ROCKBRIDGE — It has been a December to remember for all the wrong reasons for the county's school system, as it found itself dealing with separate back-to-back conduct issues involving high-school students engaged in anti-Semitic activity and bringing weapons on campus.
A total of four students are facing disciplinary action stemming from the separate issues that happened a day apart from each other, according to a statement from the school system. In the first one Wednesday, three students reportedly distributed images of them performing Nazi salutes at the school. The next day, a student was detained for allegedly bringing a handgun and ammunition to school.
In a Facebook post, the school system urged parents to use events from the past two days to talk with their kids about the "very serious risks" of bringing weapons to school or engaging in any kind of threatening activity on campus.
"Rockbridge County Public Schools takes all threats to safety very seriously, and the division will not tolerate any threats or actual violence on its property," the system statement read.
In the first incident, two of the students displayed the image of a swastika on a phone while a third student photographed them performing the "Seig Heil!" salute — a reference to the Nazi regime of World War II Germany. Across the photo was a red banner reading, "how RCHS kids celebrate Hanukkah." The photo was then distributed to students throughout the school.
A parent took to Twitter to show the photo and mention that a Jewish friend of his daughter's received the photo. The parent asked the American CIvil Liberties Union of Virginia for help.
— joewlaw (@LawforRealNow) December 2, 2021
The next day, according to the school system, the high school got a tip around lunchtime that a student might have brought a gun to school. Authorities searched the school and reportedly found the student with the handgun and ammo. The student is said to have told school authorities he did not plan to harm anyone with the gun.
The case was turned over to the Rockbridge Sheriff's Office for further investigation.
In both instances, the school system said the students were removed from campus. It was unclear when they would be allowed to return.
School officials said the two incidents are unrelated.
The entire statement from Rockbridge County can be found below.
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Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is daily news coach for USA TODAY's Southeast Region-Unified Central, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and central North Carolina. He is based in Petersburg, Virginia. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: Rockbridge faces issues with handgun, Nazi activity at high school