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Teens playing Jews vs. Nazis beer pong is troubling, but adult reaction is more disturbing

News broke yesterday about students at a top Atlanta private school playing beer pong, a drinking game in which players toss ping-pong balls into the other team’s cups. If the ball lands in a cup, the opponents down the beer. Teens from the prestigious Lovett School added a troubling wrinkle to the game; they arranged the cups in the shape of a swastika and a Star of David, playing Jews vs. Nazis.

The Lovett School became aware of the game via a photo posted on social media. (Why is it teens cannot resist posting photos of even their dumbest actions?)

According to the AJC, five seniors were suspended and one was expelled.

The story states:

Another student, who hosted the off-campus party with 19 current Lovett School seniors, three alumni and about 10 other students and graduates, was suspended and will have an opportunity to reapply to the school, Peebles said.

Four more seniors were also suspended and two students who appeared to be watching the game were banned from co-curricular activities during the first two weeks of school.

Lovett is a private school with a code of conduct for its students. The code of conduct and the school's character expectations don't stop at the school grounds.

In a statement to the AJC's sister TV station, WSB, Lovett said: "Character education is at the heart of all we do at Lovett, and we deeply appreciate the individuals and organizations across our community who are helping us to continue to learn and grow from this very troubling incident."

Last night, I read about 300  comments about the incident on Facebook, many of which contended the school had no right to act because the drinking game occurred at a student's home. Commenters also argued the game itself was harmless, both in its Jews vs. Nazis theme and in the underage drinking.

Here is a sampling of the prevalent sentiment:

Seriously? If it didn't happen at school it's nobody's freakin business.

Exactly. People are afraid of everything nowadays. It's just beer pong.

Tune in next week when a kindergarten class gets expelled for playing Cowboys and Indians! At home.

I think it's freaking hilarious, They are making laughs out of what the what world is making war about. As far as them drinking, ok, they shouldn't be, but I'm sure no one else here had a drink before they were 21.

What is so wrong about it? They were not being racist. They were not antagonizing anybody,

Sick of schools parenting our children. Snowflake factories.

I find this detestable. Underage drinking is illegal (assuming the cups ACTUALLY had alcohol) but it was off campus, not on school hours therefore a parent issue not a school issue. Government overreach.

Let's consider what these remarks are actually saying:

First, we expect all teens to drink because everybody did it. This helps explain why we have so many teens dying after car accidents in which they or the driver had been drinking. (No, I didn't drink in high school and neither did my friends. See CDC stats below to show we were not that unusual.)

According to the CDC, when asked about alcohol usage over the past 30 days, 33 percent of teens admitted to drinking, 8 percent drove after drinking and 20 percent got in a car with a driver who had been drinking.

Here are some other CDC statistics:

  • Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.
  • Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.4 More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.
  • On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
  • In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

Second, the comments argue schools have no right to censure student behavior beyond their doorsteps. Can we all spell hypocrisy?

Parents increasingly demand schools police their children's social media usage, even though parents buy their kids the smartphones and allow them 24/7 access to the devices. And it's the insistence of parents that their kids have their phones with them at all times that has eroded most school policies attempting to ban phones from classrooms.

A parent recently complained to me her child was playing games on her phone during math class. The mother blamed a lax teacher for failing to monitor her daughter and prevent her from sneaking out her phone. I asked the mom why she just didn't take away her teen's cellphone. The woman said her daughter "needed her phone for emergencies."

As one lone commenter noted:

So when your kid commits suicide at home from being bullied at home (online) from his/her peers at school then I assume the school should stay out of it then. Or when your kid's nude photos get leaked online, I'm assuming yet again the school should stay silent. Sounds about right, but typically parents blame the school for these very same cases. I bet the tune will change when it's YOUR kid."

I read all the local stories about teens, some of which are about high school athletes being arrested. And I read all the comments. When those kids are African-American, the tenor of the comments is typically, "Throw the thug out of school."

I was struck again by the double standards used to judge teen wrongdoing in reviewing the comments about this Lovett incident. As one commenter said: "The same people complaining about Colin Kaepernick kneeling are the ones making excuses about how there's nothing wrong with what these kids did."

And, lastly, what reasonable person would compare high school seniors using a Star of David and a swastika as a drinking game motif to young kids playing cowboys and Indians in the back yard? While I agree the teenage brain is a work in progress, I have to believe some of the smart Lovett students at this party realized the Jews vs. Nazis idea was repugnant.

As one commenter said:

People are actually arguing for the kids' rights to play Nazis vs Jews. Like somehow this is OK. Can anyone add to the end of their sentences that they find this morally reprehensible?



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.