Nine teachers in Catalonia are being singled out following accusations of hate speech and the subsequent disclosure of their identities. The educators, working at a high school in Sant Andreu de la Barca, a small town in the surroundings of Barcelona, are under investigation for allegedly criticizing Spanish police officers on October 2, a day after police cracked down on voters to stop a referendum on independence. Students included the children of police officers, who felt humiliated and went on to press charges against the professors.

The case has caught the attention of politicians across the spectrum, with some calling for disciplinary action against teachers, and others defending them and deeming the case as an attempt to undermine public education in Catalonia.

The School Education Council of Catalonia (CEC), a consultative body encompassing teachers, students and parents throughout Catalonia, came out in support of the teachers. “The public lynching of teachers is a great irresponsibility and undermines their rights in a democratic system” read a statement by CEC’s president.

Graffiti call teachers “Nazi separatists”

On Monday, tags appeared in the high school building listing the names and surnames of the professors under investigation, and calling them “Nazi-rats” and “Nazi separatists”.

The act of vandalism came a week after Spanish newspaper El Mundo published an article disclosing their identities, providing personal details and printing pictures of their faces. The title of the article was “The 9 Catalan teachers of infamy” (“Los 9 maestros catalanes de la infamia”).

Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciudadanos, the largest unionist party in Catalonia, shared the article via Twitter. He wrote: “The separatist teachers that publicly identified the children of Guardia Civil officers in Catalonia. The prosecutor is investigating them for hate speech, but the Spanish government says they will not take any disciplinary actions. Cowardice can’t defeat nationalism”. Rivera’s tweet sparked criticism, with some denouncing him for not respecting the presumption of innocence.

Police officers whose children study in Sant Andreu de la Barca have received the support of the Spanish government, too. High ranking officials of the Spanish Education Department will meet with the parents next week to inform them of the ongoing investigation. The politicians “share their indignation with attitudes deemed as undemocratic, sectarian and inappropriate in a school”.

Demonstrations in support of professors

Meanwhile, the teachers under investigation also found support from a different side. On Monday, hundreds of people gathered in front of the high school to reject the “criminalization” of professors. The demonstration was called by former students.

Josep Lluís Alcázar, educator for 20 years and union delegate in the high school, stressed the need of “not singling anyone out” and respecting “the presumption of innocence.” In a radio interview, he said that an investigation by the Catalan Education Department revealed that the teachers were innocent, and asked for the report to be disclosed.

“Why is this report being hidden? We as a union, as CGT, were told that the reports says there is no evidence,” said Alcázar, saying that “the objective seems to be feeding confrontation in the high school and in the media.”

The Catalan Education Department is currently controlled by the Spanish government. Last October, Madrid used Article 155 of the Constitution to dismiss all Catalan government officials and impose direct rule.

Clara Ponsatí, the deposed Education minister seeking refuge from the Spanish judiciary in Scotland, called for reports to be disclosed. “Silence and fear foster fascism,” she wrote via Twitter.

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Director de VilaWeb