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Southern California community rocked by Nazi-saluting images

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District wants to know if its students were drinking and honoring the swastika.

An affluent Southern California community was rocked by social media images of teenagers apparently giving the Nazi salute while gathered around red plastic cups arranged in the shape of a swastika.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District pledged to cooperate with law enforcement in trying to identify any of its students who might have been in the offending picture and were drinking underage. The images appeared on social media over the weekend, according to schools spokeswoman Adriana Angulo.

Newport-Mesa Unified students salute over a swastika made from red plastic cups. Faces obscured by NBC News.Twitter

"We were recently made aware of social media postings involving some students who created inappropriate anti-Semitic symbols, and possible underage drinking," Angulo said in a statement. "While these actions did not occur on any school campus or school function, we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all their forms."

She added, "We continue to gather information regarding the conduct of these students and work with law enforcement."

But Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, in a statement on Monday, stopped short of putting all blame on the people in the images.

"While we take seriously and object to this hateful activity, I discourage vilification of these teens," Foley said. "Instead, we need to seriously address why teens in our community might think these types of hateful symbols are acceptable or funny and worthy of selfies."

Newport-Mesa students toast over a swastika made from red plastic cups. The "ultimate rage" banner on the image was added by the social media user.Twitter

“I was simply devastated to see that,” school board president Charlene Metoyer told The Orange County Register. “As a school board, we’re not only concerned by the underage drinking, but also the mental health of the students who participated in this horrendous act and all their fellow students who will be affected by it. This is appalling to not just our Jewish student community, but to all of us who care about human rights.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations both condemned the Nazi imagery.

"When such actions are considered jokes, hate and bigotry become normalized. And then we open the door for escalating acts of bias," according to an ADL statement.

Hussam Ayloush, executive directory of CAIR's Los Angeles branch, said the youngsters in these photos probably learned this behavior from their parents.

“We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and all other targeted minorities and against the actions of bigots who violate our nation’s long-standing principles of religious tolerance and inclusion," Ayloush said in a statement.

"These young adults are expressing hatred that has been handed down from an older generation. The current trend of normalizing hate speech has emboldened bigots in their speech, as well as their actions," he said.