Band students in hot water over furniture formation: Chairs found in shape officials believe was intended swastika

Published on Friday, 14 February 2014 17:44 - Written by Kenneth Dean kdean@tylerpaper.com

BULLARD — A discovery by a Bullard High School staff member this week prompted the principal to scold his band students and to express the disdain behind the symbol they believe was intended to be a Nazi swastika.

Bullard High School Principal Scott Franks said the discovery of the chairs in the band hall being arranged in the backward form of a large Nazi swastika was the worst situation he has had to deal with to date in his seven year tenure. 

“I am not happy, and this is under investigation at this time,” he told the Tyler Morning Telegraph, which received a photo from a reader and called the school about the incident. “I am taking this very serious and I am not happy at all.”

Based on a photo sent to the Tyler Paper, the chairs were set up as a sauwastika, in which the arms point to the left. In a swastika, the arms extend 90 degrees to the right from the center point.

Both images have roots in ancient civilizations and have various meanings, but the swastika became a symbol of Nazi Germany.

Franks said that upon learning of the chair arrangement, he sat down with the high school band students and had a serious talk with them about the symbol, the Holocaust and World War II.

“We had a discussion with the students and explained to them the meaning behind this symbol and the lives lost fighting against that symbol including the lives of eight Bullard citizens,” he said.

Franks said he did not know if the students responsible acted out of hate, or were just trying to be funny, but he felt the discussion was needed to educate the students.

But despite using the incident as a teachable moment, Franks said there will be consequences for those responsible.

While he could not say if the students could face suspension, he did indicate some type of punishment would be forthcoming.

“We are investigating this thoroughly and, when we learn who is responsible, they will be disciplined according to our policy and guidelines,” he said. 

Whether or not it was a prank, one Tyler Jewish leader said he sees the creation of such a symbol as a hate crime. 

“As much as it probably was a prank, it certainly depicts a lack of understanding of what a swastika means, not just in Jewish history, but in world history,” said Rabbi Alan Learner of Congregation Ahavath Achim in Tyler. “The swastika is a symbol of oppression and tyranny. It shows a lack of empathy and compassion on the children’s part. They certainly need to be educated to understand the offense.”

Learner went on to say that he considers creating a swastika a hate crime, and that his father experienced anti-Semitism in the ’50s in Milwaukee, but Learner himself has never experienced it in East Texas.

 

Staff Writers Faith Harper and Rebecca Hoeffner contributed to this report.