A teacher at Rio Americano High School in suburban Sacramento is under investigation for displaying four German flags in the classroom, including a Nazi party flag with a swastika.
According to a district spokesperson, the flags “were displayed for the course of the lesson.” A student notified the high school administration about the flags on May 13 and they were taken down the next day.
“We will be investigating all details related to this incident, including the timeline of the flags being in the room, if this has happened before and why the teacher thinks that the flags were appropriate to use for their lesson,” said San Juan Unified School District spokesperson Raj Rai in an email response to J.
Rai said the teacher is on administrative leave until the investigation is completed.
In a press release, the school district called the Nazi flag is a “long-standing symbol of hate” and said it “does not represent the culture and values of our school or our district.”
“The symbolism of these flags is deplorable and we denounce it – hate has no place at our schools,” the statement continued. “This is an opportunity for continued education and the building of a more inclusive climate and culture throughout the district.”
In a message to families, students and staff on May 18, principal Brian Ginter said his administration is “putting together resources and materials for Rio Americano staff to use in having conversations in their classrooms with students.”
The same day that Rio Americano High School was notified about the flags, an Instagram account was created called “Change for Rio.” A picture of the four flags hanging in the classroom was included in the post, accompanied by text that read, “There is a teacher at rio who put a [email protected] flag up in his classroom! … It has a massive swastika and is extremely harmful to several minority students.”
The three other flags displayed were used during different German eras, including the present-day state flag adopted in 1950, a war flag from the German Empire between 1903 and 1918, and an East German state flag used from 1959 to 1990. The Nazi flag on display represented the regime’s army, navy and air force.
In a statement provided to J., the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director Seth Brysk said his organization was “deeply troubled” by the Nazi flag being displayed.
“As with any material relating to antisemitism and other forms of hate, it should only be presented with appropriate context,” said Brysk. “We welcome the statement by the San Juan Unified School District rejecting the hate signified by the flag and their intention to thoroughly investigate the incident.”
According to the school website, Rio Americano High School enrolled 1,964 students during its 2020-2021 academic year.