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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 06/ 5/2010

Consequences for playing 'Beat the Jew'

By Valerie Strauss

What should the consequences be for high school seniors who concoct a game called “Beat the Jew,” advertise it online, and then play it by dividing kids up into “Nazis” and "Jews," the latter group being subjected to "incineration" or "enslavement."

This game was actually played by students at La Quinta High School near Palm Springs, Calif., on a highway that runs through La Quinta, the Associated Press reported.

About 40 students joined a Facebook group dedicated to the game -- the page has since been taken down -- though fewer kids actually showed up to play, school officials said.

Exactly how the game was played is unclear. One description given involves the "Nazis" blindfolding "Jews" and then dropping them somewhere with the aim of having them find their way back to school. Another description has the "Nazis" chasing and trying to capture the "Jews." Losers were subject to "incineration" or "enslavement," a school administrator was quoted as saying.

Now, seven seniors are facing disciplinary measures for playing the game, which school officials were alerted to by another student who is reported to be afraid to return to school.

Initially, officials were concerned that they couldn’t discipline the kids because the game was played off-campus, but apparently discussions about it were held at the school.

"We are going to do what is right. We’re gathering all the facts and then we will move ahead," Sherry Johnstone, assistant superintendent of personnel for Desert Sands Unified School District, was quoted as saying on myfoxla.com. "If discipline needs to happen -- suspension, expulsion, denial of graduation -- whatever is called for, we will do. The safety of our students is important to us."

Police investigated whether kids had been threatened as a result of the game, but were unable to establish if that had occurred.

The school system is working with local groups to review its tolerance policies.

To me this is a no-brainer.

Such behavior demonstrates a level of idiocy and mean-spiritedness that shows that these kids haven’t learned enough in school to be awarded a diploma and walk around as representatives of a public school system.

I’d withhold the diploma until they took some history and decency lessons. I wouldn't be sure that these kids would learn much -- the home environment plays a big role in how kids perceive the world -- but the education effort should be made nevertheless. Prejudice is learned behavior, and it can be unlearned.

Now go ahead, tell me why I’m wrong and why withholding a diploma would be mean.

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 5, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Discipline  | Tags:  beat the jew, jews and game, jews and nazis, kids play beat the jew game  
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Comments


You aren't wrong but I suspect that a diploma from this school district is worth the paper on which it is written.

We have, and will have, cretins such as these pop up from under their rocks.


Posted by: mortified469 | June 5, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse


isn't instead of is...sorry


Posted by: mortified469 | June 5, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

You are not, but the parents will threaten to sue and the school district will fold like it always does in such situations. However, I think the place that they need to draw the line in the sand is that they don't march at graduation.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | June 5, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

what punishment would we be discussing if they were playing "cowboys and indians"

Posted by: kchiosie | June 5, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please. We graduate criminals who have beaten or killed people and are attending schools in jail. You want to stop all them from graduating, too?

A high school diploma is not a Valerie Straus Seal of Moral Approval.

But wait. Maybe it should be! After all, we can't use a high school diploma as an indicator of reading and writing skills. We graduate illiterates and innumerates every year, so it's not like the diploma tells us anything useful about their literacy and academic knowledge. So we may as well use it to indicate something, even if it's a completely useless list of Valerie's Acceptable Opinions. So go ahead, Valerie, and put together a list of opinions you want banned from a diploma, continuing the degradation of that credential.

Meanwhile, we'll find some other credential to signal whether students can read, write, add, and think--and can thankfully ignore your little snitfits about who you consider morally worthy of a diploma.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | June 5, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Well how long has this game been played? If it is something that has gone on for years, then the students are not totally at fault. Diplomas can't be held as that work to get that diploma has already been done. Denial to walk at graduation might work, and denial of any senior events left for them to attend might work. However if this game has gone on for years and years there is no way faculty didn't know something about it and they need to look at what wasn't being taught and what rules were not being folowed at their high school. You can't totally ruin someones future for something like this. That whole thing doesn't work.

Posted by: fish9669 | June 5, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

This theme of this awful incident runs pretty close to the article recently written on the drop in college students' ability to empathize. As seniors, these students are very close to that age.

I am thinking that as a society, we are losing not only our capacity to empathize, but our ability to feel shame, and alarmingly, our knowledge and understanding of history.

Valerie is right that some form of significant consequence needs to happen - think that it should be treated as a kind of hate crime - 17 and 18 year-olds need to be held accountable for adult actions -

And no,teenage pretend Nazis going after pretend Jews is not quite the same as students (7 & 8 years old?) playing "cowboys and Indians" - the cold-blooded systemic attempt to eradicate certain people by a supposedly scientifically advanced, enlightened society is not comparable to the Wild West scenario.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 5, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

This theme of this awful incident runs pretty close to the article recently written on the drop in college students' ability to empathize. As seniors, these students are very close to that age.

I am thinking that as a society, we are losing not only our capacity to empathize, but our ability to feel shame, and alarmingly, our knowledge and understanding of history.

Valerie is right that some form of significant consequence needs to happen - think that it should be treated as a kind of hate crime - 17 and 18 year-olds need to be held accountable for adult actions -

And no,teenage pretend Nazis going after pretend Jews is not quite the same as students (7 & 8 years old?) playing "cowboys and Indians" - the cold-blooded systemic attempt to eradicate certain people by a supposedly scientifically advanced, enlightened society is not comparable to the Wild West scenario.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 5, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Well its not clear to me that the school can legally withold diplomas. But their actions are serious and merits consequences. The school could require community service in order to get their diplomas. Community service could include working for Jewish organizations for example, watching movies on the holocaust and other instructional courses/media on prejudice and hate. Then the consequences are directly tied to their behavior.

Posted by: commentator3 | June 5, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

I'd be in favor of a mandatory field trip to DC to visit the Holocaust Museum, followed up with a written reflection of their attitudes prior and post visit. Any kid who comes home with the same outlook is probably a budding sociopath.

Posted by: hatchlaw | June 6, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Yes... This is the same as kids playing cowboys and indians/cops and robbers/manhunt/hide and seek/ring-a-leevio (for us older geezers) or any other 'catch and hold' game....

Same game w/ a different name... But use the word "Jew" and now these kids (Yes, they are still kids in high school) are racists that must be punished... another over reaction maybe... I think so.

Posted by: kchiosie | June 6, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't there a recent article about one side effect of No Child Left Behind being the disappearance of civics classes in our schools? Students should also be learning about the hallmarks of good citizenship and how to be productive rather than destructive members of our society.

Posted by: e-o-j-r | June 6, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I recently subbed for a group of sixth-graders who were reading a teen-age novel about the Holocaust. In the resulting discussion, it was clear that they all understood the evil committed, marveled at the bravery of those who helped the Jews, and were wondering if they would have been able to do that.

Possibly, the school in California needs to spend less time trying to discipline the students (for something that largely occurred outside of school anyway) and more time revising its history curriculum.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | June 8, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

a no-brainer, yes ... but not in the way that you think it is.

bad judgment: yes
free speech: yes
on campus: no
school event: no
related to diploma: no

in short: yes, worth talking with the kids but not further and certainly not a hold on a diploma. That conversation with the kids will be more compelling if an adult at the school has built up a reasonable level of interaction and trust with the kids. Let the parents handle the grounding.

Posted by: proofpoint | June 9, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

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