Cherry Creek High students' anti-Semitic social media post under investigation

Anti-Defamation League in contact with school on response to Snapchat post

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After a student posted a photo on social media that referenced violence against Jews, Cherry Creek High School notified families in a letter, and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office began an investigation.

“Cherry Creek High School does not tolerate hateful speech or actions,” wrote Ryan Silva, the school's principal, in a letter to the community. “Our responsibility is to keep students safe and to provide a place where students of every race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation feel safe, valued and supported.”

The Snapchat post, bearing one line of text, showed three students dressed up in a wig and hats that don't appear to have an anti-Semitic connotation.

“Me and the boys bout to exterminate the Jews,” the post read.

It did not make threats against specific students or Jewish students in general at Cherry Creek High, according to the sheriff's office. It occurred over the weekend in what appears to be a store.

“However, we are investigating to determine the impact on the school environment and will take appropriate action,” Silva wrote in the letter sent the afternoon of Sept. 16.

The three students in the photo say they were unaware of the anti-Semitic caption, and the fourth student took the picture, wrote the caption and posted it, Silva wrote.

The sheriff's office does not believe it was “a credible threat,” spokeswoman Ginger Delgado said. The sheriff's office has talked to the students, and no citations or charges have been given, according to Delgado.

It's unclear what disciplinary action the school could take. The district does not release private information about students or potential disciplinary action, said Abbe Smith, Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman.

The school is talking with the Anti-Defamation League — an organization that works to combat anti-Semitism and other discrimination — about how best to support students in the wake of the post, Silva wrote.

Even if done in jest, it's a “horrific reference” to the killing of Jews, said Scott Levin, director of the ADL Mountain States Region.

“Not just the Holocaust, not just that we're just a year from the Tree of Life” shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Levin said. “All of these are very fresh in the minds of the Jewish community.”

Over the past three years, anti-Semitic incidents in Colorado have been on a rise, said Levin, whose office serves Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. In 2015, Levin's office tracked 18 anti-Semitic incidents in Colorado, he said. The next year, that number jumped to 45, then to 57 in 2017 and fell to 39 last year.

That appears to be the largest number of incidents in a three-year period since the ADL started counting in the 1970s, Levin said.

“Unfortunately, we fear as we move closer to the next national election taking place, it is probably only going to remain bad,” Levin added.

Because the Cherry Creek Snapchat post just happened, nothing specific is planned yet between the school and the ADL in reaction to it, but they're in discussions, Levin said. The school has had No Place for Hate — an anti-prejudice education initiative — in place for several years, according to Levin.

The danger of the type of caption the students posted lies in their potential to help normalize hate, and in the possibility that people will act on those views, Levin said.

Important to remember, too, is that “it's never funny to the target,” Levin said. “And we should really respect them, whether it's because of their religion or color or sexual identity or orientation. It's about the impact on them and their community."

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