A few weeks ago, several current and former students at an elite private school in Atlanta got the bright idea to play a beer pong game that made fun of the Holocaust. They may have thought it was funny at the time, but they certainly aren’t laughing now. After school officials got wind of it, several of the students who attended the rally faced severe discipline, with one of the ringleaders being expelled.
Two weeks ago, several congregants at The Temple, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, alerted Rabbi Peter Berg about a disturbing picture floating around the Internet. WSB-TV in Atlanta has more details.
A number of local teens were taking part in a version of beer pong called “Jews vs. Nazis.” On one end of the table, the cups were arranged in the shape of a Star of David. On the other end, the cups were arranged in the shape of a swastika.
This game has been floating around high school and college circles for some time. According to the Daily Beast, the “Jews” are allowed to hide one of their cups–a practice called “Anne Franking.” The “Nazis” are allowed to force a “Jew” to sit out a round by “Auschwitzing” him. It even has its own hashtag.
Berg, like his congregants, was horrified. As he told WSB-TV:
“The fact that someone could even conceive of such a game, and then play it and think it’s funny is beyond words.”
Berg did some sleuthing, and learned that the students pictured at the party attended The Lovett School, one of the oldest and most prestigious college prep schools in Atlanta and the South. He promptly alerted school officials, who struck fast and hard. On Wednesday, Lovett headmaster Billy Peebles announced the results of an internal investigation into the party.
Peebles said that the senior who took the now-infamous picture had been expelled. He’d uploaded the picture to Snapchat, but apparently took a little too long to admire his work before deleting it. According to Peebles, this student dug himself an even deeper hole by lying about his role in setting up the game.
The party’s host, also a senior, was dismissed from school with the option of applying for readmission. Four other students received undisclosed suspensions, while two others who appeared to be watching the game will be banned from co-curricular activities for the first two weeks of the new school year. All of the other students involved were required to undergo counseling.
Anyone who thinks this is too harsh should have a chat with Allison Goodman, the Atlanta regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. She told WGCL-TV in Atlanta that there has been a marked spike in anti-Semitic incidents since the start of 2017. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, there has been an 86 percent jump in “vandalism, harassment, threats” and other incidents. She added that this trend has leaked into the schools; in this year alone, there were almost 100 anti-Semitic incidents in just 90 days.
School officials don’t believe that there was any malicious intent on the part of the students. However, they see it as a teachable moment; a school spokeswoman said that “character education is at the heart of all we do.”
It looks like the students aren’t the only ones in need of a lesson here. If I were Peebles, I’d have called in these students’ history teachers, as well as their parents, for a not-so-friendly chat. You mean to tell me that high school seniors at a college prep school didn’t realize that making light of the Holocaust was a bad idea? Clearly, these kids’ parents, as well as their teachers, didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
We need only look at James Fields for an example of what can happen when parents and teachers don’t nip hate and bigotry in the bud. Several of his former classmates at a Northern Kentucky high school recalled that he was very fond of displaying swastikas, and one of his teachers said Fields was “infatuated” with Nazis. Granted, public schools don’t have nearly as much latitude to police off-campus behavior as Lovett and other private schools. But it’s inconceivable that someone–his friends, his teachers, his mother–couldn’t have found away to intervene. Had they done so, it’s very likely that Heather Heyer would still be alive.
What happened at Lovett represents the opposite end of the spectrum. The only acceptable response to this sort of thing is not to blow it off as kids being kids, but to nip it in the bud, and promptly. For that, Peebles and his team and Lovett deserve nothing but applause. But at the end of the day, keeping this thing from happening at all starts at home.
(featured image: screenshot courtesy WSB-TV)