Where's George Orwell when you need him? Teachers at Cascade High School in Everett, Wash., are raising suspicions that their district may have used a surveillance camera to spy on a colleague who was fired last year.

English and journalism teacher Kay Powers was terminated in June 2008 for allegedly helping students publish an underground newspaper using school equipment, in opposition to school orders, according to Everett's Daily Herald. Powers' attorneys believe that, in actuality, the district was retaliating against her for siding with students in a legal dispute concerning administrators' oversight of the official student paper.

Around the time she was fired—and was under investigation by the district—several of Powers' colleagues noticed a mechanical object with a glass rectangle at the bottom affixed between the light fixtures in her classroom, according to the Herald. The device then mysteriously disappeared.

Some teachers were reportedly planning to testify on the suspicious device at a public hearing on Powers' case that was to be held earlier this month. However, the district rehired Powers under a settlement agreed to a few days before the scheduled hearing—a development her attorneys suggest was no coincidence.

The district's attorney, however, has categorically denied that any surveillance equipment was placed in Powers' classroom, and the investigator who was hired by the district in Powers' case claimed in a deposition that she had no knowledge of any recording devices being used.

Even so, for teachers, a number of unanswered questions remain. There are some puzzling pieces to this mystery, said English teacher Steve Garmanian. Why was this [object] installed? What was it? And why was it removed?

And it gets even more disturbing: In a development that may or may not be related, the Everett district's superintendent, Carole Whitehead, received what police called a credible death threat late last week.