School principal barred from position after comparing N-VA members to ‘Nazis’
Tuesday, 14 January 2020
An elementary school in Ronse, East Flanders. Credit: Google Street View
A court has barred a primary school principal from his position after he compared the Flemish nationalist party to the Nazis over their stance on migration.
The unidentified man wrote a letter to a member of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) party, Former Minister Liesbeth Homans, chiding the ruling party for their handling the asylum crisis and saying they were equivalent to “nazis” and “war criminals.”
The letter was sent to Homans in 2015, when she was regional minister of administrative affairs, and originally led the school to strip the principal of his ranking and preventatively suspend him.
The letter, which emerged when Homans included it in a list of examples of the angry emails she received, led three members of the N-VA to file a suit for slander and defamation, which a local court initially dismissed citing the decision to downgrade him.
But reports that the school principal also suggested that the children of N-VA members were “not welcome” in his school, located in the East Flemish city of Ronse, led to a harsher ruling from the Council of State, De Standaard reports.
Belgium’s highest administrative court rejected the man’s appeal, in which he argued his “freedom of expression” was being violated.
In the ruling on Tuesday, the court said, as a public official, the man could not “invoke a fundamental right to justify the violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms” of others, referring to the pupils and their parents.
The man reportedly denied suggesting that children of N-VA member be barred from attending his school, adding he was “sorry” about the letter in which he said he had “conveyed his personal opinion.”
In its decision to reject the man’s appeal, the court said he should continue to be barred from exercising in his former role of school principal, referring to it as the “lightest” sanction at its disposal.