A video showing a group of Orange County teenagers giving a Nazi salute as a German World War II-era song plays in the background surfaced Monday and quickly sparked outrage.
The video shows about 10 boys from Pacifica High School in Garden Grove standing in what appears to be a banquet room giving the stiff-armed salute used in Nazi Germany. A song, written by German composer Herms Niel during Hitler’s ascent to power in Germany, plays in the background. At least one of the boys begins singing as others laugh.
The video, taken prior to the start of an athletics banquet that was held off-campus in November 2018, was originally shared among a small group of students on Snapchat. High school administrators learned of the video four months later, the Garden Grove Unified School District wrote in a statement posted to its website Monday.
Officials took “immediate action and addressed the situation with all students and families involved. The Daily Beast, which first reported the existence of the video, said it was posted to Instagram by a student and has since been removed.
District officials declined to comment about whether any students had been disciplined as a result of the incident.
“In response to this unfortunate incident, district and school administrators have reached out to community organizations to provide support that will continue to ensure an anti-bias learning environment and address issues of hate, bias and exclusion with all staff and students,” the district wrote in a statement. “Pacifica High School, along with our other district schools, will be working with students, staff and parents to continue to address these issues in the fall in collaboration with agencies dedicated to anti-bias education.”
A Garden Grove Unified School District spokesperson and Pacifica High School Principal Steve Osborne did not respond to requests for further comment Monday.
The Daily Beast reported the students are members of the boys’ water polo team, but the Los Angeles Times could not independently confirm that information.
Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center on Hate and Extremism, said the incident is a teachable moment for both the students and school administrators, who he contends waited too long to address the issue publicly. He said the video was “chilling” and a “vile expression of Nazi bigotry.”
“When we have a fragmented society with an increasingly coarse and manipulative social media with a dose of ignorance and white nationalism, this is what’s regarded as OK,” Levin said. “That’s why the school has to address this. It’s a representation of their institution.”
The incidents have occurred as hate crimes are increasing nationwide. The Anti-Defamation League noted a 58% jump in documented acts of anti-Semitism from 2016 to 2017. The sharp rise was due, in part, to a significant increase in incidents at schools and on college campuses, the organization said.
In March, a group of high school students from Newport Beach and Costa Mesa were photographed at a party — arms outstretched in a Nazi salute — gathered around red plastic cups arranged in the shape of a swastika.
Pete Simi, a Chapman University sociology professor who focuses on extremist groups, said the song playing in the background of the video isn’t widely known and could hint that the teens were looking at extremist materials online.
Digital environments such as social media and even online chats on video games frequently used by young people can quickly become a hotbed for people spreading white supremacist ideas, experts say.
“What’s clear is we have a problem and we’ve had a problem for a long time,” Simi said. “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.”