California School Says Photo Showing Students Posting With Swastika, Trump Banner and Confederate Flag Sparked Fear on Campus

A California high school is taking action after a photo that circulated on social media showing several of its students posing with a swastika and Confederate flag sparked fear on campus.

Eight students from Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California, are seen posing for the photo in front of a Trump 2020 banner, Fox10 reported. One male student holding a swastika sign and another appears to make the "OK" hand gesture adopted by some white supremacists.

In a letter sent to parents last week, school principal Michael West said the social media post saying it made students feel unsafe.

West said the school immediately launched an investigation, but found "no evidence of planning or intent to commit unlawful acts or to physically harm anyone."

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"While we cannot provide specific details due to privacy laws, King High School is taking appropriate action to stop this kind of disruption to school and prevent it from recurring," he added.

In a video posted on Monday, West said the photo, which was "created away from school but widely distributed to students on our campus," had sparked fear and anger on campus.

He didn't reveal if the students involved would face any disciplinary action.

"At this time in our country, the frank reality is that political and social views are strongly held by individuals," he said.

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"Individual views, while people are entitled to them, may be in direct conflict with those of others, our school, and our district values. Teachers and staff, I implore you, join me in devoting time to talk with our students about diversity, tolerance, respect and how to use social media in a positive way."

West said the school has created an Equity Committee where staff and students are developing programs and events to improve "racial harmony and respect" on campus. They are organizing Synergy Days to "help participants recognize and respect each other's differences but also value and appreciate all of our similarities," he said.

"This teachable moment will not be lost on us," he added, urging students to report anything that worries them.

"We will not allow anything to divide us. We are one school, we are one community and we must stand together. We are Martin Luther King High School."

A spokesman for the Riverside Unified School District told The Press-Enterprise students had the chance to air their concerns at a forum on Friday. Timothy Walker, Riverside Unified School District's Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services, told the newspaper that the image does not reflect the district's "core values."

"The district's core mission values are around inclusivity, empathy, compassion and acceptance. The image that circulated does not reflect those core values," he said.

More than half (52.5 percent) of the 3,071 students at the school, named for the late activist and prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement, identify as African American, Asian, Hispanic or Latino, according to statistics from the California Department of Education.

But one black parent who has two children at the school said it has had a problem with racism for a long time.

"I call it 'Hell High School' because of what they've put my kids through and other minority kids through," Gray Mavheria told the Press-Enterprise. He said his children have endured comments about "cotton-picking" and told to go to the "back of the bus."

Martin Luther King High School and the Riverside Unified School District have been contacted for additional comment.

Confederate flag
Stock photo shows a Confederate flag. A California high school says a photo showing some of its students posing with a swastika and Confederate flag sparked fear on campus. Scott Olson/Getty Images
California School Says Photo Showing Students Posting With Swastika, Trump Banner and Confederate Flag Sparked Fear on Campus | U.S.