Petition against AfD’s ‘child informant’ plan gathers tens of thousands of signatures
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition against an online portal launched by Alternative for Germany (AfD) where children can post information about their teachers.
The online portal, called Neutral Schools, invites pupils to post anonymous complaints on the site about teachers they believe are breaking neutrality rules and taking aim at the AfD.
However, it has drawn criticism from many corners - and now a petition has gathered nearly 50,000 signatures against the party's initiative.
The petition - with the hashtag ‘#MeinLehrerFetzt (colloquial for 'my teacher is awesome), Thank you instead of denunciation’) - was launched by the Stay Behind Foundation which campaigns against extremists and populists.
On the page they wrote: “We are horrified that in 2018 people will again be intimidated and silenced, freedom of teaching restricted and young people incited to denunciation.”
They asked people to express their “solidarity with teachers throughout Germany and thank them for their commitment and merits in conveying democratic values and social diversity”.
Those who sign the petition are also calling for the government to intervene and “exhaust all legal possibilities” to prevent it from being allowed.
The chairwoman of the German Education Union (GEW), Marlis Tepe, backed the petition and said she had signed it "in solidarity".
"With my signature I express my solidarity with the teachers, but also with the teachers at universities throughout Germany and thank them for their commitment and merits in conveying democratic values and social diversity," Tepe said on Monday in Frankfurt am Main.
Critics to the scheme say the party’s approach recalls the time of Nazi Germany and the East German Stasi, which made use of informants to keep people in line.
The initiative was launched in Hamburg last month and in Berlin on Monday. The AfD has plans for a similar platform in other regions, including Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and Bavaria.
Teachers against it
Last week a group of teachers at the Lina Morgenstern School in Kreuzberg, Berlin, wrote a joint letter to the AfD asking for their names to be voluntarily added onto the list, as a protest to the move.
“We attach great importance to being on this list because we will continue to ensure that school students are empowered to understand the character of your party,” the teachers wrote, reported Tagesspeigel.
The letter added that they were not breaking any rules in terms of education laws.
They continued: "We will inform our students when members and officials of your party engage in racist, inhumane, sexist, historical revisionist, anti-Semitic or anti-democratic activities that jeopardise our peaceful coexistence in society.
“From history, we know that what begins with denunciation and intimidation ends with the detention of dissenters in camps. For all these reasons, and because we are not intimidated, we would be honoured if you could put our names on your list of denunciations.”
Who else is against it?
The Tagesspiegel reported on Monday that Berlin's education senator Sandra Scheeres (SPD) wants the AfD's reporting portal to be checked by the senate's data protection commissioner.
The senator announced that she and her administration wanted to provide the best possible support for the teachers concerned.
Meanwhile, German Teachers Association President Heinz-Peter Meidinger has previously called the scheme "an attempt to exploit children and young people and to instigate denunciation".
State Premier of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann has previously said: "They are organizing open denunciation - these are all building blocks toward totalitarianism."
Other politicians have also spoken out against it.
What does the AfD say?
The party says that its informant website is an essential tool to prevent indoctrination in classrooms and protect freedom of speech.
It says it is designed to help parents stop their children being manipulated by teachers' political beliefs.
Education-political spokesman of the AfD parliamentary group in Berlin, Stefan Franz Kerke, said: "We want the school to be a place of neutrality," reported RBB on Monday.
The AfD faction in Hamburg said it was being launched “in order to strengthen a democratic and free discourse at Hamburg schools".
The party has encouraged pupils to look out for “AfD bashing”, including those wearing bags, badges or T-shirts with slogans that don't support the party.
They also urged pupils to look out for posters in schools calling for demonstrations against the AfD.