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Princeton Superintendent of Schools Issues Statment About Student Beer Pong Game

Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane issued a statement this afternoon expressing his distress about a photo of a group of Princeton High School students playing a drinking game called “Jew vs. Nazi Beer Pong” that has circulated on social media, a blog, and news stories.

“As an individual and as the Superintendent of the Princeton Public Schools, I am deeply upset that some of our students chose to engage in a drinking game with clearly anti-Semitic overtones and to broadcast their behavior over social media,” Cochrane wrote.

Some of the students in the beer pong photo are athletes at the high school. Others are peer leaders who are part of the PER education program at the school. Several parents have expressed dismay that students who are supposed to be role models were playing the game and drinking when they are under age. The game took place in the basement of a private home in Princeton last weekend.

Cochrane said school district officials are talking to the students in the photo and their families.

“We are also focused on the lessons this incident has for all of us,” Cochrane wrote. “Underage drinking is not a new problem; nor is the misuse of social media; nor are actions of bias or bigotry. They are not new problems, but they do not have to be ongoing ones.”

“Jews vs. Nazis beer pong”  is the same as regular beer pong, except cups are arranged in the shape of a swastika and a Star of David. The “Jews” are allowed to hide one of their cups as the “Anne Frank” cup and the “Nazis” are allowed to “Auschwitz” their oppo­nents, mean­ing that one of their play­ers must tem­porar­ily sit out.

The photo of the Princeton High students playing the game, sent to Planet Princeton by a handful of upset parents Wednesday night, shows seven students standing around a table with the red cups and a few dozen cans of Coors Light.

A fellow student who was upset when she saw the photo of the game on Snapchat wrote a blog post Wednesday that then was shared hundreds of times on Facebook. The photo and stories about the game have sparked discussions about anti-semitism, underage drinking, and parental responsibility.

“As a community we all have a role in teaching our children to make good decisions, to be legally responsible, and to be respectful members of a diverse society,” Cochrane wrote. “An incident such as this one, forces us to take a hard look at our efforts in educating our children in the values that may be most important to their success in life. I am hopeful that as school district we can join with parents, with other agencies in our community, and with students themselves to elevate our efforts to prepare our children to be people of character.”

beer pong

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand the question. By “private” I’m referring to many comments here and elsewhere saying that it took place in a private home and it should be dealt without any intervention by the school, law enforcement, etc. By “swept under the rug” I mean there would be intervention but it would not be transparent to the rest of the school or larger community. My point was that it could have been exposed and dealt somewhere on the continuum between “just the kids and their parents” and on the world stage via trashy news outlets.

    Is the doubling down coming directly from the parents of the students in the photo or is it visceral reaction from others? I respect those parents’ and students’ rights to at least take some time to make sure they don’t continue to take thoughtless and hurtful actions. Personally I think it’s too soon to draw conclusions about whether their responses will be remorseful or arrogant or face-saving or non-existent. I’m just glad it’s Friday.

  • Joe Casey

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Arrogance is the underlying issue in my opinion.

    Note tonight’s response on the task force in Princeton where underage drinking is not illegal on private property because of concern for civil liberties.

  • Joe Casey

    There should indeed be news trucks.

    This has been tolerated and encouraged for sometime.

    Nothing will change unless the school is under pressure to something constructive.

    Does not seem to be the focus, sadly.

  • Anonymous

    Princeton Opinion is not saying that she shouldn’t have exposed the activities, but that there were other options for doing so. A different tack could have addressed the behavior without the same level of fallout that PHS and our community is dealing with now.

  • Liz Winslow

    Well which is it – private or swept under the rug?

