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Minneapolis North H.S. Principal Will Now Finish School Year

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis North High School's principal returned to work on Monday after the district reversed its decision to put her on paid leave.

Students celebrated Mauri Friestleben's return with hugs and honking car horns.

Minneapolis Public Schools said last week Friestleben would go on paid leave starting Monday. In a letter Friestleben shared with families of students, she said Friday would be her "last day with Minneapolis Public Schools."

On Sunday, in a message to families, Superintendent Ed Graff said Friestleben will now "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," Graff said. "Principal Friestleben will be welcoming students again at North on Monday."

Mauri Friestleben
Mauri Friestleben (credit: CBS)

In a statement, Friestleben said she is "overwhelmed with gratitude to return to North tomorrow morning to finish the year."

"To my kids: I love you like my own," she said. "We still have a lot of work to do. So let's get to it."

The initial paid leave announcement came after Friestleben attended a sit-in with students in the wake of the Amir Locke shooting. She said she participated in the sit-in even though she had been "strongly advised to not attend."

Students planned a walkout for Monday to protest the Friestleben's paid leave, but the principal told WCCO that the walkout has been canceled.

The Minneapolis NAACP gathered outside the district office Monday to call for transparency and an investigation into the district's policies and disciplinary practices.

"What made you change your mind?" asked Minneapolis NAACP President Cynthia Wilson. "What did you miss in the policy that you wrote and if that's the case, then whoever called it needs to be investigated and those same policies used on them. Why did you act so swiftly, you did the wrong thing, you didn't follow policy so what's your discipline?"

Students are also demanding answers for their beloved principal.

"What did Ms. Mauri do to you?" asked Khadija Ba, North High School student class president. "Ms. Mauri didn't do anything besides make us feel more motivated and make us what to go to school and want to become better. It seems like they don't want us to become better. It seems like they want us to stay in the cycle that we're in because you keep taking away the people who are trying to get us out of it."

Wilson said the district has reached out to meet, but members are still waiting to see who will be there before they accept to make sure their voices are heard and changes happen.

MPS initially said Dr. Michael V. Walker, founding leader of the Office of Black Student Achievement, would serve as the school's head in Friestleben's absence.

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