The students, who attend Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California, were part of the water polo team. The video, which showed individuals singing a song played for German troops during World War II, was uploaded on Instagram by one of the student-athletes, according to an exclusive report by the Daily Beast.
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) August 19, 2019
It is unclear exactly when the video was uploaded, and it was eventually removed from the photo-sharing social media site. However, it wasn’t until March 2019 that school administrators became aware of the content.
A spokesperson for the Garden Grove Unified School district did not confirm whether the students involved were disciplined.
“While the district cannot comment on student discipline, the school did address this situation with all involved students and families,” the spokesperson said in a statement to the Daily Beast. “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,” it adds.
However, a parent of a Pacifica student not involved in the incident expressed concern regarding the school’s handling of the incident, telling the outlet that the matter was not addressed by educators in front of the entire student body. A student at the school also told the Daily Beast that the administration did not address the school community about the video and couldn’t confirm whether the students involved were suspended.
According to Peter Simi, a professor on extremism studies at Chapman University, the obscure song in the video was written by Herms Niel, a German composer of military songs and marches. Niel was also a member of the Nazi Party.
“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,” Chapman explained. “Are they on websites or web forums or other social media platforms where they’re engaging with others informed on these issues?”
A quick Google search of “Herms Niel songs,” however, pulls up a list of the composer’s songs with their lyrics in German, which can easily be translated into English.
Rabbi Peter Levi, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Orange County chapter, censured the school’s apparent reaction to the incident as too narrow.
“Generally speaking, especially when something like this involves a group, we would think a more meaningful approach would be to use this as a learning opportunity, as an opportunity community-wide to state what our values are,” Levi said. “This requires investigation and conversation … We’d like to see a more systematic response.”