A high school teacher has been suspended after rescinding her college recommendation letter for a student caught posting an offensive swastika sign at school.
The teacher, of Stoughton High School, began a 20-day suspension without pay last week.
According to local newspaper The Enterprise, the teacher, an Army veteran, wasn’t just suspending for retracting her letter of recommendation for the student, but for telling the college why she did so.
Melanie Ingrao, the teachers union grievance chair, said the suspended teacher told the college admissions officer that she could no longer recommend the student because of the anti-Semitic behavior. Ingrao told The Enterprise:
“Without the guidance of administration, teachers used their best professional judgment to address a very serious matter amongst their colleagues and with students when they felt it was appropriate.”
The incident occurred during Thanksgiving week back in November. The student made a swastika out of tape while decorating the halls after class hours. Another student told him it was offensive and to remove it, to which he responded with an offensive remark about the Holocaust.
The incident was investigated, and Superintendent of Schools, Marguerite Rizzi stated that the students involved were disciplined after police determined it did not constitute a hate crime.
According to The Boston Globe, the teachers asked administrators to address the incident right after it occurred by sending a letter to parents telling them what had happened. John Gunning, president of the Stoughton Teachers Association told the Globe:
“By not discussing this with the entire community, parents were denied an opportunity to discuss this at the dinner table with their kids.”
Frustrated teachers addressed the incident with the students themselves. Rumors spread amongst faculty and students, with some teachers discussing the event in class, and others privately with students. Two teachers who did so received letters of reprimand, while the one who withdrew her college letter of recommendation was suspended.
The result of the tension was a complaint filed by the parent of the student who put up the swastika. Rizzi explained the parent’s complaint in a letter to staff:
“The student believed that he was being targeted, creating a hostile environment for him by members of the faculty because of his actions, despite having already been disciplined by the administration.”
Some parents are upset that the school did not notify them of the swastika incident until January, and many have written to Rizzi in support of the teachers. One parent told The Enterprise:
“I feel that the punishments were harsh – the teachers did what they felt was in the best interest of the students.”
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