Although the incident occurred off campus, the school investigated because the photos were shared on social media with other students, officials wrote in a Tuesday letter to parents. The photo was shared on platforms including Snapchat and Instagram.
Two Mercer Island High School students were photographed giving the Nazi salute in images the school district says have eroded students’ sense of safety and belonging.
Although the incident occurred off campus, the school investigated because the photos were shared on social media with other students, Superintendent Donna Colosky and Mercer Island High School Principal Vicki Puckett wrote in a Tuesday letter to parents. The photo was shared on platforms including Snapchat and Instagram.
A photo shared with The Seattle Times shows a teenage boy and girl giving the salute while standing outside in the snow. The boy also has a finger above his mouth like a mustache.
Administrators said they began an investigation soon after they learned of the photos, taken on a recent snow day.
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“From that investigation, it appears that the images were not created or shared with malicious intent toward others,” Colosky and Puckett wrote. “Still, these images are highly offensive and hurtful.”
They said the school would talk directly with the students about their behavior to “ensure accountability.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) started getting calls this week about the photos, regional director Miri Cypers said Tuesday afternoon. Cypers said she spoke with a number of parents whose children were “deeply affected and hurt.”
About a quarter of Mercer Island’s households are Jewish, according to numbers from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
Cypers said the ADL is working with the school district to start a healing process for students. It’s a multistep process, she added, that will need to include all students.
“They need to make sure they understand the impact and make sure they have the tools to talk about bias,” she said. “They’ll need to reaffirm that this is a safe place.”
Dee Simon, the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Baral Family Executive Director, said incidents such as this occur because of a lack of understanding of history and a lack of awareness of how painful these images can be. And the incidents are occurring with more frequency, she added.
“I think that this is not isolated to one school; we’ve seen this throughout the state,” she said. “But it’s a reflection of what students are seeing and hearing in their lives.”
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