Wisconsin School District Launches Investigation After Students Appear to Make Nazi Salute in Prom Photo
A school district in Wisconsin is launching an investigation after dozens of high school students were photographed making what appears to be a one-armed Nazi salute in a photograph taken last spring.
The image — which shows boys from the 2019 Baraboo High School class before their junior prom — was first shared in an album on the website of WheelMemories, a photography business run by Peter Gust. It was uploaded to Twitter on Sunday by the self-described “parody account” @GoBaraboo, with the caption, “We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud.”
WheelMemories has since removed the photos, explaining in a statement that this was “due malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.”
Lori Mueller, superintendent of the Baraboo School District, contacted parents on Monday morning after the photograph went viral and attracted significant criticism on social media.
Mueller confirmed that the image includes students from her school district “who appear to be making extremely inappropriate gestures,” yet said that it “was not taken on school property or at a school-sponsored event.”
She added that the district “is investigating this situation and is working with parents, staff and local authorities.”
“If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue,” Mueller said. “With that, we want to be very clear: the Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment where all people, regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry, are respected and celebrated.”
Jordan Blue — one student who appears in the photograph but did not make the salute — told a reporter with VICE News that he felt “uncomfortable” with the situation as it took place.
“I couldn’t leave the photo as it was taken within 5 seconds,” Blue wrote in a message. “The photographer took the photos telling us to make the sign, I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I firmly didn’t believe in.”
He added that the same classmates have bullied him since entering middle school, saying, “I have struggled with it my entire life and nothing has changed.”
The image raised concern both locally and internationally, with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum saying that it represented “why every single day we work hard to educate.”
“We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising,” the memorial wrote on social media. “Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalizing and accommodating hatred.”