A student wore a Nazi Halloween costume. Now the principal is suspended

The student is seen in a video posted to social media goose-stepping across a stage during a costume contest on Halloween.

Students are planning a walkout and their principal has been suspended after a student wore a Nazi uniform in a Halloween costume contest at a Chicago high school.

The student is seen in a video posted to social media goose-stepping across a stage during a costume contest on Halloween Day at Jones College Prep, a Chicago Public Schools selective high school. A photo also shows Principal Joseph Powers, who is dressed in a St. Louis Cardinals baseball uniform, speaking to the student shortly afterward.

Widespread outrage from students, parents and teachers about how the display was handled led to Powers’ suspension Friday by the district’s chief executive officer, Pedro Martinez, who acknowledged the anti-Semitic act in a message to the community. “This incident caused harm to many students and staff, and it is completely inconsistent with our values as a school district,” Martinez wrote. “It also comes at a time when hateful speech and hateful attacks are on the rise, especially against Jewish Americans.”

The district also has launched a bias-based harm investigation after Powers’ attempts to explain the costume in an email to the school community fell flat. Powers said he believed the student did not intend for the “military surplus” costume to be anti-Semitic. “Please be assured that we take the well-being of all students seriously and do not tolerate hateful expressions of any kind,” Powers wrote. “In this situation, in certainly appears this was not the intent of the Halloween costume.”

In another message, Powers explained that the costume was “an East German (communist era) border guard uniform” that he himself had seen during a visit to Berlin in the 1980s, according to Block Club Chicago. “I tried to explain the context and time period of the uniform to the students who spoke with me, but apparently the student who wore the uniform may have told people it was from the 1940s,” Powers wrote, according to the website. “I spoke with him this afternoon and explained the same thing to him and the inferences others may have drawn.”

The Chicago Teachers Union called on the city’s mayor to remove Powers permanently because of what it described as a history of intolerance at Jones College Prep, the union said in a statement. “Students, parents, teachers and support staff have sought repeatedly to raise concerns about the culture of intolerance at Jones, but have been routinely ignored,” the union wrote. “What is most alarming about the latest reckless and reprehensible action is that it is part of a pattern of behavior at Jones College Prep, where, for years, students have felt discrimination, homophobia and racial hatred from peers and administrators.”

Students announced an “Admin Always Covers Up” walkout for Monday afternoon to protest the way the school has responded to racial and ethnic discrimination.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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