The mother of a Frontier High School student tweeted a photo late Thursday night of a Nazi flag hanging in one of the school's classrooms.
Roxie Hartline tweeted that the class is currently studying the Holocaust, which is why the flag — featuring the swastika symbol — is hanging in the corner of the room.
The tweet ignited discussion on social media and the flag has since been taken down in history teacher David Gaeta's classroom.
So this evening, daughter says that the school knows about this & bcuz they’re studying the Holocaust “it’s okay”!! Um excuse me, they wouldn’t put up a poster of two people engaging in sex in health class! Why?!Bcuz it’s OFFENSIVE! @FrontierTitans @KGETnews @bakersfieldnow @CNN pic.twitter.com/nbhnqM8BKx— Roxie Hartline (@HartlineRoxie) February 1, 2019
Hartline told The Californian she has a lot of respect for Gaeta, her daughter’s history teacher, but said the swastika displayed so prominently in the classroom was a bad idea.
Gaeta was given the authentic World War II-era flag years ago by a student who had a family member who served in that war. The teacher has displayed the swastika flag during the class’ World War II unit study for more than a decade.
“He’s a great teacher and loved by all,” Hartline said in a text message. “However, the symbol of hate is the first thing (my daughter) sees walking into class. She said she would have been more upset about it but because she likes Mr. Gaeta she let it slide as apparently everyone else has.
"This flag doesn’t just represent history. It represents racism in the current day also," Hartline said. "The school is predominantly white and my daughter is African-American. I just totally disagree with it being hung up at all."
Gabriel Gaeta, David Gaeta's son, reached out to The Californian on Friday, he said, because he wanted to bring much-needed detail and context to the story.
"Each year," Gabriel Gaeta said of his dad, "he notifies administration and takes the time to thoroughly and diligently explain the flag’s origin and history to students."
There's no political motive, the younger Gaeta said. As a veteran history teacher with more than 20 years' experience in the classroom, his dad's decision to use the flag during the World War II unit, was both "legitimate and purposeful.
"A lot of news stations are running with an incomplete story," he said. "I just want the truth to get into the newspaper."
Whether you agree or disagree with his dad's decision to display the flag, he said.
According to Kern High School District spokeswoman Erin Briscoe, once the elder Gaeta realized some students and parents were offended, he decided to take down the flag and refrain from displaying it in the future.
The swastika would typically be displayed for two to three weeks, the length of the World War II unit, Briscoe said.
Seeing that flag hanging in the classroom every day for weeks? Hartline wondered why that was necessary.
The elder Gaeta did not respond to an email request for comment.