The Newport-Mesa Unified School District will host a community meeting Monday evening in response to mounting concerns over a photo of some Newport Harbor High School students making a Nazi salute while gathered around red plastic cups arranged to form a swastika.
The photo — taken at an off-campus party — was posted online over the weekend.
“We continue to work with the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach police departments in this open and active investigation to determine the appropriate course of action,” according to a statement issued by the district Monday. District officials noted in the statement that in addition to the “offensive anti-Semitic symbols,” the photo also shows students “engaged in possible underage drinking.”
“While these actions did not occur on any school campus or school function, we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all their forms,” according to the district.
District officials said they will hold two community meetings this week to “discuss this matter.” The first will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Newport Harbor High School, 600 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach. The second meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Corona del Mar High School, 2101 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach.
School officials, Orange County politicians and a Muslim civil rights organization have condemned the photo.
Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, wrote on Twitter, “I condemn this display of a hateful, anti-Semitic symbol and call on parents and community leaders to redouble our efforts to educate young people about the history of violence against Jewish people worldwide. This has no place in Orange County.”
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley issued a statement Monday saying, “There is no place for hateful symbols of swastikas and Nazi salutes in our community. Glorifying or even joking about these symbols contradicts the values we share as a diverse community. Normalizing these symbols as a joke is dangerous.”
Foley says she wants to discourage vilification of the teens who posed for the picture.
“Instead, we need to seriously address why teens in our community might think these types of hateful symbols are acceptable or funny and worthy of selfies.”
The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the picture.
“We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and all other targeted minorities and against the actions of bigots who violate our nation’s long-standing principles of religious tolerance and inclusion,” CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said. “These young adults are expressing hatred that has been handed down from an older generation.”
Ayloush encouraged the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to educate students about “the harm of bigotry.”
Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon and Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill issued a joint statement saying they were “appalled and saddened” by the photo.
“That behavior is not acceptable and not reflective of our community’s collective character,” they said. “We can and we must expect better. We pledge to work together to demonstrate that tolerance, mutual respect and dignity define this community. … This behavior is not learned in our schools. But once learned — wherever and however it is — anti-Semitism can and must be unlearned through education and dialogue.”
According to the school district, the photo was being investigated by law enforcement, with the district’s cooperation.
“We remain focused on educating students on all aspects of life’s challenges 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,” according to the district.
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