The Grinnell Police Department in Iowa is investigating an incident involving a 14-year-old Jewish middle school student receiving an antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ Nazi-themed TikTok video called, "Hitler's Gang" that was posted on several social media platforms.
According to the Des Moines Register, Elliot Zaret – the father of the eighth-grader who was tormented by his classmates – said his child Ori is a student at Grinnell Middle School and identifies "under the umbrella of trans/nonbinary."
Zaret said Ori showed him and his wife the 10-second video showing two boys walking in goose-step like Nazis around school hallways with their arms extended in an apparent gesture saluting Hitler.
The clip, which was obtained by the news outlet, was accompanied by hateful hashtags targeting Jewish and LGBTQ people— including one that said to "kill" gay people but using a homophobic slur.
You can watch the news report, below.
WARNING: antisemitism and anti-LGBTQ+
Grinnell middle school students accused of posting racist TikTokyoutu.be
According to the interview, Zaret's family moved to Grinnell in January. He believed the clip was targeting Ori.
"That's why it seems so much more specifically targeted towards Ori."
"There aren't that many Jews in Grinnell to begin with, let alone LGBTQ Jews."
Ori told KCCI 8 they did not remember "doing much of anything to [the boys]. So it kind of confuses me," adding, "I'm afraid to go to school."
Grinnell Police Chief Michael McClelland issued a release saying they are working with school officials and the Poweshiek County Attorney's Office to determine if any laws were violated in relation to the video.
The release stated the Grinnell Police Department is "investigating this incident vigorously and we are committed to ensuring our students are safe and secure while attending school and in their community."
Dr. Janet Stutz, the Grinnell-Newburg Community Schools superintendent, said she was "shocked, disheartened, and disappointed" after watching the clip that was recorded in one of the schools in the district.
Although the students involved in the TikTok video were discplined, she did not disclose specifics pertaining to the punishment but added the behavior will not be tolerated.
The school district's anti-bullying policy states that harassment of other students could result in either suspension or expulsion.
Stutz said of the Zaret family:
"This family is new to our community."
"This is not how we welcome our new families."
Zaret recalled the trauma his ancestors suffered when expressing concern for the behavior of the hateful students.
"It was a little over a hundred years ago that my great grandparents and five of my grandfather's older brothers and sisters were slaughtered in the pogrom in Russia by rowdy mobs and that's what these kids could grow up into."
Ori's mother, Zoe Zaret added:
"These kids need to know this is not what our community finds acceptable."
"This is not what our country finds acceptable."
Ori's parents said they hope what happened sparks a "wider community discussion about hate."
"My hope is that this is a spotlight on [hate] and that people can't pretend and wish it away anymore."
Ori had once reported classmates making anti-Black comments before, but teachers were unable to take disciplinary action due to lack of proof.
Stutz said she was not aware of the incident but did say when it comes to disciplinary matters, teachers need to "look at the evidence."
"We have to make sure that kids are being heard."
"Take the moment in your class to say, 'Hey, if this is going on in my room, this is not allowed'."
"Take the time to have a teachable moment."
Zaret and his wife said they were grateful for how the school district and the police have handled the situation and are especially proud of Ori for speaking up.
In the meantime, the middle school staff is coming up with an "action plan" to have a conversation about the incident with the student body.
Stutz said a district equity consultant will also provide guidance.