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There has been no closing of political ranks in support of a teacher at the La Salle secondary school, in Palma de Mallorca, who has received death threats this weekend after a controversy following the presence of Spanish flags at the school. On the contrary, the threats received by this Catalan language teacher, which come from the far-right, have the support of Vox, which not only has not condemned them, but has tried to make the most of the situation, with complaints being made against all teachers at the school and a call for the appearance of the Balearic Islands education minister, Martí March. Neither has the main party of the right, the People's Party (PP), taken a clear position against the violent threats and social media harassment of a teacher, limiting itself to a promise to ask parliamentary questions. Meanwhile, the Socialist president of the Balearic Islands, Francina Armengol, has offered all her support through social media in a controversy which began in an incident at the school last Friday and burst into the media over the weekend, fanned by Spanish nationalism, flags and football

tuit francina armengol
Tweet by Balearic president Francina Armengol

"It is the schools which must set the rules for social harmony in the classrooms and our teachers must be respected, and their work protected. And what is intolerable is that they are attacked and threatened. All our support to the teacher at La Salle de Palma besieged by the ultra-right", wrote Balearic Islands president Francina Armengol in a tweet. Among the responses: some who ask her to go beyond words and that the government of the Islands offer the teacher legal support or report her threats to the authorities; others urging the president to resign.

"Totalitarian scum"

The newspaper Diario de Mallorca reported over the weekend that a Catalan teacher from Palma, the capital of the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, had received numerous death threats. "Check the undercarriage of your car every time you get into it, lest you accidentally find some plastic explosive", "I invite [social media users] to tell this Nazi everything you think about her" or "Totalitarian scum, I hope people greet her and congratulate her for her attitude" were among the intimidating messages the teacher received from Friday on, after a school disciplinary incident involving a Spanish flag became amplified on social media.

On Friday it became known that thirty students of the private (concertada) secondary school La Salle had been expelled for allegedly hanging a Spanish flag in class. Some first-year Batxillerat students (15-16 years old) displayed the flag to support the Spanish team at the World Cup in Qatar, and their Catalan teacher expressed her rejection of the initiative, decided to suspend the class and left the classroom. This, at least, is the story as it has been told by the Spanish nationalists, who add that the school's decision responded to "political connotations". "They tried to tarnish a spontaneous and sporting gesture. The La Salle teachers violated the protocols by sending minors home without notifying the parents," explained one of the parents, Sergio Campoy, whose social media is full of retweets of conservative media.

Disobeying the teacher

But the school's version is very different. Far from "political connotations", the school management has made it very clear that the decision to expel the students was because of the fact that they disobeyed the teacher and confronted her: "Following an initiative by the students to decorate the classroom in support of the Spanish men's absolute football team in their participation in the World Cup, the students of 1st B, acting as a group, disobeyed the instructions of a teacher who was complying with the social harmony rules of the centre and the orders of the school management team, and, expressly refusing to obey, which amounts to an act of deliberate insubordination". "Acting as a mass, they coerced a classmate who did try to obey the teacher," adds the circular signed by the secondary school's technical director.

Far-right Spanish nationalists then published a photograph of the teacher with her partner and her daughter, a minor, with the message "Let's go for her". From here, a whole series of threats, demands for dismissal, sexist attacks and serious insults ensued. The constant harassment left the teacher "so affected that she doesn't have the strength to defend herself" (and she had to delete her social media presence). Her colleagues and professionals from other centres demanded that the ministry of education report those behind the harrassment. One of them is easy to report - a known far-right profile who has harassed many other people. In fact, he was sentenced a few weeks ago to pay 60,000 euros to former minister José Luis Ábalos for "serious moral damages". This user has set up an email address so that people can continue to send him personal information to carry on the attack on the teaacher.

The school decision and the students' confrontation

Instead of condemning the death threats, Vox has taken the opportunity to make political capital. The extremists also demand the opening of complaint hearings against all the La Salle teachers and the appearance of the education minister, Martí March. For its part, the Balearics education ministry was to analyze the case this Monday, sending out inspectors to take statements from those involved. The opening of some kind of complaint is not ruled out, but there is no record of any complaint being made to the educational inspectorate.

Regarding what happened in the classroom, the school management had agreed that Spanish rojigualda flags were only to be on display on the days that the Spanish team played. The events took place on Friday, when Luis Enrique's team were not playing — having played against Costa Rica on Wednesday. Thus, the teacher rejected the presence of flags and the students confronted her. The teacher left the classroom and another colleague informed the students that the Catalan class was over, that there would be no philosophy class, that they could go home and that they were suspended until Monday. One of the students' mothers, Gador Giménez, announced that she is drafting a complaint to present on behalf of the thirty students to the educational inspectorate.

The tweet that the PP deleted   

While the far-right Vox party has been wilfully fanning the flames of the controversy, there has been almost no response to this controversy from the Baleares president of the PP, Marga Prohens. Despite the death threats and the inflamed situation, the conservative leader has not published any messages about it, while on the other hand responding on social media to the matches played by the Spanish football team in Qatar 2022. However, she did republish a tweet from the PP reporting that the party will present a battery of questions to the ministry to clarify these facts, without supporting the teacher: "We cannot understand that something so normal in the context of a World Cup, like hanging a flag to support the national team, has resulted in all this." The PP's youth branch Nuevas Generaciones did, however, take a stand - briefly. They published a tweet that said that instead of expelling students, the teacher should be expelled from Spain. The message has already been deleted from social media, after receiving dozens of negative comments.