Student at O.C. Catholic school in makeshift swastika photos ‘now a former student’

A teenager who was enrolled at a private Catholic high school in San Juan Capistrano when photographed at a party with teenagers raising their arms in a Nazi salute next to plastic cups arranged in the shape of a swastika is “now a former student,” officials said.

Administrators at JSerra Catholic High School told parents in a letter Tuesday that the student, who was not named, no longer attends the school. It’s unclear if the student was expelled or withdrew from the school of about 1,200 students.

“When an action takes place that is so gravely contradictory to our Christian values, we take intentional steps both to correct the behavior of the individuals involved and to instruct the entire student body as to our school’s expectations,” the letter says.


The letter was signed by three school officials — President Rich Meyer, Principal Eric Stroupe and Mission and Faith Vice President Patrick Reidy — who “profusely” apologized on behalf of the school. They could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

They said sophomore English students spend the second quarter working on a genocide project, during which they are taught about the Holocaust, and all students learn about World War II and the Holocaust during their world history course, the letter says.

In the wake of the incident, the officials said they plan to hold talks on racist attitudes and behaviors, and urged parents to “continue the dialogue” at home.

The student’s departure from JSerra is the latest fallout after images from the party quickly spread across social media over the weekend, drawing shock and outrage from peers, parents and politicians.

Costa Mesa police took a report and, with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Newport Beach police, have interviewed about two dozen students. Students from Newport Harbor, Estancia and Costa Mesa high schools also attended the party, where they played a drinking game with red Solo cups and pingpong balls.

At some point in the night, the plastic cups ended up in the shape of a swastika.

It’s not clear how many people helped form the symbol, but a parent of one student at the party said that, as more cups were added and moved around, someone noted that it was starting to resemble a swastika and completed the image. When it was done, a dozen or so teenagers crowded around the display and posed for photos, their arms raised in a Nazi salute.

The parent, who asked not to be identified, released handwritten letters of apology Monday soon after a huge crowd gathered to denounce the anti-Semitism at a town hall meeting.

“I am ashamed none of us stepped up to take down this sign, and we should have stepped up right then and there to say it’s not right,” his child wrote.

Twitter: @AleneTchek