    I’d submit that if the parents and kids a) really thought they’d done anything wrong and b) thought for a moment about how to actually make this blow over faster, they’d have apologized immediately and committed to bettering themselves. Instead, there’s been a lot of doubling down on how not big a deal it was, the kids will face consequences that aren’t fair, etc. etc. The arrogance is breathtaking. I mean, that’s the conclusion I’m forced to make – they’re so sure they can get away with no consequences that they haven’t even apologized. For *anything.*

  • The perfect human

    I cry for magnum TA

  • anonymous

    I am thinking the same about the way this was handled, given the global negative media exposure and disruption this has brought to our town and our high school,

    I applaud Jamaica for shining a light on reprehensible behavior that should definitely not have been dismissed as child’s play. But she would still be a heroic whistle blower by first raising it in one of the ways noted above, to address what was going on in the photo and on anything systemic in the school or our community that might be encouraging it. Now we have news trucks outside of PHS and the story making the landing pages of tabloids like the Daily Mail.

    It does not need to be swept under the rug or be a 100% private matter, given the serious implications of the photo. But escalating it as such has sensationalized it, pitted us against each other, and potentially cheapened the process of really addressing it.

  • theserifinac457

    Agree. The school knows it’s negligent which is why they are spinning fast and the media is not calling them out on it,

  • theserifinac457

    Yes, party on.

  • theserifinac457

    Yes. Good approach. Nothing to see here. No need for transparency or accountability.

    These are public issues because social hosting is illegal.

    Princeton PD and PHS need to be held accountable and do their job.

    Parents who do the social hosting tend to be vocal about it. But I guess not in public.

    This student shone a light on it.

    Are you a parent who social hosts too but prefer it be handled privately?

    i’ll add you to the list. It should be public.

    The Cranbury and Princeton parents who were very open about social hosting have gone silent.

    You?

  • theserifinac457

    Let it lie?

    Because of some spin?

    (Oh sorry, you’re part of the spin.)

    There’s not too much grey area. Some of these kids drive home. Its dangerous to them and others.

    The promotion of underage drinking in Princeton and Cranbury by parents hosting these parties – and supplying the alcohol in at least some cases I’m aware of – is a disgrace. Pure and simple.

    Check out some of the Cranbury parents at the next home football game next fall – wasted….they talk about it like college kids – except that they re in their 40s and 50s. Role models…

    They are a disgrace.

    Check out last fall’s Princeton HS fundraiser – Oktoberfest. Sounds fun – except for the parents drunk in front of the HS kids.. Party on.

    Drop by the Princeton University Alumni reunion (with Steve! he’s an alum!) May 26 -29 and count with me the number of 16 year old PHS students being served in the presence of PHS staff (and stay to watch some drive). I will be.I’ll send you the Vimeo…Maybe Steve will wave.

    No biggie. Not a public issue.

    The school looking the other way is also disappointing.

    A high school junior showing courage and bringing this into the light shows me a lot more than Steve Cochrane is showing.

    Party on. Spin on.

  • theserifinac457

    Indeed. These students, other than Ponder, and the parents are a complete disgrace.
    PHS is close behind.

  • theserifinac457

    Agree. The school and any parents who still have a backbone should support the brave HS junior.

    Cranbury and Princeton Parents: Cowards and a complete disgrace

    School Administration: Cowards

    High School Junior: Courage

  • theserifinac457

    He’s definitely speaking, but weak.

    Spinning.

    School needs to do more than that.

    I leave in Cranbury. Have a kid at the school. These parents know what’s going on and are brazen about it. Some parents are openly supporting and hosting parties supplying alcohol. School knows.

    They have been vocal but now are silent.

    Cranbury Parents : crickets and then lawyers

    PHS: Spin and delay

    Media: What’s our next topic?

    School looks the other way. Better for relationships that way.

    Party on.

  • theserifinac457

    party on.

  • theserifinac457

    Absolutely.

  • theserifinac457

    ‘Deeply upset’? Now? This has been going awhile I think.

    Are you going to challenge Cochrane in any way or just take the spin class?

    Parents and the high school need to do some soul searching.

    The underage drinking issue needs more attention. These parties are hosted by many parents in Princeton and Cranbury, who in fact are strident in telling you that they supply the alcohol. This is well known among PHS students and many parents. Doesn’t take much investigation (if you try). Creates a climate.

    These parents, in my experience, are very open and vocal about why they promote this – but now they are silent. Why?

    ‘Social Hosting Families’? Enlighten us again?

    The Princeton PD does n’t know whether any adults hosted this party. Hmm.

