MINNEAPOLIS — "I just thought it was a done deal until I got a call yesterday saying to come back."
Principal Mauri Friestleben is now back at North High School after being told three days ago she was being placed on leave.
It's been a tumultuous 72 hours since Breaking the News ended Friday with the news she was out as the leader of the Polars.
Friestleben believes the oust happened because she knowingly, and admittedly, supported and educated her students about a school walkout, and joined them in it three months ago.
Doing that — she knew then and knows now — was a violation of district rules. So on Friday, when she was told to turn in her stuff and not return, she complied.
But that was until this morning, when she was back on the job after a weekend of thousands of people saying, "You can't let Mauri Go."
Friestleben has not spoken publicly since the news broke Friday — until now.
The story of her abrupt dismissal from North High School began well before three days ago.
"I was informed last Friday — not this past Friday, but last Friday — that I was being recommended for termination," Friestleben said.
And she said she knew the news was coming because she's been under investigation by the district for months.
WATCH: Extended interview with Mauri Friestleben
"I had known since February that I was going to be, you know, held accountable for walking out with my students, for violating that protocol," she said.
In a goodbye letter written by Friestleben, she told her students, staff and parents she was being dismissed and the reason was due to that walkout this past winter. One of her students planned — and Friestleben supported — the walkout after a Minneapolis Police officer shot and killed Amir Locke.
"I think the biggest thing that stuck out about the Amir Locke shooting for me and my students was not necessarily the shooting, but I don't know if you remember, but it kind of felt like our city leadership wasn't being honest about the shooting that day.," she said. "And so that really stuck with me and the kids a lot because we had built an ongoing relationship with city leadership."
Friestleben said her kids felt betrayed by the city after Locke's shooting, working for so long to have built that trust.
"Having Amir Locke be shot and killed was one thing, but then being told he was a suspect or you know, it felt like it took some time to get the truth out. And that's what kept sitting with us," she said.
She said her students were angry, so she created a teachable moment about Black History and peaceful protests; about sit-ins and amplified voices. That's when they decided they wanted to do just that — and she would walk with them.
"A walkout is considered an act of civil disobedience, and as a principal, I am outside of my realm in encouraging it or participating in it. It was made very clear to me that I was going to pay the price," Friestleben said.
She said she knew it was always possible that she might pay the price with her job
"This fire inside of me that felt like, 'Be authentic. You told them you would go with them; be good for your word. Don't be one more adult that is more afraid of some sort of professional repercussions than doing what you say you are going to do,'" she said.
But that part is all history now. She sat in her office Monday — somewhat confused — three days after being told to leave.
"I didn't think I would ever be back in this school or room again."
Friestleben did return to the school, however, after the district walked backward from telling her not to finish the year. On Sunday, they asked her back and she accepted, reiterating the message she's been saying for months: She'll never willingly resign.
"I was very clear I was not resigning because how could I possibly walk away from these children right now? If these kids don't have an exit ramp, neither do I. That's just all there is to it — neither do I."
She added, "If I am walked out, forced out, so be it. So be it. But they are not going to have in their minds that the woman who says to them every morning how wonderful and perfectly made they are, and how proud I am to be their principal, it's going to be deuces. I've got a resume to protect. I would never do that to them."
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