COSTA MESA, CA — A photo of Orange County high school students gathered around a swastika “beer pong” table with arms outstretched in a Nazi salute has caused national outrage, Monday.
The image — said to be have been shot at an off-campus party — was posted to social media over the weekend. Retweets have spread the picture like wildfire, along with comments of shock and outrage over the anti-Semitic post. Area school officials are working with law enforcement to determine who participated in this event.
While Newport Beach’s Newport Harbor High School was initially the focus, Costa Mesa area high schools are now also involved, Patch was told. The principal of Costa Mesa’s Estancia High School discussed the hateful images posted on social media saying:
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“The Estancia Administrative Team is fully investigating the issue in order to see if any Estancia students participated in or promoted hate speech or activities that threaten other students or that are likely to disrupt the educational environment on campus.
While I am confident that appropriate disciplinary action will be taken where it is warranted, I also know that punishment alone will not solve the underlying issues that allowed events like this to occur. We must all work together to show our students, and our community, by our actions and our words that Anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and bigotry in any forms are unacceptable.”
Students from Costa Mesa, Estancia, Early College and Corona del Mar High Schools are all reviewing photos to determine if any of their students were involved, Patch has learned.
Meanwhile, Newport Harbor High School will continue their investigation into this set of students’ “off campus” and “hateful” activities.
“We were recently made aware of social media postings involving some students who created inappropriate anti-semitic symbols and possible underage drinking,” The Newport-Mesa Unified School District said in a statement. “While these actions did not occur on any school campus or school function, we condemn all acts of antisemitism and hate in all their forms.”
Each high school’s stance is unified, with principals saying that students found to have participated in such an activity will be “held accountable” for their actions. What that will look like is not yet clear.
Though the community, elected officials and parents expressed horror at the photos captured in the screenshot before they disappeared from Snapchat, it is the fellow students at these high schools who have expressed moral outrage and shock.
Some have zoomed in and identified those participating while others screen-shot conversations with the party participants.
A student, who initially saw the photo, told Greg Lee of ABC7 that she was “completely appalled” when she came across it.
“I couldn’t just scroll past this on social media and let it happen,” she tweeted. “People are outraged and rightfully so. I hope that one day the kids truly understand the deep hate they were displaying that night.”
Newport Beach mayor Diane Dixon said that the city is “appalled and saddened by the alarming photo of Newport students.” The behavior is unacceptable and not reflective of the community, she said.
Congresswoman Katie Porter — who represents the 45th District — also issued a Twitter statement:
“I condemn this display of a hateful, antisemitic symbol and call on parents and community leaders to redouble our efforts to educate young people about the history of violence against Jewish people worldwide. This has no place in Orange County.”
Added Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley in a statement Monday morning: “There is no place for hateful symbols of swastikas and Nazi salutes in our community. Glorifying or even joking about these symbols contradicts the values we share as a diverse community. Normalizing these symbols as a joke is dangerous.”
Foley says she wants to discourage vilification of the teens who posed for the picture.
“Instead, we need to seriously address why teens in our community might think these types of hateful symbols are acceptable or funny and worthy of selfies.”
The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the picture.
“We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and all other targeted minorities and against the actions of bigots who violate our nation’s long-standing principles of religious tolerance and inclusion,” CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said. “These young adults are expressing hatred that has been handed down from an older generation.”
Ayloush encouraged the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to educate students about “the harm of bigotry.”
According to Estancia Principal Mike Halt, the Costa Mesa Unified School District is working with N-MUSD high schools to put together a community meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the Newport Harbor High School Theater, to “show our commitment and resolve to truly educating our students and helping our community heal and move forward together,” Halt said.
City News Service, Patch editor Ashley Ludwig contributed to this report.