    When i learned that this was going on a year ago, it took me a few hours to “investigate’. Called other parents. Learned that they are ‘Social Hosting Families’ (who says such a thing?).

    Contacted a coach at PHS to alert the coach that a player was selling fake IDs to other players. Thought she may want to know. Coach’s initial response? ‘A graduated player or a current player?’ Climate.

    How about the blatant underage drinking by PHS students at the Princeton University Alumni Reunions? In the presence of PHS staff and parents? Unknown to Princeton PD? Unknown to PHS? Absolutely not. Climate.

    We’ll film alcohol serving at a tent this year’s reunion (coming up soon) and see if readers can help pick out the 16 year olds from the alumni when serving alcohol.

    The student – a high school junior – who shone the light on this shows far more courage than these parents and PHS.

    I hope PHS uses this as an opportunity to do some good.

    So far, just spin and delay. This climate was created by adults.

  • songstress

    Yeah for Ms. Ponder. I am proud of her and her parents. It is NOT every Jews responsibility to raise your children to have a conscience or empathy. It is the Parents job of the youth who find this amusing. It is a failing on the part of society as it was during the pre Holocaust years.

  • songstress

    You have lost your humanity. This is not a harmless childish game where they are nazis, anne franks, auschwitz’s, If this is not offensive to you, you have lost your humanity. And I would love to see what CAH thinks of your comparison since many of the staff are Jews and nothing they say is even remotely comparable to the Jew hatred here.

  • songstress

    THEY THEMSELVES TOOK PHOTOS OF THEMSELVES DOING THIS HORRID THING SO MINORS OR NOT, THEY POSTED, TWEETED AND SNAP CHATTED IT

  • krystalknapp

    No. We like man other news outlets do not post names or photos of minors, unless their parents give permission. We also do not post the names of minors in the police blotter. This is standard practice.

  • Blake Cash

    It must be sad to see morals as out of reach.

  • Blake Cash

    Thank you for displaying your level of maturity.

    There is nothing humorous about NAZIs, the fact you take them so lightly indicates a lack of sensitivity. Don’t get me wrong, “sensitivity” is an overused term, the reason I hate seeing it applied to every scraped knee is that it becomes meaningless in a conversation such as this. The NAZIs represent a decapitation in comparison.

    “It’s just a game,” “It was only a joke'” and other deflections are useful for the ignorant. They allow bigotry and hatred to flourish under a disingenuous affect of innocence. It is not a joke when no one is laughing. It is not “just” a game when bigotry is glorified.

    When you move up in your education and study the Holocaust (I think it’s in Junior High, you may have a few years to wait) I can only hope you discover what it is that everyone is so upset about.

    On the other hand, you may be a practiced antisemite, feigning ignorance for protection. Such is the internet, all I can see is someone who fancies themselves a “Game Developer” (My nephew was writing code and developing games at 9), and prefers an alias. That you chose to defend antisemitism and see children drinking as the norm suggests a child, or the mind of a child.

  • Liz Winslow

    She did. In the original article This is a followup piece.

  • Wolfenotes

    Why didn’t you post the photo? Or a link to the source blog?

    The Trenton Times cropped it to remove the faces to enable identity of the participants.

    White privileged jocks get very different treatment, eh?

  • Ali B

    By that thinking, Game Developer, we could learn about womens’ rights by substituting ‘women rape victims’ for Jews and ‘male rapists’ for men. Women victims could win! Or how about ‘black slaves’ vs. ‘black slave owners’? And we could learn about slavery in the process! Really? These examples are not acceptable and neither is Jews vs. Nazis. There are lines you do not cross. Denigrating the Holocaust is one of them.

    The very fact that a participant in this game was proud enough of it being played at a party he attended and chose to memorialize it in a photo and then share it with all of his friends and their friends and their friends etc on Snapchat speaks to the fact that anti-Semitism is considered acceptable. Brushing this off as bad judgement and not addressing the root issue, that we are allowing anti-Semitism to be normalized, will be a failure for our school, our community, and our country.

