Classes start at Garden Grove high school amid Nazi-salute scandal

ByMarc Cota-Robles and staff KABC logo
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Classes start at Pacifica High amid Nazi-salute scandal
Classes started at Pacifica High School on Wednesday, just over a week after troubling video came to light showing a group of students giving Nazi salutes while singing a Nazi marching song.

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (KABC) -- The new school year began at Pacifica High School on Wednesday, just over a week after several troubling videos came to light showing a group of students giving Nazi salutes while singing a Nazi marching song.

Extra police officers were positioned outside the school in Garden Grove following death threats alleged received by several students - including some not involved in the videos.

The newly released videos reignited a conversation surrounding intolerance and hate speech among youth while also prompting the school district to reopen its investigation into the footage. One video showed about 10 boys from the school's water polo team at an off-site awards ceremony late last year. No coach or adult is in view.

The teens appear to be gesturing, using a Nazi salute and singing an obscure Nazi marching song once used to play for German troops and Adolf Hitler during World War II.

In three new videos that came out Aug. 21, students are seen outdoors on school grounds giving Nazi salutes, wrapping themselves in a Confederate flag and making Nazi salutes while they march with a German flag.

One parent said the incident should be used as a learning moment, especially for those who believe actions like the ones displayed in the videos are funny.

"Unfortunately, some kids see things and it becomes, 'Oh, hey, let's be cool and try something like this' and not realize what the repercussions are," said Nichelle Parker, a Pacifica parent. "Make sure you think about what's gonna happen in your future, you could ruin a lot of chances going forward in your future."

Two of the new videos are from last year and one is from three years ago, but shows students who are still at the school.

It's not immediately clear if any of the students in the new videos are the same individuals shown in the initial video.

"We've recently received new allegations, new photos and video, even within the past hour and new claims that have led us to re-open and widen the scope of the investigation," said Steve Osborne, principal of Pacifica High.

Additional officers were on hand at the district board's meeting on Aug. 20 as parents and teachers voiced frustration over not being told about the incident earlier.

The students in the initial water polo team investigation were disciplined, but teachers and parents were not informed about the incident at the time.

Now teachers and parents say they are angry they were not told.

"You had an obligation to let us know about this event. You failed miserably," said Randy Steiner, a Pacifica parent.

Osborne, the school principal, apologized at the school board meeting.

"We are sorry that our investigation and our transparency with the Pacifica community fell drastically short," Osborne said. "In retrospect our judgment was wrong and we take full responsibility for that."

Now that more evidence is coming to light, Osborne says there will be more transparency with this investigation.

Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones issued a lengthy statement that reads in part:

"While it is of tremendous concern to see this type of offensive and misguided behavior take place in a community that wholeheartedly embraces its diversity, it highlights the need for all aspects of community to take an even more active role in educating youth on the atrocities of Nazism and the unacceptability of bias, hate, and intolerance in this day and age. It's important for all of us to share the responsibility of raising informed and conscientious youth."

Teachers are demanding they be part of changing the current school culture.

"We have to acknowledge that this is something that's in our community that we need to address and as teachers we hope to address it with the curriculum," said Adam Wemmer, a Pacifica teacher.