An 11-year-old girl was removed from class and sent to the principal’s office at her Tennessee school last week after calling on her classmates to stop making the Nazi salute, according to the girl’s father.
In a series of tweets Tuesday, Keith Gamble said his daughter’s classmates made the gesture on multiple occasions after a teacher instructed a student who was assigned to play Adolf Hitler in a history project to give the “Sieg Heil” salute at the end of his speech.
“Each time, my daughter spoke out even though she was told by a teacher ‘not to address it,'” Gamble tweeted.
On Thursday, she was dismissed from class after shouting, “Stop it, put your hands down now,” to a group of students who gave the salute in response to the student portraying Hitler, according to Gamble.
James Evans, a spokesperson for Rutherford County Schools, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that the assignment was part of a World War II exhibit of Living History performed by fifth-graders at McFadden School of Excellence in Murfreesboro.
The assignment involved the student who was portraying Hitler to deliver a speech and give the Nazi salute at the end, he said.
“During rehearsal on Thursday, May 9, the student gave his presentation, and when he gave his salute, some other students in the class responded with the same salute,” Evans said in the statement. “When this occurred, one student became upset and had an outburst.”
Evans said the teacher talked with the student and tried to calm her down “but was unable to do so.” The teacher then took the student to the hallway “to give her some time to calm down but to no avail,” according to Evans.
The teacher called the girl’s mother and then took her to the principal “to talk about what had happened,” the school spokesperson said.
“The student was not disciplined or punished in any way for her concerns or actions,” he said. “In fact, the school agrees the actions of the students were completely inappropriate.”
Gamble did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ requests for comment.
According to screenshots of an email Gamble’s wife sent to the school’s principal laying out a timeline of the incident, 10 to 20 of his daughter’s classmates first performed the Nazi salute in mid-April during the class’s first rehearsal for the Living History project.
In an email to Gamble’s wife Friday, a teacher said the girl was given “an open platform at that time to appropriately voice her concerns and share with her peers her feelings, then she was asked to not address it again,” according to the screenshots.
The teacher wrote that when the girl “yelled out” during the final rehearsal last Thursday she “was disrespectful with her tone and body language to me and Mrs. J[redacted] while we were trying to discuss her behavior with her,” according to the screenshots.
From mid- to late April, students continued to make Sieg Heil salutes around campus, upsetting Gamble’s daughter, according to the timeline provided by her parents.
“She shares her concerns with these students and states that the Sieg Heil salute is wrong,” her mother stated. “At some point, a group of students plans to perform a mass Nazi salute directed at D[redacted] when she enters a classroom.”
At that time, another teacher spoke to the class and told students not to make the gesture anymore, the email said. Despite the teacher’s intervention, some students continued to make the salute in early May after additional rehearsals, according to the email.
During an awards ceremony to acknowledge the Living History performances Friday, Gamble’s wife witnessed four boys give Nazi salutes when the student who portrayed Hitler received an award, according to the email. No teacher intervened.
When Gamble’s daughter accepted an award, she addressed the situation and asked parents to talk to their children about why making the gesture is wrong.
“She has been bullied by classmates and targeted personally with Nazi salutes, so school feels lonely sometimes,” Gamble tweeted. “But her family is so proud of her, and I bet there are others who are too!”
Evans said the principal investigated and confirmed two incidents in which students gave the Nazi salute outside of the history project and that teachers intervened on both occasions. He added that the principal met with all fifth-graders “to put a stop to any further instances.”
“In addition, the school will no longer feature a student portraying Hitler or the salute as part of the Living History project,” Evans said. “The school will find alternative means of covering the fifth-grade history standard.”