Student Punished For Nazi Salute

A 14-year-old UK student has been accused of mimicking his teacher in a racist manner. When she used her hand to gesture quiet to the class, Ben Hayward stretched out his left arm, clicked his heels, and gave her a Nazi salute. Ben was given a two-hour detention for the incident, which happened last November.

The boy claims he was unaware of the anti-Semitic context of the gesture, denying both the cultural implications and uttering “Hail Hitler” while doing it.

The schoolboy’s father, Scott Hayward, also maintains the child was not acting in a racist manner, only playfully impersonating the instructor.

“At best,” Mr. Hayward asserts, “it could have been seen as undermining her authority, but definitely not racist.”

Ben and his parents refuse to accept the punishment and demanded a meeting with the school to have the incident thoroughly investigated, making sure the other students who witnessed the incident have been given an opportunity to give their statements. The Hayward’s assume the teacher misjudged the gesture and overreacted.

The punishment had been postponed until the issue could be resolved between all parties. However, Ben spent his most recent Friday school day excluded from the other students, having all social privileges severed.

The school says Ben must serve the punishment but, in an attempt to compromise, was prepared to no longer describe the incident as racist. His family intends to lodge an official complaint with the board of governors (school board).

Head teacher, Matthew Munro, of the Meopham School explained:

“The standard procedure when students have an after school detention is if they miss it twice they will have a day of internal exclusion in our internal exclusion unit. We had discussions with Mr. and Mrs. Hayward and we did agree we wouldn’t categorize it as a racist incident but that it would be a serious incident and the punishment would stand. A racist incident is defined by perception of other people rather than the intention of the person who committed it and this is the point we tried to make. The fact remains a teacher took great exception and perceived the incident as racist. However, as I said this was a point we were willing to re-categorize and that is where we left it.”

The full name of Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party). The acronym Nazi was formed from the first two syllables of the German pronunciation of the word “national.”

Both the Nazi Party and the Nazi-lead state were organized under the Führer principle, a pyramidal structure with the Führer Adolf Hitler at the top. He appointed subordinate leaders for all branches of the party and the state, whose orders had the enforcement of law.

To maintain what Nazism regarded as the purity and strength of the Aryan race, Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, the Romani, and the physically and mentally disabled.

The Holocaust was the mass genocidal murder of millions, predominantly Jews, during World War II. This directive of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, occurred throughout German-occupied territory.

The Nazi salute was a gesture of greeting in Nazi Germany. It was adopted in the 1930s by the Nazi Party to signal obedience to the party’s leader Adolf Hitler. The salute was mandatory for civilians but optional for military personnel. Typically the salute was meant to be done with the right arm unless an injury prevented it. Otherwise, it was acceptable to use the left. Contemporary use of this salute is currently a criminal offence in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

Typically students learn about Nazism and The Holocaust by middle school, though some in the UK have suggested in recent years that schools should stop teaching about it entirely.

Do you think a teenager is old enough to understand the consequences for their actions?

[Image via Wikicommons]

Image description: Sudeten woman unable to conceal her misery as she dutifully salutes.