Nazi flag used in WWII history class for several years, Frederick BOE President learns from former students

The Frederick County Board of Education President says he learned from former students supportive of the history teacher involved, that the Nazi flag seen hung in a Frederick high school classroom window this past Friday has been used as a World War II history class educational prop for the past several years. This comes as Frederick County Public Schools continues its investigation into why the flag was so prominently displayed to the public, causing significant outrage.

Those going to a basketball game at Governor Thomas Johnson High School saw the flag in a classroom window, which also had the shades open and the lights on. A photo snapped of that flag has sparked a wave of responses online from those both disturbed by the image and by those upset that the history teacher involved is now being maligned.

FCPS is apologizing to anyone offended by the flag. “We sincerely apologize to our community for this incident as the hatred and intolerance this flag represents are in direct contrast to FCPS values. Our school system celebrates diversity and promotes respect for the dignity of every human being,” Spokesperson Daryl Boffman wrote in part of a statement.

The woman who originally posted the photo of the flag, which has gone viral, tells FOX 5 she was “puzzled” and “shocked” to see it. “There’s really no place for that full size replica flag to be in the school to begin with. Lesson or not,” Nicole Hopkins wrote to FOX 5.

Hopkins tagged Frederick County Board of Education President Brad Young in one of her posts. On Monday, Young said he also received a message from someone else and immediately contacted the school to have the flag taken down. Since last Friday, young says he’s received several emails from former students in support of the history teacher and his usage of the flag as an educational prop. Young also said, according to the students, the teacher may have been using this prop for the past seven years.

“This is not a big deal,” and similar statements to that effect were shouted by students as FOX 5 reported on this incident near school grounds Monday.

“First off I say the flag doesn't represent the values and beliefs of our school system or our community,” said the BOE President, Brad Young, “and we certainly as a school board don't want to get into telling teachers what they can use in order to teach their subjects. We do, however want to make sure that they're sensitive in the way that they're being used so that when the public sees them they understand the context in which they're being used as a teacher.”

Young said part of the investigation will be on why, if so many students said the flag has been used as a prop for years, was it on such prominent display this past Friday.

The BOE President, many parents and students, even a leader in Frederick’s Jewish Community all tell FOX 5 they do not believe that this was an intentional “Neo-Nazi” threat or anti-Semitic incident.

However, in an interview with Rabbi Jordan Hersh of Beth Shalom Congregation, the Jewish Community leader tells FOX 5 he has been receiving emails of concern from congregation members, and there are concerns he also shares.

“It seems that their understanding of the mistake was that it was placed in a conspicuous area that might have been visible to people outside of the school which is certainly a mistake. I think what many of us feel, is that even before that happened, hanging a Nazi flag in the classroom, even if it's not in view of a window to the outside, is unacceptable,” said Rabbi Hersh.

Ribbi Hersh referred to the Nazi flag as a “living symbol of hate.” 

“There are ways to [teach WWII 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,” Rabbi Hersh added, also referencing the recent rise in anti-Semitic acts.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) told FOX 5 it has reached out to Governor Thomas Johnson High School to, “offer its resources and best practices in handling this difficult subject matter …”

FCPS’ Spokesperson told FOX 5 the Nazi flag will not be hung as the investigation continues.