- Dick Thomas Johnson
- A Nazi flag hanging in the classroom window of a Maryland high school was visible to everyone at a basketball game Friday.
- Frederick County Public Schools staff took down the flag as soon as it was reported, the district said, stressing that it shares “the community’s feelings regarding the hatred and intolerance this flag represents.”
- District authorities are investigating why the flag was hung in the first place and working to “identify the events leading to this unfortunate incident.”
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A Nazi flag hanging in the classroom window of a Maryland school was visible to everyone at a Friday basketball game, but has since been taken down, officials said.
The flag horrified some members of the school’s community. A former student shared a photo of the flag on Facebook and lambasted the district for this display of “irresponsibility and privilege at its highest levels” during one of the community’s most popular sports events, according to NBC.
“What culturally proficient educator has a ‘life’ size Nazi flag in their tool kit and then has the audacity to hang it OVER THEIR CLASSROOM WINDOW IN THE FRONT OF THE SCHOOL BUILDING BY THE MAIN ENTRANCE,” the woman wrote.
People on Facebook described the incident as inexcusable. There’s no need to expose students to a hate symbol, which will either upset or desensitize them, they wrote. What’s next, one asked, a Klu Klux Klan robe and hood?
But others, including current and former students and some parents, sprung to the defense of the World War II history teacher, who they said is using the flag as a teaching tool. These lessons need to be learned so people don’t repeat the mistakes of yesterday, some responded on the Facebook post. The flag is a teaching tool, not a declaration of anti-Semitism, they said.
History cannot be ‘unwritten’ and needs to be taught
“His room is covered floor to ceiling in posters and memorabilia – he even has a flag from each Axis and Ally power hung on his walls,” Ryleigh Adams, who was enrolled in this class last year, told Insider. “This teacher is one of the best in the department … It is a teaching aid and a reminder [about] our horrible history, which cannot be unwritten and, therefore, should be taught along with everything else.”
Ryleigh, 16, said that the flag is hung behind his desk all year round “right above a glass case filled with [World War II] memorabilia.” But the classroom’s blinds are usually kept closed because “the sunlight causes issues with our projectors.”
Michael Alfred agreed, calling the teacher “very respectful to everyone.” He studied with the teacher last year and detailed paintings and other items in the classroom that date back to World War II.
“Many people from my freshman year and up said he was an amazing teacher” and parents who accompanied the class during a field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. have also described him as “a good man,” Alfred said.
“I feel like using something like [the Nazi flag] would be OK as long as it’s not being praised or waved around. [In] my opinion, learning visually is better than reading textbooks,” he added.
There’s been no harm done to the students
According to Alfred, 19, the teacher in question would never display the Nazi flag for all to see.
“I do have some friends in the class currently and, from what they had said, the teacher was never in the room that day,” he said.
It remains unclear who put the flag in the window and why.
Another former student, who asked to be identified only as Abbie, told Insider that she believes this incident has been blown completely out of proportion.
“In reality, no harm has been done to any one or any of his students,” she said. “No one has anything else [to say] on the matter except the fact that he has a ‘Nazi’ flag. The Nazis are a part of history so that explains why a history teacher would have it in his classroom.”
The issue could raise eyebrows, Abbie conceded, but people “really need to look at the bigger picture before pointing fingers.”
A symbol of ‘hatred and intolerance’
According to a statement shared on the Frederick County Public Schools District’s Facebook page, the flag was “clearly visible” when athletes from Governor Thomas Johnson High School faced the Frederick High School team in the former’s home turf. Staff members at the school took down the flag as soon as it was reported, the district said, stressing that it shares “the community’s feelings regarding the hatred and intolerance this flag represents.”
District authorities are investigating why the flag was hung in the first place and working to “identify the events leading to this unfortunate incident.”
“We will take the appropriate steps to ensure an incident such as this is not repeated,” the statement continued. “The values of FC PS are in direct contrast to the message represented by that flag, and we apologize that the display of this flag caused hurt in our community.”