A student in Massachusetts constructed a swastika in the hall. Two teachers talked about it (one by broaching the topic of antisemitism in class, the other in private conversations with teachers and another student); a third rescinded her letter of recommendation for the student (contacting colleges to explain why).
All three teachers have now been disciplined by the school. The first two teachers received disciplinary letters, the third has been suspended from teaching.
This is outrageous. I can -- barely -- wrap my head around some discipline for the two "talkers" on student privacy grounds if (a) they mentioned the swastika-creating student by name and (b) it was not generally known that he was the perpetrator. I still would be very, very dubious, but I can see a superficially not-entirely-frivolous rationale there.
But the suspension of the teacher who rescinded her letter of recommendation is far more troubling. While we don't often talk about "academic freedom" in the context of secondary school, it does exist and this is a great example of it. A teacher's decision to recommend a student for college or a job is an exercise of their personal judgment as academics and directly puts their reputation on the line. There can be no obligation to "go to bat" for a student if the teacher has lost confidence in the qualities that triggered her recommendation in the first place. It is beyond unreasonable to mandate that a teacher continue to back a student who is either pro-Nazi himself or so negligent with respect to the sentiments of others that he just doesn't care about the hurt and offense he causes.
By and large, the story here seems to be that the school district wanted to sweep this incident under the rug and several teachers declined to assist it in doing so. And when the perpetrating student's mother called and complained, the district swung into action to ensure that his not-right to have a favorable recommendation wasn't jeopardized just because he threw up some Nazi symbolism. It's grotesque. The Boston Globe describes the case as "difficult terrain", but it wasn't all that "difficult" until neo-Nazism managed to squirm back into the mainstream.
The teachers here are unionized, and I hope they grieve the hell out of this one.
UPDATE: Yep, the union is interceding on behalf of all three teachers.