Should school punish teens for Jews-vs-Nazis beer pong? Your replies
PRINCETON — Should teenagers be penalized for playing a “Jews vs. Nazi”-themed beer pong game in a private home?
In calls to New Jersey 101.5's morning show Friday, several current and former Princeton High School students told News Director Eric Scott — subbing in for Bill Spadea — they were disgusted to learn about the game, which caught wide attention after student Jamaica Ponder posted it pictures about it on her blog. School officials say they'll discuss the matter with students.
But those calling in were split about what should be done — and how seriously the matter should be taken.
Current student John from Princeton said those taking part were having "fun" — even Jewish students playing along.
"They were playing the game not because of a hate crime they were trying to express," he said. "It's just because it was a game they could play on a Sat or Friday night to, I guess, have fun."
And John said the issue shouldn't be a matter for the school system, but for parents.
"You don't know what these people are feeling when they're playing the game," he said. "They're 17-, 18-year-old teenagers. You couldn't possibly know what they're thinking."
Deanna in Cranbury, at Princeton High School graduate, acknowledged that the game "could be taken personally for some people" and was "quite ignorant" — but said the matter has "nothing to do with education." She said she learned about the Holocaust throughout her time in the Princeton school district, and that the teens involved in the game would have as well.
"You've got to keep in mind these specific boys did not invent this game," she said.
Lucy in Trenton, another Princeton High graduate, said she was appalled by the game — and that those involved should certainly receive discipline.
"I can't even fathom why somebody would even say, 'Oh let's start this game.' I think it's crazy," she said.
During her time at Princeton, Lucy said, students wouldn't get in serious trouble for "things like this" — and said that should change.
"These kids do not deserve a slap on the wrist. We've been slapping them on the wrist and just passing them by for years," she said. "Finally, somebody has stood up and put it on the blog so people can see what's going on, and people still want to say, 'Oh, hush hush. These kids aren't doing do anything wrong.'"
Students are in school "a good majority of the day," so the school should take action, Lucy said.
"If the parents don't know what's going on in their basements, do you think they're going to take the time out to discipline these kids?" she asked. "These kids are going to be full ... adults soon."
It wasn't only members of the Princeton community taken aback. Nancy in Eatontown, a teacher and a parent, said the issue demonstrates how important it is to be careful with social media. It's a point Scott raised as well — that as the teens involved become adults and seek out careers, news and social media postings about the game may haunt them.
But more than that, Nancy said, "When you're desensitized to things — things like violence, death, destruction, it all becomes funny."
Anna in Skillman told Scott "the parents have failed to educate their kids about the Holocaust and the atrocities that went on."
Jeff, calling from on Route 295, said he's Jewish and has been learning about the Holocaust since he was 9 years old. But he said the matter was blown out of proportion.
"When you consider genocide, in general, or basically mass killings in general ... would they see the same backlash if it was, say, 'cowboys vs. Indians?' Or the Roman empire, which was around for thousands of years, which killed many, many people, how come there's no backlash against a toga party," he said.
Mark in Belle Mead said he thought because the incident didn't happen on school grounds, it would be an "overreach" in authority for the school system to get involved — "even though what these kids were doing was in very bad taste."
But Scott questioned whether the incident runs afoul of New Jersey's strict anti-bullying laws, which in many cases puts responsibility on school districts to investigate incidents off school grounds. And he said if Princeton's code of conduct addresses such behaviors, the students could be in violation.
Scott said Friday he was "almost at a loss for words that there was such a lack of awareness of what that imagery means, and devaluing the idea of genocide. The actual genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany."
"I think the bigger issue here now is why aren't these kids educated to the point where they understand what that means — the fact that they didn't realize this isn't something you joke about," he said. "That there are some things you just don't have quote-unquote 'fun' with is just mind-boggling."
In a statement quoted by several publications Thursday, schools Superintendent Stephen C. Cochrane said he was "deeply upset" that students chose to take part in the game — including peer leaders who should serve as role models for other students.
"We are focused on the lessons this incident has for all of us," he wrote, according to the reports. "Underage drinking is not a new problem; nor is the misuse of social media; nor are acts of bias or bigotry. They are not new problems, but they do not have to be ongoing ones."
His statement didn't suggest any discipline against the students involved, but said the incident "forces us to take a hard look at our efforts in educating our children in the values that may be most important to the success in their lives."
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