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Bernie Sanders Blasts Rahm For Ousting CPS Principal

By Sophie Lucido Johnson in News on Apr 22, 2016 4:00PM

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

An outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been abruptly reassigned from his position as principal at Blaine Elementary School, and Emanuel may have been feeling smug about that—for a few hours. Then the backlash started, and it has been loud. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders even issued a statement saying that Troy LaRaviere's ousting was "politically-motivated retaliation because he dared to stand up to the mayor of Chicago."

LaRaviere has long been a well-known, vocal critic of Emanuel. In a short March campaign ad for Sanders, LaRaviere slammed Hillary Clinton for supporting Emanuel. In the ad, LaRaviere says, "In Chicago, we have endured a corrupt political system, and the chief politician standing in the way of us getting good schools is our mayor. If you have a presidential candidate that supports someone like our mayor you have a candidate who is not willing to take on the establishment."

It is widely speculated—though so far unconfirmed—that LaRaviere's dismissal may have to do with his involvement in the campaign ad. According to sources who spoke to the Tribune, the ad might violate the Chicago Public School district's policy on political activity. City Hall and CPS have stated that Emanuel and the mayor's office had nothing to do with LaRaviere's reassignment.

In Sanders' statement on LaRaviere's situation, though, he said "The only explanation for his removal appears to be Mayor Emanuel's unhealthy obsession with taking revenge."

Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson told the Chicago Sun-Times that the decision was based on "alleged acts of misconduct," such as breaking "a previously board-issued warning resolution." LaRaviere was issued a formal warning in August regarding his support of PTA efforts against standardized spring testing, which he denounced on his blog.)

According to the Tribune, CPS recently sent LaRaviere a letter relieving him of his duties and ordering him to surrender his school building keys and other equipment on Wednesday. The Tribune obtained a copy of the letter, which said, "Your reassignment is based upon acts of misconduct that have occurred after your receipt of a Warning Resolution issued to you by the board." LaRaviere will continue to be paid until a preliminary hearing can be scheduled. Parents at the school were also notified of his dismissal on Wednesday.

Meetings have been scheduled at the school to discuss the sudden change in leadership. CPS will meet with teachers on Monday morning, and will host a parent meeting at 6 p.m. that night. Supporters of LaRaviere have begun planning a rally at Blaine that will take place next week before a community meeting with school officials.

Alderman David Moore took to Facebook Thursday morning to say that he was "totally appalled" to hear about LaRaviere's ousting. His full post broke into impassioned all-caps to emphasize his frustration with the situation:

I am totally appalled at this move. Not one elected official, who cares about the education of our children, should remain silent about this DICTATORIAL move!

All I hear is, stay in your place NIGGER, and don't you dare challenge the DICTATORIAL AUTHORITY designed to put corporate profits over effective public education.
David Moore
Alderman, 17Th Ward

LaRaviere posted to his blog this morning, urging his supporters to seek an official reason for his dismissal. "Any protest or other efforts should focus on forcing CPS to tell me what they’re charging me with," he wrote. He has not yet issued an official statement at the advice of his attorney, but added to his post:

Finally, my message is that we need to stay focused on the corrupt fiscal management and incompetent education policy of our district and our city. That’s what I’ve tried to highlight. This is not about me. This is about corruption, and I am an obstacle to that corruption. At some point I’m hoping all of us will be obstacles to it.

Pedro Alonso, who has previously served as interim principal at two elementary schools, and as principal of Von Steuben high school from 2006 to 2014, has been assigned to serve as interim principal.

The hashtag #StandWithTroy has started to trend as a display of support.

Kindergarten teacher and national education activist Susan DuFresne created a meme to summarize her thoughts on the situation: