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Fallout Continues After W.Va. Correctional Cadets Give Nazi Salute

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says he approved firing a class of more than 30 prison guard trainees. A photo appeared to show them all giving a Nazi salute in class. And what may be most remarkable is the kind of class in which they gave it. Here's Emily Allen of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

EMILY ALLEN, BYLINE: The picture shows the cadets dressed in their uniforms, sitting and standing for a class photo. Their arms are outstretched in a Nazi-like salute. A state investigation found the picture was taken at the direction of a class instructor who was in charge of teaching cultural diversity. Jeff Sandy is secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. He says there's evidence the cadets were greeting the instructor this way two weeks into the training.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF SANDY: If she would've said, that is inappropriate behavior; do not do that again, we would not be here today.

ALLEN: The photo was copied, and there were plans to distribute it with graduation packets, despite complaints from at least three staffers to their supervisor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SANDY: All the cadets in the photo have been terminated. In addition to that, there is three instructors who have been terminated, and there are four instructors that are looking at suspensions without pay.

ALLEN: The corrections employees still can appeal their terminations.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

ALLEN: A few blocks from the West Virginia state Capitol is the B'nai Jacob Synagogue. Rabbi Victor Urecki was one of the faith leaders briefed about the photo before it was made public. Urecki says the officers' gesture was offensive, but he doesn't think it was deliberately discriminatory.

VICTOR URECKI: It was both a confirmation that this was not something directed at Jews, it wasn't something necessarily of hate, but a profound ignorance, and that is both comforting and depressing at the same time.

ALLEN: State officials say they will continue working with religious leaders, the Anti-Defamation League and other outside groups. They want them to come into future training classes to teach their cadets about cultural tolerance and historical injustice. For NPR News, I'm Emily Allen in Charleston, W. Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.