Student Swastika

Students from Matilija Junior High School in Ojai, Calif., have been accused of forming a human swastika shortly before their December 2018 winter break.

Nine California middle-school students formed a human swastika before their December winter break.

A parent delivered to school officials 112 pages of a group chat consisting of a dozen students that included photos of the human swastika, according to Ojai Unified School District superintendent Andy Cantwell.

This caused the school’s administrators to release a letter to the school community on Dec. 14 about the human swastika and the group chat with “racist, sexually inappropriate and threatening commentary, including a comment about bringing knives to school.”

“It brings us great pain to share with you, reprehensible student actions that have taken place over the course of the last few weeks,” stated the letter from Principal Javier Ramirez and Assistant Principal Carol Paquette.

“In photos shared during the chat, there is evidence of nine students laying on the field together to form the shape of a swastika during lunch,” according to the letter. “The Matilija administration and staff are beyond saddened that this occurred.”

They added that the school immediately cooperated with law enforcement “given the severity of the threats.” Police found no active threat towards anyone on campus.

The Anti-Defamation League and StandWithUs condemned to Jewish Journal the human swastika.

“We’re glad the school is taking steps to address the issue, and plan to offer our anti-bias education programs to the district,” said Cyndi Silverman, director of the organization’s Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties Region. “In 2017, we saw a 94 percent increase in hate incidents in K-12 schools, and, unfortunately, this is yet another example of this disturbing trend. This is reminder of the ongoing need for Holocaust and anti-bias education in our schools.”

“School administration, teachers and parents must educate students about the terrible consequences of hatred and racism,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein.

“This is a perfect time for sensitivity training and to bring in a Holocaust survivor who can tell their own story,” added Rothstein, a daughter of Holocaust survivors. “There can be no room for racism of this, or any nature, and when things like this come up, it must be treated seriously.”

This incident harkens to mind a junior-prom photo taken in 2017 of boys from a Wisconsin school district apparently doing the Nazi “Sig Heil” salute.

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