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California teens’ Nazi salute video surfaces online, is condemned by school leaders

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Southern California school leaders have denounced a video of saluting students singing a Nazi song, and a local expert wondered how the teenagers had even heard of the obscure tune.

Garden Grove Unified School District in Orange County said in a news release Monday that district and Pacifica High School leaders “strongly condemn” the video, which was “recorded last year of some students who engaged in offensive Nazi-related gestures.”

“It’s not something you’d expect somebody to accidentally know about. There’s some means by which they acquired knowledge about the song and associated Nazi issues,” said Peter Simi, a Chapman University professor of extremism studies, according to the Daily Beast, which first reported on the video. “Are they on websites or web forums or other social media platforms where they’re engaging with others informed on these issues?”

The Daily Beast reported that the boys shown in the video were on the water polo team.

Though the Daily Beast revealed the video’s existence this week, it was filmed in November 2018 in an unsupervised room just before an off-campus, after-school banquet for student athletes, according to the district. At least one boy sings the song as around 10 others stand and salute, the video shows. Herms Niel, a German composer, wrote the tune amid Adolf Hitler’s rise in World War II-era Germany, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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That clip was spread to “a small group of students” over Snapchat, but Pacifica High School administrators didn’t find out until four months later in March 2019, the district said.

“School administrators took immediate action and addressed the situation with all students and families involved,” the district’s statement said, though district leaders added that “federal law (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act) prohibits the district from disclosing details of student discipline.”

School leaders said that in response to “this unfortunate incident,” they will work with students, teachers and parents on anti-bias education.

Earlier this year, a similar incident occurred in the same area of Southern California when a photo surfaced of Newport Harbor, Costa Mesa and Estancia High School students at a party where Nazi salutes were done and red Solo cups were shaped into a swastika, CBSLA reports.

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“What’s clear is we have a problem and we’ve had a problem for a long time,” Simi said, according to the Times. “When something like this comes to our attention, the last thing we should do is try to move on from it. It needs to be part of a larger conversation about what’s driving young people in this direction.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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