Teachers are becoming victimized by the acts of students across the nation that are associated with swastika symbols. This shift is causing reverse discrimination to become an integral part of a school’s culture. Teachers will need to consider instructional  alternatives that result in educating students who are the perpetrators of using swastika symbols.

According to the article, High School teacher is suspended for rescinding her student’s college letter after sending it because the teen created a swastika with tape and made offensive remarks, several teachers at the Stoughton High School in Massachusetts were disciplined for a negative response to a student who publicly used a swastika symbol.

The act was implemented by a student that fashioned a swastika from tape that was displayed in the halls of the school before Thanksgiving. The student was suspended for the act. Several teachers at the high school responded to the incidents. Two teachers spoke about the incident to their students and received official reprimands for their act that opposed the usage of the swastika symbol.

Another teacher responded by rescinding her college recommendation for the student. She went as far as to explain to the university officials why she was rescinding her recommendation. The school district responded by suspending the teacher for twenty days.

After the teacher complained about the incident, his parent responded by hiring an attorney. ‘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.” Could the Stoughton Public School District have violated the teachers freedom of speech rights?

What are the limitations of the teacher freedom of speech rights related to an incident of White privilege?

A teachers freedom of speech rights are only connected to political preferences. A teacher is considered a public employee. The decision in Heffernan vs. City of Paterson revived a free-speech lawsuit brought by a New Jersey police detective who was demoted because he was seen carrying a campaign sign supporting the mayor’s opponent. It was reported that he was putting the sign in his car to deliver it to his mother, not because he was supporting the mayor’s opponent. But a federal judge in New Jersey and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said Jeffrey Heffernan, the police detective, could not sue under the 1st Amendment because he did not engage in “1st Amendment conduct.” The appeals court said demoted employees can sue for retaliation only if they could point to an “actual, rather than perceived, exercise of constitutional rights.” This case eventually made the Supreme Court. Justice Stephen G. Breyer stated that “the Constitution prohibits a government employer from discharging or demoting an employee because the employee supports a particular political candidate.”

However, this is not the case for the Stoughton High School teachers that vehemently opposed the usage of a swastika symbol by the student. Teachers are subjected to acts of immoral conduct.

In the case of Vanelli v. Reynolds School District No. 7, George Vanelli, was hired by the school district to teach sophomore English at Reynolds High School during the 1975-76 school year under a probationary contract which ran for one academic year, and which reserved the school board’s right to discharge the teacher “for any cause deemed in good faith sufficient by the Board.” Midway through the year, some female students complained of offensive conduct by Vanelli. This conduct was viewed as hostile towards the female students which is consistent with the parent’s complaints at the Stoughton High School.

Teachers who desire to oppose the actions of students that exhibit characteristics associated with using a swastika symbol should use the curriculum. There are several cases, Mederious v. Kiyosaki and Hawaii Cornwell v. State Board of Education that allow teachers to enhance the approved curriculum as long as the students have an opportunity to an alternative setting during this instructional module. The process for including an opposition to hate acts associated with swastika symbol will need administrative approval.

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Swastikas at Stanford University: Second Time in a Month

All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

The Raccelerate Phenomenon

Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education

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