you might see in a student theater production: A young white high school drama teacher on the way home from a long day stops to witness the arrest of a black man. Police tell her to move along; this is not your business.
The teacher, Crystal Spring, whose students perform self-written plays on social justice issues, continues to monitor the arrest to make sure the man’s rights are not violated. Police arrest the teacher for obstruction and disorderly conduct. The witnesses against her are three black employees of a fast-food restaurant, where the call to report the man originated.
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.
Until Tuesday afternoon, when in advance of a planned rally at a school board meeting, Michael Thomas, Minneapolis Public Schools interim superintendent, issued the following statement:
“Crystal Spring has been removed from administrative leave and will be receiving an apology from all of us. It is imperative to be thorough when recommending the termination of an employee, and due diligence was not followed in this case. We will review our termination processes and are committed to making all necessary changes to prevent this from happening in the future.”
“It’s kind of a tragic comedy here,” said Jordan Kushner, Spring’s attorney.
Spring, a Washburn High School drama teacher and creator of the school’s lauded Black Box Theatre program, was arrested May 19 by police in south Minneapolis after she stopped to witness the altercation. Police say Spring ignored orders to move away, ran in the streets and yelled at officers. She spent the night in jail.
The Minneapolis Public Schools administration is normally about as nimble and fleet-footed as a team of oxen, but this time Steven Barrett, executive director of HR operations at MPS, quickly took the police report as gospel. In a letter, Barrett said the district was moving to fire Spring “ … due to concerns relating to conduct unbecoming a teacher.”
The letter continued: “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.”
Except Kushner said that didn’t happen. He said Spring twice obeyed orders to move and was only exercising her right to observe an incident between police and a citizen.