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Michigan teacher Brooke Harris fired for Trayvon Martin fundraiser, says civil rights group

Trayvon Martin
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(CBS/AP) DETROIT - Michigan teacher Brooke Harris said she was fired for encouraging her students to organize a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer, a national civil rights group said.

Pictures: Trayvon Martin shooting

Harris said Tuesday she is confused by her dismissal with "little explanation" last month from Pontiac Academy for Excellence Middle School, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., said Monday.

"Whenever I discipline a kid in my classroom, I make sure they know what they did wrong," Harris said Monday night. "I was just kind of in a state of shock."

According to The Detroit News, a petition at change.org had almost 5,000 signatures Monday night for the cause.

The literature teacher says she was supporting some students who planned a wear-a-hoodie -to-school day in memory of Martin. The teenager was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot Feb. 26.

Harris claims she did everything "by the book" and doesn't think she did anything wrong.

According to the rights group, Harris was asked by her eighth-grade journalism students about the death of Martin. Harris gave the students an editorial-writing assignment on the shooting. The students wanted to help Martin's family and asked the school's administrators if they could pay $1 each to wear hoodies instead of school uniform for a day, the group said.

Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell rejected the request and she suspended Harris for encouraging the students to make their request in person, the group said.

Cassell told the Associated Press that she doesn't oppose activism but that the effort would have distracted students from their studies.

The newspaper also says Cassell explained that workplaces have rules, and "when rules are violated, there are consequences."

Complete coverage of the Trayvon Martin case on CBS News