    Hold people responsible for their actions. Educate these kids why this game is so horrific. Stop criticizing Jamaica for blowing the whistle on something she knows was wrong. That is what we want our youth to learn–that they need to stand up in the face of injustice. This is a teaching moment.

  • A Game Developer

    Okay let me ask you a question: If this was a group of underage ‘nerdy’ kids playing the board game: ‘Axis and Allies’ drinking beer and taking pictures and laughing because the Third Reich is winning. What would you do? I feel this is only being blown out of proportion because they are athletes.

    Secondly, if you think kids playing games, EMPHASIS ON GAME, is more offensive than the underage drinking happening than you have some re-evaluation to do.

    Whether or not you like it history happened, hiding from it won’t make it go away, and why would you want it to go away? Learning about History and what happened is crucial. These kids aren’t neo-nazis with swastikas on there foreheads, they are playing a game where in fact THE JEWS COULD WIN!!! Yes, the Jews could beat the Nazi’s.

    If you find this game offensive I suggest you never play Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler, Exploding Kittens, and most definitely do not visit reddit/newgrounds/9gag/4chan/tor. As this ‘beer pong’ game is very LITE Dark Humor. Welcome to the internet folks, I do nazi a problem with this game.

  • Aldo Kelrast

    I think you should reveal the names of the adult TEEN PEP teachers who did nothing about this.

  • Aldo Kelrast

    What could more adversely affect their lives than getting sh*tfaced drunk while laughing at a girl who died in the Holocaust, then getting into their cars & driving home drunk, possibly hitting someone on the way home? Think about it, @disqus_npjC6H7Anp:disqus.

  • Aldo Kelrast

    Just wish it would go away, @zoebrookes:disqus? Forget all about it? These boys were making jokes about Anne Frank, a girl their age who was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp. They thought it was funny to get drunk (which they are at least four years too young to do) while laughing about her death and the Holocaust. Perhaps it doesn’t seem worthy of public discussion to you that these coddled, upper-middle-class & presumably non-Jewish kids thought this cool to do? You want to “let this one lie”? This is of course exactly the kind of thinking that allowed Nazism & fascism to rise in the first place, and it’s deplorable. This cannot be made public enough, and we need to analyze it until we get answers. Obviously, room must be made in the budget for every student in Princeton to participate in a field trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. And I think you should be one of the adult chaperones, as you are obviously overdue for a visit yourself.

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    It’s easy to be puffed up and self-righteous at moments like these. Remember, when you point your finger, you have three pointing back at you. It most be great to have perfect, moral lives with ideally behaved kids.

  • Liz Winslow

    So Jamaica Ponder shouldn’t have exposed blatant anti-Semitism, among other unsavory activities, because it would have hurt some feelings? Get a grip. She seems more mature than you do.

  • jon cook

    Yes, its all about personality. That seems not to be a good formula. And the school is negligent.

  • formerphs

    If I may… peer leadership (TEEN PEP) leaders are chosen through group interviews. These interviews have almost nothing to do with whether one has the ability to understand difficult issues and articulate them to their peers in manner that is becoming of the position. The focus is on how much you interact with fellow interviewees during “break times,” and how well you can improvise during skit sessions. If I recall correctly, current TEEN PEP leaders also influence what students are selected for next year. In practice, you end up with a bunch of TEEN PEP leaders who are popular among their peers — the ones that are the partiers. The next year, they help pick out their popular friends and help reinforce cycle. Signing the pledge to be a model TEEN PEP leader (don’t drink, don’t smoke, be as abstinent as possible, etc.) was met with a lot of eye-winking in my social group.

    The scripted TEEN PEP skits are fine. They are an easy way for teens to understand difficult topics, and it does it without a lot of cheesiness. Where it falls apart are the leaders. In my freshman year (2011) at PHS, I had a very popular TEEN PEP leader tell my break-out group “not to worry,” that part of what we had just learned about sexual assault “wasn’t really real rape.” I told the adult TEEN PEP teachers about the comments but the young man was not punished in any way. I also heard several similar anecdotes throughout my four years.

