SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (WRGB) --"I was in a state of shock," said Cindy Choy.
Cindy Choy says her son, a senior at Saratoga Springs High School, was unfortunately not surprised by a "fourth reich" social media account, created by what looked to be some of his fellow students.
"He said it's a bunch of kids, but that doesn't make it right, it doesn't make it right to use the school, to hide behind that. If these kids are so proud of what they're espousing, put their name on it," said Choy.
But there were no names on the account, now taken down and no longer active.
The school sent a letter to parents addressing the incident saying: "The Saratoga Springs City School District denounces any speech which promotes acts of hatred or violence against any individual or group and upholds the rights of all students and adults to learn and teach without fear of discrimination, harassment, bullying or intimidation..."
Police are working with the school to question students following the page, and they believe it could be a student who created it, but say it could be anyone.
"You're trying to balance free speech and constitutional rights versus what the principles and beliefs are of the school system, there's a lot of the title in the page tying into Saratoga Springs High School which is not the case," said Lt. Bob Jilson.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen says she was proud of the school's letter after such a shock.
"I think when we see something like this, it's not only unusual for Saratoga Springs, by it's also shocking at that age group that they'd find such hatred already at that age level," said Yepsen.
"I'm blown away that this has happened in my back yard, it's hitting home, it's getting real. You have to take this seriously, we're in uncharted territory I think everyone feels the same," said Choy.
Police say they'll continue to assist in the investigation, but with no criminal actions they may not be able to do much more - the letter from the school to parents however does say any student engaging in speech or acts violating the code of conduct will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (WRGB) -- Neo-nazi imagery and messages show up in the Saratoga Springs High School community.
The district says it is partnering with law enforcement to track down whoever is behind an Instagram account, calling itself the "Saratoga High School Fourth Reich".
The superintendent sent a letter to parents - saying that the operators of the page had invited students to join, and hundreds have.
The letter also says the district has zero tolerance for any speech that promotes hate, and that officials are working with police to identify the original posters.
BELOW IS THE FULL STATEMENT FROM SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL PICCIRILLO
Dear School Community Member,
One of the most important facets of our democratic society is our ability to accept and celebrate our social and cultural differences. Our ability to lift up the ideals of freedom and cultural diversity have helped us to become an example for other nations in the world.
As the leader of our school district I take pride in the many accomplishments of our students and enjoy the opportunity to share them with you. However, I write to you today saddened and concerned by some recent events. It has been brought to my attention that a website or internet posting identified as “SHS4R” has been posted on Instagram and that Saratoga Springs students have been invited to follow the site. On the site, SHS4R is identified as standing for “Saratoga High School Fourth Reich” and the site makes several references to “neo-nazi.” I wish to make clear that the views expressed on this site are not representative of the school district’s beliefs nor are they authorized in any way or representative of any club or activity associated with the school district.
The Saratoga Springs City School District denounces any speech which promotes acts of hatred or violence against any individual or group and upholds the rights of all students and adults to learn and teach without fear of discrimination, harassment, bullying or intimidation based on an individual’s or group’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or for any other reason. The SHS4R page directly refers to a site that espouses white supremacy and anti-Semitic rhetoric. In addition, the moniker SHS4R inappropriately and without any permission directly relates the name of our high school to concepts expressed by Nazi Germany.
We have been working closely with law enforcement to investigate the site, and the investigation is ongoing. We are at this point unsure of who the author or authors of the site are or even if they are students of the school district. Any student engaging in speech or acts violating the code of conduct will be subject to the appropriate disciplinary action and may also be subject to criminal prosecution.
Hate and intolerance cut at the core of our values as a school, a city, a state, and a nation. As such, it is incumbent upon us to take an active role in exposing intolerance and teaching our children to celebrate diversity as a strength.
Our response to these events cannot be isolated; it must be comprehensive. We are a diverse community in many ways, and we must learn to broadly embrace this diversity. By doing so, we become a culturally richer and stronger community. I ask you to join the school district and me in continuing to promote diversity and a dialogue around this ideal. The school district will continue to take the lead in engaging local leaders and groups to participate in the long term work to educate each other and build systems to support diversity and inclusiveness. We ask all parents to speak with their own children about such ideals and encourage the same diversity and inclusiveness we promote at school.
Together we can strengthen our culture and build a strong foundation supported by acceptance and the celebration of our diversity. Please join me in these efforts.
Michael M. Piccirillo
Superintendent of Schools