Sidwell Friends Investigating After Swastikas Appear on Screen at Assembly

Several usernames projected during a presentation were racist toward Asian Americans and Native Americans and two usernames included swastikas, the head of school said

Administrators at the elite Sidwell Friends School in Northwest D.C. are investigating after swastikas and racist usernames written by students were displayed on screens during an assembly Wednesday. 

The incident involved high school students gathered to hear a presentation about a student-run organization that works to build community with refugee children in the the D.C. area through soccer, according to a letter from the Sidwell Friends Head of School, Bryan Garman, that a parent sent to News4.

According to Garman, the presenter used a learning game called Kahoot that allows users to build quizzes and test participants, who respond in real-time. Players accumulate points and are ranked on a leaderboard, with usernames projected on a screen.

Students responded by using their cellphones, but several of the usernames projected onto the screen were racist toward Asian Americans and Native Americans, and two included swastikas, Garman said in the letter.

"As soon as the images were recognized, the Assistant Dean of Students signaled the presenters to turn off the projection and end the presentation," Garman said. "We have begun a thorough investigation into the matter to ascertain the identity of the students responsible for this action."

HuffPost first reported the incident and said that about 500 students from ninth through 12th grades had attended the presentation from OnSide, the student group.

A student attending the event told HuffPost that everyone went quiet when they saw a username consisting of two swastikas.

Garman said the incident is an "extremely serious breach" of the school's honor code and harassment policy.

"I am disappointed, dismayed, and deeply sorry that such an incident could take place at our School. Racism and anti-semitism will not be tolerated in this community," Garman said.

Sidwell is an elite private school known for educating the children of powerful Washingtonians, including liberal leaders. Former President Barack Obama's older daughter, Malia, is a graduate, while his younger, Sasha, is a senior there. Chelsea Clinton also is a graduate.

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