MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. (WIAT) — After a picture and video surfaced online of a Mountain Brook history teacher and students appearing to do a Nazi salute in class, CBS 42 sat down with a Jewish student who witnessed it all happen.
Ephraim Tytell said his class was learning about what the Nazi salute meant before it became a hateful gesture.
“He [The teacher] explained to us that in America we used to do that before WWII and everything and then he proceeded to show us, ask us to stand up to salute the flag and he and everyone else did the Nazi salute,” Ephraim told CBS 42. “I felt upset, unsure of what’s going on. Just kind of shocked.”
Ephraim explained he then posted a video and picture of the incident to social media, speaking out against what happened. The next day, he said school administrators reprimanded him.
“They proceeded to tell me that I’m making Mountain Brook look bad for uploading the video and sharing it and asked me to apologize to my teacher, which I refused to,” he said. “The day after he made our class, and our class only, put up our phones and he moved me from sitting in the back of the class to right next to him.”
On Tuesday, Mountain Brook School’s issued this statement:
Mountain Brook Schools was made aware of a situation surrounding a US History
lesson that was reported on January 18th to the school administration. Upon
investigation, the US History teacher was teaching a lesson on the meaning of symbols
in the context of history. The Bellamy Salute was used as an example of a symbol
whose meaning dramatically changed. The salute was named for Francis Bellamy, the
writer of the Pledge of Allegiance, originating in 1892. A similar symbol was adopted by
the Nazi Party in the 1920’s. Because of the atrocities committed by the Nazi Party
against humanity, the symbol’s meaning in America changed and the American flag
salute was changed to a hand over the heart in 1942. The focus of the lesson was the
meaning of symbols, how they change, and why the Bellamy Salute should never again
be recognized due to its association with the actions of the Nazi Party.
The picture and 3 second video being circulated are not representative of the lesson,
what was being taught, or the context of the instruction that was occurring. Any
representation that this picture or video represents a Mountain Brook teacher attempting
to instruct students on how to use the Nazi Party Salute or instruct them to use the
salute towards the American flag is unequivocally false. No students were asked to
raise their hand for any reason.
Understanding the sensitive nature of this subject, Mountain Brook Schools hasMountain Brook Schools
addressed the instructional strategy used with the teacher and does not condone the
modeling of this salute when a picture or video could accurately convey the same
message. As we have worked to address this issue, we have been in close
communication with the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community
Relations Council. This issue has been addressed with the teacher and education has
and will continue to be provided. We understand the impact of this issue on our
community and families and will continue to work to help promote support and
education on this issue.
Ephraim said at this time, the school has not issued any sort of apology to him for the incident.
Watchdog organization StopAntisemitism.org responded to the incident, telling CBS 42 in a statement, “Mountain Brook administration’s behavior threatening to punish the Jewish pupil for his principled and courageous stance against performing a Nazi salute in class and dismissing the reasonable concerns of Jewish parents can only be understood as unconscionable acts of intentional antisemitism.”