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District Responds to Video of Athletes Giving Nazi Salute

Jason Scott

A group of Orange County, Calif., high school water polo players was captured on video delivering a Nazi salute and singing a Nazi song during a team awards ceremony last year. According to The Daily Beast, which first reported the existence of the video, it’s the second incident involving high school students and Nazi-adjacent imagery to emerge from the region in the past year.

The athletes involved are from the Pacifica High School water polo team in Garden Grove, Calif. The Daily Beast contacted a spokesperson for the Garden Grove Unified School District to attempt to determine whether the students received any sort of discipline, but the spokesperson declined to comment on that subject.

“While the district cannot comment on student discipline, the school did address this situation with all involved students and families,” the spokesperson said. “The district adheres to strong policies about harassment and cultural sensitivity, and we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all forms. We remain focused on educating students about cultural sensitivity and are committed to holding students accountable, educating them on the consequences of their choices, and the impact these actions have on our schools and community at large.”

The Daily Beast spoke to a parent of a student at Pacifica, as well as a current student, both of whom said school administration didn’t address the incident with the wider school community. 

In a statement released Monday, the district said the video "was filmed in November 2018 prior to the start of an after-school hours, off-campus student athletics banquet in an empty and unsupervised room at the facility." It also stated that the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents the district from discussing any disciplinary action the district took against the involved students.

In a second statement released on Tuesday, the district said it would be re-opening and broadening its investigation of the incident. "With support from the district office, which was unaware of the video until a few days ago, and resources from organizations dedicated to combating hate and bias in schools, Pacifica High School administration realizes it did not respond to the incident with the gravity it deserved," the statement reads in part. It also described an action plan, involving:

  • Enacting a Human Relations Taskforce to address school-based hate and bias and provide recommendations to the district
  • Utilizing the Teaching Tolerance manual, Responding to Hate and Bias at School, to ensure an appropriate, consistent and inclusive response to hate and bias
  • Working with community partners to implement anti-bias campaigns at school campuses
  • Ensuring all stakeholders understand their role in speaking out about hate and bias at schools, including utilizing existing anonymous reporting platforms for students and staff and ensuring consistent administrative practices across all schools

The video of the incident was reportedly uploaded to Instagram by one of the athletes, who also posted the Nazi song’s lyrics in his Instagram bio. 

Peter Simi, a professor at Chapman University who studies extremism, told The Daily Beast that the song, written by a German composer and a member of the Nazi party, is so obscure that he suspects the student-athletes involved sought it out.

“It’s not something you’d expect somebody to accidentally know about,” Simi told The Daily Beast. “There’s some means by which they acquired knowledge about the song and associated Nazi issues. Are they on websites or web forums or other social media platforms where they’re engaging with others informed on these issues?”

Video of the incident can be viewed at The Daily Beast.

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