By Isabel Funk, Ellie Gottesman and Annie Poole
March 4, an Anti-Semitic picture surfaced depicting two MIHS students doing the Nazi salute and one posing as Hitler.
The photo was originally posted on Snapchat a few weeks ago, but was only recently brought to the attention of the administration and greater Mercer Island community. Many Jewish students re-posted the photo on their own social media accounts, labeling it ignorant and Anti-Semitic.
Later, a description of an anti-Semitic video emerged. The video was edited to show five MIHS students saluting Hitler and marching like Nazis. In the original, unedited video, the girls were merely dancing to rap music.
The original video was sent in a group chat and was edited by another student who was not pictured in it.
Although both events occurred a few weeks ago during Mercer Island’s snow closures, the administration received an anonymous tip on March 4 from an adult in the community containing a copy of the photo and a description of the edited video.
After receiving the information, the administration took immediate action, calling in the students involved with the photo and video for questioning. The investigation is currently ongoing.
In response to the incident, MISD Superintendent Donna Colosky sent out a letter to Mercer Island families on March 5 reassuring parents of the administration’s efforts to educate the students responsible and ensure a safe, welcoming environment for all students.
The email read:
Dear MISD Families,
The Mercer Island School District is aware of social media posts showing high school students making deeply offensive, Nazi hand gestures while off campus. Upon learning of this situation, the District immediately began an investigation.
We are deeply disturbed and saddened by these images. Although it did not occur on campus, there is no place on Mercer Island for this type of anti-Semitism or hate speech in any form. We are working with our high school students to ensure that they understand the impact of their actions on our community.
We will continue to update our families about this matter.
Donna Colosky, Superintendent
The statement is also available on the district website.
MIHS Principal Vicki Puckett posted a letter to students on Schoology at 4:18 p.m. on March 5. The message read:
As we shared with our families, images depicting Mercer Island High School students engaged in inappropriate, anti-Semitic conduct were recently shared via social media. Though the conduct occurred off campus and outside of any school-sponsored event, the images were ultimately shared with MIHS students. The sharing of these images brought these off-campus student actions into the school and negatively impacted our educational environment.
MIHS and the District takes seriously our responsibility to create a safe and diverse learning environment. Upon learning of this situation, MIHS administration immediately started an investigation of the shared images, gaining insight into the scope and nature of the matter. From that investigation, it appears that the images were not created or shared with malicious intent toward others. Regardless of the intent there has been a very real and painful impact to our school community. Images of this nature send highly offensive and hurtful far reaching impactful messages.
These images are inconsistent with the values of our school, have negatively impacted our school and community, and have eroded our students’ sense of belonging and safety here at MIHS.
MIHS and the District condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate. MIHS will work directly with the students and families involved to address the the impact this situation has had on our school, ensure accountability, and support the healing of our community.
We have worked very hard to help educate everyone on matters of cultural awareness, equity, and inclusion. This situation highlights that we — both students and staff — have more work to do.
This is a time to come together to condemn acts of hate. Each of us has a role ensuring that our community is safe, supportive, and inclusive for all. My hope is that we can use this terrible situation to help us make better choices and to have the courage to act when witness to incidents of hate, harassment, and bullying.
This is our collective opportunity and responsibility for healing, growth, and repair.
If you are concerned and need support, our counseling team stands ready to support you.
These events come at a time when Anti-Semitic incidents are rapidly increasing across the globe.
For more information, see the articles below.
In 2017, The MIHS Islander reported on Anti-Semitic activity within the Seattle community.
Comparisons have been drawn to a series of signs posted around the MIHS campus Dec. 4, 2017 that read “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE.”
A similar incident is occurring at Newport Harbor High School (part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District) in CA.
For an explanation of why making jokes about issues like this is harmful, read this article from The Conversation by Thomas Ford, a professor of social psychology.