Students, community protest over removal of Furr High School principal

By Leigh Frillici - Reporter

HOUSTON - Students and members of the community are rallying behind a beloved Houston Independent School District high school principal who was placed on leave.

Furr High School students walked out of class this morning to send a message to HISD.  

"Bring back Dr. Simmons," students chanted.

Dr. Bertie Simmons, 83, is the popular Furr High School principal who was removed from her position in early October. On the job for 17 years, Simmons is known for coming out of retirement and turning around Furr High School's gang and academic problems.

"Students and community members out here want to send a message to the people who are watching that we want Dr. Simmons back," said Jordan Davis, a Furr High School senior. "This is enough. She's been gone for a couple of weeks now."

Simmons was initially placed on leave for making controversial remarks to students over the school intercom. Simmons' attorney, Scott Newar, said she was being investigated for not relaxing the dress code for students after Hurricane Harvey and for verbally threatening students with a baseball bat.  

Newar said the allegations are not true.   

HISD spokesperson Tracy Clemons said that the investigation is now done. Clemons said Simmons would already be back, if it wasn't for new allegations that are being investigated. He would not elaborate on what the new allegations are.  

"We are not able to comment on the investigation," said Clemons. "The investigation is ongoing and that is all we are able to say about that."

"They keep on throwing accusations at her," Davis said. "And we just want to let people know that all these people out here she has changed their life in some way."

Clemons said that Furr students who returned to class after the protest would not face any repercussions. The district looks at the protest as a lesson in free speech. The students just hope they've been heard.

"This is my 18th birthday today," Davis said. "I wouldn't have spent it any other way but fighting for the one person who fought for thousands of students."

Newar released the following statement Tuesday:

“The students of Furr High School have now spoken -- loudly and clearly: reinstate Dr. Simmons and her team now.

"HISD must end its discriminatory and retaliatory witch-hunt against this phenomenal principal and her team and allow them to return to Furr and resume the all-important work of educating Houston’s children.

"If HISD fails to reinstate Dr. Simmons and her team to Furr by Monday at 8 a.m., HISD will have to answer for its illegal conduct in a Houston courtroom.”

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