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A photo from a Wisconsin high school’s junior prom shows dozens of white male students flashing the Nazi salute, sparking outrage across Twitter.
The photo was originally shared by a Baraboo High School “parody account” called GoBaraboo, which openly bragged about how “we even got the black kid to throw it up.” Twitter user Carly Sidey and Vice’s Jules Suzdaltsev proceeded to condemn the photo on Sunday, openly criticizing the students’ behavior.
“I just want @barabooSD to be aware of the disturbing actions that are represented in this photograph,” Sidey tweeted. “This is BEYOND sickening.”
If anybody from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin can clue me in on why it appears the entire male class of 2018 is throwing up a Sig Heil during their prom photos - that would be great.— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
h/t @CarlySidey pic.twitter.com/BL8lDVLMA4
After Suzdaltsev posted the photo, he says anonymous students reached out to him to share that the school struggles with racist bullying both online and in person, and that the administration refuses to protect students who report harassment. One anonymous student reportedly told Suzdaltsev that the n-word is “pretty common” among white students, “whether jokingly or not.”
Another student also reportedly shouted “white power!” after President Trump was elected, only for the school to say “that nothing could be done because it was his First Amendment right” and that the student should “look up videos of Black Lives Matter protesters being hostile towards police.”
“I’ve received messages from about 10 students/former students/locals, mostly female, talking about the toxic attitudes at the schools—specifically racism towards non-white students,” Suzdaltsev told the Daily Dot. “All who reached out where thankful it was being reported on, and sadly not shocked that it happened.”
This kid dead-center is literally doing the "white power okay sign". pic.twitter.com/qyHnf1GzRt— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
Someone who would like to remain anonymous just sent me this message and picture of herself that was posted by a classmate.— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
Seriously, what is going on with this school? @BarabooSD pic.twitter.com/pHGbnelHct
I am being flooded with messages from students of this school about some of the guys in the group photo.— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
It sounds like there is a lot of racist bullying and the school tends to do nothing about it. pic.twitter.com/yvPZWI196A
The DM that came with this was:— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
"This was posted on someone’s Snapchat story. The video is pointing to two LATINO students." pic.twitter.com/Ub666ofESf
Adding a few more messages from students who have reached out in the past few hours. pic.twitter.com/jERndlSgbh— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
Sounds like racism is not uncommon at this school. pic.twitter.com/WJ9yuEVV8J— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
The photographer has removed the photo from his website and updated with this... confusing message. pic.twitter.com/vx4r9Eo1zZ— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
As the photo went viral Sunday night, Twitter users were sickened and appalled, and demanded a response from the Baraboo school district.
HOLY SHIT. https://t.co/YXY8EKqMnc— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) November 12, 2018
Read this thread. I hope the media picks this up and gets some answers from @barabooSD since apparently public shaming is the only thing that works these days.— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) November 12, 2018
(Also, do these kids expect to get into college?? Good luck with that.) https://t.co/acwsh9Nzv1
Incels in ill-fitting suits: the new Brownshirts https://t.co/QFGkaqOZ63— Jennine Khalik (@jennineak) November 12, 2018
Why is this happening? Don't they learn history in high school anymore? JHC pic.twitter.com/VfZphWaUIV— Cinloou (@cinloou7) November 12, 2018
Trump's America— Jeff Ramos (@IamJeffsLiver) November 12, 2018
If ever there was a school that had nothing to be proud of - this school is it. This is disgusting on a whole new level. The school itself should face ramifications for this as well as every boy involved.— Belinda (@BelindaJoy79) November 12, 2018
Some point out that white people are continuing to express their real racist sentiments, which were hidden from the public eye until President Donald Trump’s election.
to repeat a point i have made many times before, there’s never been a serious consensus that racism is bad. rather, it’s been that “openly expressing racist views is impolite.” with national leadership celebrating that expression however, the norm is eroding. https://t.co/sW8MW3cIMk— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) November 12, 2018
The parents aren't going to be ashamed that their kids did this, they are going to be embarrassed their kids got caught. No one sticks up harder for racist White kids quite like their parents.— PBF (@This_Here_Girl) November 12, 2018
Others pointed out how horrendous it was that several people of color were forced to experience their white peers’ racist behavior. Suzdatlsev said one student reached out to him and explained that he was “uncomfortable with what was happening” and that he refused to salute as a result.
“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,” the student told Suzdaltsev.
I spoke with the only student who is visibly not comfortable with the “salute”, he provided this statement. pic.twitter.com/HbNBc8xLOK— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
The kid at top-right deserves some kind of medal for being the only one who’s neither saluting nor laughing, at least as far as I can tell.— Erik Larson (@eelarson) November 12, 2018
The only black kid I see isn't doing it— Josh (@J_sandy1009) November 12, 2018
Nor the Asian kid up front— Καλή Kalou (@KalouKali) November 12, 2018
Far right second from the bottom is who I think they're talking about, but he doesn't have the salute so idk— Lily 🐈⚧ (@TheCatMom) November 12, 2018
Meanwhile, the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted, “It is so hard to find words” over the photo. The memorial stressed that “we need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising,” and that the Baraboo school district should “know more about what can be the extreme result of normalization of hatred.”
It is so hard to find words...— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 12, 2018
This is why every single day we work hard to educate. We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising. Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalizing and accommodating hatred. https://t.co/13AzZaMGJR
If @barabooSD wishes to know more about what can be the extreme result of normalization of hatred - and hatred is enrolled in this symbol - please see some online lessons dedicated to the history of Auschwitz: https://t.co/M1VC8b8Jlj— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 12, 2018
On Monday morning, Baraboo school district administrator Dr. Lori M. Mueller responded on Twitter, saying the photo is “not reflective of the educational values and beliefs” of the school district.
“The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address,” she tweeted.
When reached for comment, Dr. Mueller told the Daily Dot that the school district is “launching an investigation” and is “unable to provide additional details at this time.” She also provided an official statement sent to parents this morning regarding the photo, which states the district “will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal” if “the gesture is what it appears to be.”
“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,” Dr. Mueller wrote in the official statement.
The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.— Lori M. Mueller (@LoriMMueller) November 12, 2018
All evidence to the contrary. We're hearing dozens of stories from kids at your schools who have reported behavior and you have done nothing.— Pete Forester (@pete_forester) November 12, 2018
You are a failure to these children - both the victims and the offenders. Their future nightmares are your making. You should be ashamed.
This is absolutely disgusting. As a teacher, I know you were aware of the racism and bigotry in your school. Unless everyone working there is also racist, this attitude and associated behaviors were reported. You did nothing to curb it. This is an embarrassment to all educators.— EKMaestro (@EkMaestro) November 12, 2018
Lori— The Waco Kid (@DadofGabriel) November 12, 2018
While I appreciate your sentiment, it is representative of the families of #BarabooHS These kids felt empowered to make this statement. This is learned behavior.Either the district needs to change it's curriculum or the picture is truly a snapshot of Baraboo.
What kind of history department are you folks running over there?— Bethany Ball (@bethanyaball) November 12, 2018
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As for the viral response, Suzdaltsev says he’s “not altogether surprised, [because the photo] completely shocked me.”
“I could never imagine my high school class doing something like that,” he told the Daily Dot. “I figured I wasn’t alone in being shocked by such a photo.”
Clearly, he was not.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.