Teacher in Sardinia suspended for 20 days for praying with her students

Country: Italy

Date of incident: April 6, 2023

Marisa Francescangeli, a primary school teacher in San Vero Milis (Oristano, Sardinia), has been suspended for 20 days with a pay reduction (from 25 March to 15 April) for having made her students construct a rosary for Christmas and praying an Ave Maria and Our Father with them. The Oristano school office's decision of suspension was taken after two mothers protested. While other parents defend her, she said she will appeal the decision.

On 22. December last year, Marisa Francescangeli showed her students how to construct a rosary with beads for the occasion of Christmas and told them "to wish the children a Merry Christmas by reciting two prayers with them," she told L'Unione Sarda. In reaction to this, two mothers complained to the school principal. After the complaint, a meeting between the parents and the teacher was held. Marisa Francescangeli recalls: "I even apologised for the gesture, remembering, however, that at the beginning of the year, I had asked all the parents for permission to recite some prayers with the children. No one had been opposed."

Despite this, on the 2nd of March, Marisa Francescangeli was summoned to the head office by the principal and the provincial education administration to receive the suspension notice. The suspension was to take place when Marisa Francescangeli returned to school after a period of illness, from 25 March to 15 April.

The suspension was immediately contested by the teacher's trade union, as it considered that a procedure that did not allow the teacher to justify her behaviour or submit counter-arguments was invalid. But these efforts did not revoke the decision.

After all the failed attempts to put an end to the suspension, together with her lawyer, Marisa Francescangeli requested access to the records from the school to better understand the charges made against her and prepare an appeal in court. "They accused me of making the children pray, of making a rosary, but also of frightening them when, before Christmas, I had explained the dangers of smoking, after several questions from the children. An educational lesson in short," she told L'Unione Sarda.

Neither the school nor the provincial education administration, have made any comment after the order of suspension, but many parents that side with the teacher lament the unfair punishment of Marisa Francescangeli. "[the school] should have heard not only the [two] protesting mothers but all the parents. It is an absurd story: there are other [more important] things to solve the school... We demand that the teacher returns to work immediately," told some mothers to Corriere della Sera.

This case represents an unjustified sanctioning of a teacher who, with parental permission and within her academic freedom, had decided to wish her pupils a good Christmas in a way that should not come as a shock or surprise, Christmas being an intrinsically Christian holiday. Christmas is also deeply rooted in Italian society, where, for example, it is even permitted and not uncommon to have crucifixes in public schools.


Sources: Corriere della SeraL'Unione Sarda

Photo: L'Osservatore Romano