Catalonia’s Ombudsman: some indoctrination complaints are “phoney and inconsistent”

Rafael Ribó claims it is “normal and necessary” for students to discuss current political events in class

Catalonia’s Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, warned on Monday that some of the complaints which Spain’s Education Ministry is currently investigating —following reports of alleged indoctrination of schoolchildren by teachers in Catalonia— are “phoney, inconsistent and extemporary”. Last week the ministry disclosed that it had made three formal inquiries concerning a total of 54 specific incidents in 48 different Catalan schools, according to the Ombudsman. In addition, Ribó has received nine complaints, twenty-one information requests and has launched two probes into the incidents, even though only six of them include specific details that might allow the cases to be verified. In total, there are 87 recorded incidents involving 53 schools in Catalonia. Ribó noted that only one teacher has admitted to having made derogatory remarks and he has apologised to his students.

At a press conference, the Ombudsman mentioned “indirect” complaints by “unnamed” individuals and others who “do not live in Catalonia”. “I find it surprising that the authorities have not looked into these cases”, he stated. In fact, he claimed that after reviewing all the textbooks (AMES, a teachers’ union, complained that course books were being used to indoctrinate children), the Ombudsman has found “no evidence of indoctrination in them”. “I speak with the rigour required by the institution I represent”, he stressed.

On this point, Ribó noted that even though teachers are “scared”, it would be “a mistake” to avoid class discussions about the political situation in Catalonia. Ribó added that “it is normal and necessary to discuss the political situation in Catalonia” because, he said, “schooling is about citizenship education”.

On the subject of the controversy surrounding the nine teachers in a Sant Andreu de la Barca school who are currently being investigated by the Public Prosecutor for hate crimes after they allegedly ”humiliated” the children of Guardia Civil officers, Ribó condemned the “lack of impartiality” of the prosecutor’s probe because it is only examining the version of the complainants and not that of the teachers involved. The Ombudsman underscored this case because he has repeatedly decried the fact that complaints have not been made through the usual channels (with the school principal or the inspection service), but instead a criminal lawsuit has been filed in order to resolve the matter. Ribó stressed that “the only way to solve conflicts is through the education community, not in a criminal court of law”.

Therefore, he urged Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy and the parliamentary leaders in Madrid and Barcelona to address these issues “within the education community”.

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