Local authorities are investigating a prom photo that recently surfaced on social media, which appears to depict a group of male students doing a Nazi salute, according to a statement from the Baraboo, Wisconsin police department posted on Twitter.
The Baraboo Police Department is aware of a controversial photo of a group of high school students that has been posted to social media. Officers are assisting the Baraboo School District with their investigation into this matter.
— Baraboo PD (@BarabooPD) November 12, 2018
After the photo surfaced on social media over the weekend, Baraboo School District Superintendent Lori Mueller tweeted that the photo “is not reflective” of the school district’s values. Mueller later sent an email to parents to inform them of the district’s investigation into the photo and the “extremely inappropriate gesture.” Mueller also reminded parents they have the “right to decline” requests from the media.
“Let us be very clear: hate has no home in the Baraboo School District,” the letter said.
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
The Baraboo School District sent the following letter to parents this afternoon in response to a photo circulating on social media. pic.twitter.com/0IXNUdLeRD
— Baraboo Schools (@barabooSD) November 12, 2018
Since the photo surfaced, it has received universal condemnation from local, state and even national officials.
At a district board meeting Monday evening, School Board President Kevin Vodak said he was “deeply disappointed me, shamed, appalled and angered” by the photo, according to the local Baraboo News Republic.
“The photo has shaken to the core my personal belief of the process that we as a community and as a school district have made to be tolerant, inclusive, accepting and admitting of all of those who are different from ourselves,” he said, according to the local newspaper.
Wisconsin Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said the “actions” in the photo had “no place in Wisconsin,” according to the Journal Sentinel.
“As elected officials, we have a responsibility to lead by example for a generation growing up in a climate where they see this behavior condoned,” Evers said, according to the Sentinel. “I will be in contact with Baraboo officials, but we must all be clear: intolerance and bigotry must never be tolerated, in our schools or anywhere else.”
The Auschwitz Memorial even retweeted the photo, saying it had “no words” for the actions displayed in the photograph, while highlighting the importance of educating young people about the “danger of hateful ideology rising.”
It is so hard to find words…
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
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 12, 2018
While there has been no official word on why the photo was taken, the photographer’s website where the photo reportedly originated was replaced with a cryptic message over the weekend about “malevolent behavior” by “those in society who can and do take the time to be jerks,” according to the Baraboo News Republic. The photographer told the local Madison364 publication that he had asked the group of nearly 50 boys to “give me a high sign, a wave that you’re saying goodbye to your parents.”
But, as freelancer and Vice contributor Jules Suzdaltsev pointed out, there’s at least one student who is doing the “white power” sign in the center of the photograph. Suzdaltsev also flagged in his Twitter thread about the photo that he found at least one tweet where a student bragged about getting “the black kid to throw it up.”