More OC High Schoolers Caught On Video Doing Nazi Salutes
Pacifica High School in Garden Grove is under fire after a video of students doing Nazi salutes and singing a Nazi song at a sports banquet was published yesterday by The Daily Beast.
According to the school, students recorded the video last November, before their off-campus banquet, then shared it with other students on social media. School officials claim they learned about it four months later, in March, and addressed it with the students and their families.
But the school did not discuss what occurred with the wider school community or the public until Monday, when they released a statement condemning the incident.
Garden Grove Unified School District officials released another statement late Tuesday, claiming, "Pacifica High School administration realizes it did not respond to the incident with the gravity it deserved." The statement also said officials have reopened an investigation into the incident, and students engaging in hate speech will be disciplined according to the California Education Code.
"It is important to not dismiss this as 'kids will be kids," said Peter Levi, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in Orange County. "When we let it normalize, it has horrific potential to escalate into murderous acts. That's why it is so important for the communities that they live in, their school and beyond, to take this seriously."
The Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic incidents at public schools doubled between 2015 and 2016, and again between 2016 and 2017. The ADL also reports that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. are near historic highs. Similarly, FBI data indicates hate crimes at K-12 schools and colleges ticked up by about 25 percent in both 2016 and 2017.
Overall, hate crimes occurring in K-12 schools represented 5 percent of incidents reported statewide last year, according to a report by California's Department of Justice.
This March, students at another Orange County high school, Newport Harbor High School, were photographed at a party saluting a swastika made of red plastic solo cups.
According to The Daily Beast, the new video in question (you can watch here) shows about 10 members of the boys' water polo team at Pacifica High School doing the "Sieg Heil" salute used at Nazi rallies and singing an obscure marching song from Nazi Germany that was played for troops during World War II.
"Even if they don't fully understand the hate speech and hate symbols that they are using, there still ought to be appropriate consequences," said Levi. "I'm going to leave those consequences to the parents and the school. Our concern is what's the context and climate of their school such that Nazi era symbols and songs would be acceptable?"
Levi says there's a spectrum of hate, which begins with ignorance and ends with violent extremism.
"We've got to learn where these students were on the spectrum," Levi said. "Were they completely ignorant? Were they thinking it was some type of joke?"
Deadly mass shootings over the past year in places like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Christchurch, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas have targeted Jewish, Muslim, and Latino victims, respectively. Experts who study hate crime believe this violence is linked to a disturbing global rise in white nationalist extremism.
A study released last year by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 66 percent of American millennials could not correctly identify what Auschwitz is.
"We have a problem with respect to historical education, civic values, and the ability to teach our kids to be critical thinkers," said Brian Levin with the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
Levin blames easy access to hateful ideology online for this disturbing trend, as well as declining trust in institutions like the media and churches to establish communal values.
"We're losing Holocaust survivors, we're losing people who were at the forefront of the civil rights struggle," Levin said. "And in an internet-now culture, anything that has shock value can be picked up by young people who then go down the rabbit hole where they increasingly accept this kind of bigotry."
In a statement released Monday, Garden Grove Unified School District officials "strongly condemned" the video. They said they have reached out to agencies dedicated to educating students about hate, bias and exclusion and will continue to address those issues with students, staff and parents throughout the school year.
Levin says the Garden Grove incident is a concerning sign of troubled times in the U.S.
"These kids some way knew that this was wrong," said Levin. "The bottom line is that we have kids who now just for shock value will embrace Nazism, and that's scary. We're not just seeing it from unstable kids or violent kids, we're seeing it from kids down the street."