(UPDATED Editor’s Note: Because this involves a photo of a minor, Central Oregon Daily News is blurring out his face. Also, his mother initially referred to him by name on social media when addressing the incident. She has since removed his name from her post, so we are no longer naming him.)
A photo purportedly showing the son of Oregon House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson of Prineville performing a Nazi salute in front of a vintage airplane with a swastika on it has prompted calls for Breese-Iverson’s resignation. Both Breese-Iverson and her son have issued apologies.
The image started circulating on social media Saturday, with members of the Central Oregon Diversity Project (CODP) calling for Breese-Iverson, a Republican, to resign to focus on her family. CODP also claims it happened on a school field trip and alleges that the school did not immediately discipline the teen.
The incident happened May 31 at the Ericksen Aircraft Collection in Madras, the Crook County School District confirmed to Central Oregon Daily News.
The photo shows two people, one of those purportedly being Breese-Iverson’s son, performing the salute in front of the World War II-era plane with a swastika on the tail. The teen’s face is seen, but the face of the other person is scribbled out.
It’s unclear who took the photo.
The Ericksen Aircraft Collection website says it has a Focke-Wulf 190 which includes a swastika on the tail.
Breese-Iverson issued an apology on Facebook. She acknowledged that her son did pose in front of the plane, but did not specifically address the salute.
“This week, my son was on a field trip at the Erickson Aircraft Collection which hosts a retired Nazi airplane. Out of extremely poor judgement and without considering the impact this photo would have, he posed in front of the aircraft. My husband and I have been in contact with the school administration about enforcing adequate consequences for his actions, both at school and at home. In no way do my husband or I condone these actions, and we apologize to anyone impacted by this image.”
She included an image of a handwritten apology that she said was from her son.
“When I was on a field trip with World War 2 planes, I walked past a plane with a Nazi symbol on it, and posed for a photo that my friend took and posted. It was a dumb mistake. I really get that now. Doing something bad in the moment without thinking can cause harm. I apologized to anyone that was offended and have accepted the punishment handed down to me by the school and my parents.”
Commenting to Central Oregon Daily News by email, Breese-Iverson said those involved are minors.
When asked about what disciplinary measures were taken, the Crook County School District said it was prohibited from commenting on that specifically due to federal law. The district released this statement:
“Crook County School District does not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination, hate speech, or the use of symbols that are considered hate speech. School administrators take issues like this seriously and utilize existing policies for appropriate disciplinary action.
“HOUSE BILL 2697, also known as Every Student Belongs, requires education providers to prohibit the use or display of any symbols of hate on school property or in an education program except when the use or display aligns with the state standards of education for public schools. It also requires educators to adopt a policy addressing bias incidents and hate symbols. Crook County School District follows existing state law to address disciplinary action when students use hate speech, symbols, or offensive and inappropriate gestures.
“The school district will not comment on the specific discipline of any student, as that would be a violation of a student’s privacy rights under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA). School administrators respond immediately and appropriately to any bias complaints or hate speech incidents when they occur. We also believe that education is an important component by giving students an opportunity to self-correct and learn from their actions.”
Rep. Emerson Levy, D-Bend, who is Jewish, released this statement on Sunday after learning of the image:
“As a state representative and a member of the Jewish community in Central Oregon, many people have asked my thoughts regarding the disappointing photo of Minority Leader Breese Iverson’s son performing a Sieg Heil at the Eriksen Air Museum.
Without equivocation, the photo is inexcusable and offensive. To be clear, I speak only on behalf of my Jewish family and not for the Jewish community.
I have a personal and legislative policy regarding social media when the subject is a minor and only raise this issue today after Minority Leader Breese Iverson publicly raised the issue by commenting yesterday on her sons’s unacceptable behavior.
Personally, and professionally, I’ve had no interactions with Minority Leader Breese Iverson that suggest she holds antisemitic beliefs. I do not believe she supports these grotesque anti-human views in her personal or family life.
This raises a more significant issue around education, including education around the Holocaust and Pogroms. Our children must learn history, the bad, and the good, to ensure the darker moments aren’t repeated. In an era where books are once again banned, there are some that prefer to ignore to rewrite history for their own narrative and to ease their own minds.
When something is wrong, we say something, partly to ensure that harmful outcomes don’t reoccur. If we as a community fail to present and learn from the past, honestly, we will be doomed to relive that nightmare because, without intervention, history will repeat itself.”