Northwest Career and Technical Academy students have created a Web site page branded with a Nazi swastika, religious symbols and peace signs to respond to allegations that a gym teacher at their school denied the Holocaust occurred.
The page is on the social networking site Facebook and is called "NWCTA (and others) against idiotic media."
The page on Wednesday had 220 members, including students from other high schools in the Clark County School District.
The Web site page is not sanctioned by school district officials.
The description of the page reads: "Consider this a hate group if you only see the surface, but take notice, this is a hate group against the largest hate group in the United States — the mass media."
Students on the Facebook page are debating the news coverage of gym teacher Lori Sublette, who is on paid leave as school officials investigate allegations that she denied the Holocaust in a class.
Some students have defended Sublette, saying she is entitled to her opinions and should not be fired.
But critics in the community, including survivors of the Nazi genocide that killed millions, stress that the Holocaust is a matter of historical fact, not opinion or belief.
"If somebody thinks this is cute, it’s not funny," said Raymonde Fiol, president of the Holocaust Survivors of Southern Nevada.
Her parents were killed during World War II at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
The graphic on the Facebook page shows a Nazi swastika in the upper right corner and the Star of David in the upper left corner, along with peace signs and the Christian cross.
Northwest student Gregg Rosenberg, 16, said he interpreted the graphic as a plea for tolerance and a statement that groups with different beliefs should get along.
"That’s only my opinion, though, and it might represent something else," Rosenberg said.
Administrators of the Facebook page, listed as Joseph Dagher and Euripides Westfall, did not respond to e-mails Wednesday.
Holocaust survivors and educators, however, are beside themselves, noting that Jewish victims of the Holocaust were killed for their religious beliefs.
Phyllis Friedman, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Nevada, said the swastika on the students’ Web site shows "how desperately (Holocaust) education is needed."
Friedman said she is pleased that officials at Northwest, a magnet high school on Tropical Parkway near Durango Drive, were receptive to offers from Holocaust survivors to speak at the school.
Because of Nevada’s budget crisis, state funding for Holocaust education programs is declining. The Legislature eliminated funding this year and next year for the Governor’s Advisory Council on Education Relating to the Holocaust, council members said.
Last year, the council got about $68,000. Its funding is typically used to buy books for libraries, pay for public speakers and provide educational grants to teachers, according to Rose Sbarra, the secretary to the council.
None of the 11 council members receive salaries.
The lack of state funding for such programs and the Holocaust denial controversy at Northwest distress Edythe Katz Yarchever, chairwoman of the governor’s advisory council on Holocaust education.
"Are we going back to the days of Ralph Engelstad?" said Yarchever, referring to the founder of the Imperial Palace.
Engelstad hosted Adolf Hitler birthday parties in the 1980s in a secret room at the Strip casino filled with Nazi memorabilia.
In 1989, Engelstad agreed to pay $1.5 million in a settlement with the state Gaming Control Board for tarnishing Nevada’s image. The embarrassment also led state lawmakers to create the advisory council on Holocaust education.
A group of educators called the Nevada Holocaust Education Task Force organizes two conferences every year in Reno and Las Vegas to train teachers on how to approach the sensitive topic of genocide, according to Stephanie Hartman, the history consultant for the Nevada Department of Education.
The task force operates on a "shoestring" budget of about $12,000, which covers the costs of both conferences and other expenses.
Because of the budget crisis, Hartman is worried the Legislature will eliminate state funding for task force as well.
The task force’s Las Vegas conference, planned before the controversy arose, is to be held Feb. 17 at the Northwest Career and Technical Academy.
Contact reporter James Haug at email@example.com or 702-374-7917.ON THE WEB
The Facebook link to NWCTA Against Idiotic Media