  • jon cook

    Well, there are laws and rules. If you want to play, you need to follow the rules. These kids are seventeen and eighteen, so lets not exaggerate. They are dangerous and they are climbing into cars after these parties.How about getting into an accident and adversely affecting the lives of others. These kids are not ignorant. They know everything is posted on social media. These kids are just particularly daft.

  • Born Free

    Shame, Shame Shame, on the parents

  • jon cook

    1. All the students are familiar with Ms. Ponder’s blog. It isn’t the first time she has criticized her peers, though it is the first time she identified people. It is the expectation that she will flame kids.
    2. This was posted on social media with hundreds or thousands of kids to see. Word of this would have become public regardless.
    3. It is a positive development to finally expose this behavior. These kids are joking about being peer group leaders and breaking all the rules. Now a real lesson can be taught in peer group.
    4. There are rules that must be followed to be allowed to participate on a varsity sports team. If they want to blatantly disregard this, they shouldn’t be on the team.

  • Bill

    I like this idea of shaming impressionable, insecure 14 and 15 year old kids. Maybe we can humiliate them enough that they will take some drastic action that adversely affects their lives forever, and we can feel good about our shaming actions. Of course, I want to be the person, and the only person, selected to be judge, juror and executioner so I can impose my standards on everyone else in the community. After all, if my opinions on everyone else’s kids are good enough for me, they should be good enough for everyone.else.

  • Princeton Opinion

    I hope that Mr. Cochrane speaks with all students involved, including Ms. Ponder.

    Understandably upset by the activity, Ms. Ponder could have handled the situation in a number of ways to achieve her goal to expose this unexcusable behavior. Ms. Ponder – along with her parents who reposted her blog and photos of the teens on their social media — could have outreached directly to the teenager’s parents; and/or contacted the school administrators and ask that they look into a violation of “code of conduct” for students and athletes; and/ or engaged a leader in the Jewish community to mandate tolerance training for the students; and/or contacted police to discuss the illegal drinking component. ALL of these actions would have achieved her goal of shutting down the behavior.

    However, instead, Ms. Ponder acted in very “Trump-Like” way and just threw accelerant onto the fire by posting it on social media – prompting everyone to be reactive vs. proactive in handling the very serious problem. She acted as judge and jury and sentenced both the teenagers and their unknowing parents to judgement without all the facts. Because of this, I believe her actions should be seriously discussed with Mr. Cochran, as well.

  • Blake Cash

    As these were allegedly peer advisors, I cannot imagine why you would not want to know their identities. Is ignorance truly bliss?

  • jon cook

    Lets not be an idealist, it doesn’t work. The problem is that it is not being handled. The parents are permitting it. This will be a wake up call that will last about ten minutes, then kids will be careful to not be caught on camera.

  • jon cook

    We actually need more of this to end the egregious behavior of students and parents. If you can’t convince them to behave, they should be shamed. I’m sure these kids are really sorry now that some scholarships will be rescinded.

  • Zoe Brookes

    I think that underage misdemeanors are generally best handled privately. General questions relating to all these issues are great for public debate, but I’m uneasy when individuals begin to be tried in public. Particularly so when they are minors. I should add that I’m a High School parent of three teenagers. I don’t know the identities of the youth involved in the incidents and don’t wish to.

  • jon cook

    It is the pretension that there is nothing ever wrong with Princeton and the schools. The real problem is that a student’s character is not reviewed for inclusion of sports or peer leadership activities. There were other kids at this party that are not in the picture. Several of these kids are in peer leadership groups, preaching to kids not to drink and have sex. What hypocrisy! The principal and advisory staff at the school are culpable because they do not act. Gary Snyder is totally ineffective in running this school. He doesn’t enforce school policy. Princeton High School is like Animal House.

  • Blake Cash

    Which issue troubles you that you wish to make private? Underage drinking, Antisemitism, or Parental neglect? Should we just pretend it doesn’t happen in Princeton, and it will go away?

  • Zoe Brookes

    Thank you Steve Cochrane. Now, Planet Princeton, can we let this one lie? While I applaud Jamaica Ponder’s articulate statements on the postings,I don’t believe this needs to continue as a public issue.

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