UPDATE: Three more videos showing Pacifica High School students giving Nazi-style salutes surfaced on Wednesday.
The new videos showed students appearing to be giving the salutes, wrapping themselves in the Confederate battle flag and marching with a German – not Nazi – flag. School officials promised to deepen their inquiries into incidents in the wake of the new videos.
“We are sorry that our investigation and our transparency with the Pacifica community fell drastically short,” PHS principal Steve Osborne said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night.
“In retrospect our judgment was wrong and we take full responsibility for that.”
The controversy raging around the news that several Pacifica High students participated in what may have been a brief off-campus “neo-Nazi” incident back in November 2018 – but only made public this week – has led to apologies, death threats and vows to work harder to avoid another such incident.
At the heart of the uproar on the second day after The Daily Beast website posted an article and video showing some members of the PHS water polo team singing a World War II era German military song with arms raised in what could be seen as a Nazi salute is the news that administrators at Pacifica didn’t notify the Garden Grove Unified School District of the event.
“School administrators addressed the situation with the students shown in the video and their families but did not involve the larger school or district community in addressing the issue,” read a statement from the GGUSD’s public information office.
“Pacifica High School administration realizes it did not respond to the incident with the gravity it served,” the statement continued. “We deeply apologize for the pain this has caused our community and the national community at large.”
News about the occurrence became nationwide with coverage on CNN, MSNBC and many other media outlets local and national.
Death threats have been issued toward some PHS students and the Garden Grove Police Department is involved in investigating them.
In response to this “crisis for our community,” the district is promising to create and expand anti-bias education, including the creation of a human relations task force.
Here is the complete statement as posted on social media:
“The Garden Grove Unified School District strongly condemns the actions of Pacifica students shown engaged in a Sieg Heil salute while singing the German song “Erika.” The video was created in November 2018 in an unsupervised room of a banquet facility prior to the start of a school event involving larger groups of students, parents and staff who were unaware of the activity.
When Pacifica High School administrators first learned of this offensive video four months afterwards, the investigation included disparate accounts and lacked details that have since emerged. School administrators addressed the situation with the students shown in the video and their families but did not involve the larger school or district community in addressing the issue.
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 school and district has received new information, allegations, and claims that have led us to reopen and widen the scope of the investigation. Rest assured that any students engaging in hate speech or activities will face disciplinary action in accordance with California Education Code. We deeply apologize for the pain this has caused our community and the national community at large.
At the same time that students engaging in hate speech will be disciplined in accordance with California Education Code, we are also highly concerned about numerous death threats made toward Pacifica students who are in no way involved in this situation. We are working closely with the Garden Grove Police Department, both on the ongoing investigation of hate crimes and the reported death threats, with the safety of our students as our highest priority.
This is a crisis for our community. It is unfair to paint a picture of an entire community based on the actions of a few individuals. Misinformation is spreading rampantly on social media which is causing fear and panic in the community. We ask for the support and patience of the media, as well as our community as a whole as we work through this difficult time.
Garden Grove Unified School District is a highly diverse district dedicated to equity and inclusivity; our community and partner organizations know us for our commitment to the success of all students. We have reached out to additional community partners to develop a proactive plan moving forward. We are grateful to the Anti-Defamation League and The Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance for engaging with us in new partnerships as we examine ways to expand existing anti-bias programs and efforts. Our plans for action include:
- 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.
Hate speech in any form is not tolerated in Garden Grove Unified School District. We pledge to use this incident to improve our district and schools and come together to strengthen our shared values of inclusivity and respect for all.”