“I looked at it and I thought, wait a minute. I looked at it again, I looked at my boyfriend, and I was like, ‘Is that what I think it is?'” Hopkins told the Frederick News Post.
Hopkins snapped a photo of the flag and shared it online, where the image drew swift condemnation from school board members and parents.
Frederick County Public School Board President Brad Young responded to Hopkins’s social media post Friday, saying he quickly contacted school leadership to have the flag removed. Young wrote that he was told a teacher at the high school had used the flag as a prop for a history lesson on World War II.
“In my opinion, it was totally inappropriate to be hanging in a window. It should be used as a learning lesson for our teachers and for our students,” Young wrote, apologizing to those who were offended by the display.
Theresa R. Alban, superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools, similarly condemned the flag’s display.
“The values of FCPS 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,” Alban said in a statement over the weekend.
Students defending the history teacher, who was not publicly identified, told Young that the Nazi flag had been used in their lessons for years.
Most community members and local Jewish leaders are not viewing the incident as evidence of anti-Semitism and do not believe that the Nazi flag display constitutes a particular threat, Fox 5 in DC reported. Even so, as a “living symbol of hate,” its display in a classroom was inappropriate, Rabbi Jordan Hersh of Beth Shalom Congregation told the station.
“There are ways to [teach World War II history] without hanging something that I know if one of my kids were to walk into a classroom with the Nazi flag, I can only imagine the anxiety and the emotions that would be running through them,” Hersh said.
Concerns over displays of hate symbols and images of bigotry have grown in recent years as reports of anti-Semitic incidents have spread since 2013, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League. In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the ADL tracked 344 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism at K-12 non-Jewish schools (a decrease from the 2017 high of 457).
School districts have continued to grapple with inappropriate and outright hostile displays, several of them in the last year alone. In November, a Utah boy faced backlash for wearing a Hitler costume to a Halloween parade. Two months earlier, a Michigan school reported that someone took down the American flag and swapped it for a Nazi flag overnight. Both incidents followed criticism of a Tennessee school that faced rebuke after years of teaching children to do a Nazi salute as part of a fifth-grade class project on World War II.