Maryland School District Says Student Used Nazi Imagery as His Personal Zoom Photo During Virtual Class

A Maryland school district responded to one student's reported use of Nazi imagery as his profile photo on Zoom earlier this week, which peers observed during a virtual art class.

The Damascus High School student who posted the avatar, described as "a cartoon image of a Nazi" by administration officials, was not identified by name. However, Kevin Yates, Damascus High School's principal, reportedly confirmed the student will face consequences for violating the district's code of conduct in a letter issued to families and obtained by WUSA9, a CBS-affiliated news station based in Washington, D.C.

"I am writing to share information about an incident that occurred during your child's third-period art class today and how it is being addressed. A student posted a cartoon image of a Nazi as a Zoom avatar," Yates wrote in the Wednesday letter sent to parents whose students are also enrolled in the class, according to WUSA9. The letter reportedly said school officials ensured the photo was removed from the student's Zoom account "immediately" after the incident was brought to their attention, in addition to contacting both the student and his family.

"We apologize for the hateful image that your child witnessed," Yates' letter continued. "The student who posted the image will receive consequences aligned with the [Montgomery County Public Schools] Student Code of Conduct. This type of behavior will not be tolerated at Damascus High School. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions."

Newsweek reached out to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the district Damascus High School falls within, for confirmation regarding Yates' letter as well as additional comments about the incident. MCPS did not reply in time for publication.

Montgomery County education leaders addressed the student's reported display of Nazi imagery on Zoom amid nationwide calls for individuals and institutions to confront systemic racism, and hold accountable those responsible for racist acts or behavior.

Yates' reported letter to Damascus High School parents was distributed shortly after Tuesday's first presidential debate, during which President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden were asked to discuss issues related to race in America. The president sparked backlash for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists and associated militia groups, while fueling continued concerns about how his actions feed white nationalist ideals and white supremacist terrorism.

Montgomery County high school students took action to oppose racist or white supremacist namesakes in their communities earlier this summer. Students distributed a petition, according to Bethesda Magazine, to rename Potomac's Winston Churchill High School because of the late British prime minister "destructive and hateful" legacy. The petition received more than 1,000 signatures.

Remote classes
A student in Tarpoly Creek, Australia, completes school work from home on April 5, near the onset of the new coronavirus pandemic. This week, Maryland school district officials responded to reports that one student displayed a hateful image on Zoom, the teleconferencing application many schools are using to hold classes remotely. Lisa Maree Williams/Getty