Earlier this month, a group of seniors at Wisconsin’s Baraboo High School outraged the nation with their intentional display of support for Nazism, raising their arms in a “Heil Hitler” salute while taking a prom photo.
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Once the photo went viral and local school officials were informed of the incident, they posted a letter on Twitter promising to “pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue.”
The Baraboo School District sent the following letter to parents this morning in response to a photo circulating on social media. We are launching an investigation, and as such, are unable to provide additional details at this time. pic.twitter.com/oRxcl82lJT
— Baraboo Schools (@barabooSD) November 12, 2018
Most people who read about the incident and the school authorities response promptly forgot about it, assuming that some form of appropriate retribution would be meted upon the budding Proud Boys in the photo.
Alas, the Baraboo School District has decided that not a single student will face a bit of consequence for their hateful display of anti-Semitic and racist white supremacist behavior, not even after the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh exposed the very real threat of the resurgence of a violent neo-Nazi movement in this country.
Baraboo School District Administrator Lori Mueller sent a letter this week discussing the results of a 10-day preliminary investigation by the district, local authorities, and parents into the circumstances around the photo, and their conclusions leave much to be desired.
“As previously stated, we cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved,” Mueller wrote. “Moreover, because of students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions.”
In other words, the school authorities decided that they couldn’t determine whether the students involved were sincere in their Nazi beliefs or merely joking about being white supremacists, and, even if they were really anti-Semitic racists, well, they’re entitled to their opinion.
Given the number of students across the country who have been suspended or expelled from schools for reasons that were much less serious and offensive than the actions of the Baraboo High School seniors in question, the lack of punishment for these alt-right wannabes is appalling.
Instead, Administrator Mueller outlined a plan to implement “restorative practices,” the school district’s version of “thoughts and prayers,” to repair damage caused to their personal and community relationships. The district also is planning short- and long-term actions to address issues of hate and racism with students and the rest of the community, according to a report on Madison.com.
“We must come together and, in a meaningful way, consider the travesties of the past that were fueled by hatred and embrace the celebration of diversity fueled by love and acceptance,” Mueller’s letter said.
Those are lovely sentiments, but the lack of any consequence whatsoever, from community service to mandatory empathy training to a black mark on their permanent records, surely lets the perpetrators of this hateful stunt off without a reason to even regret their unforgivable lapse in common decency.
With this pitifully weak response, the administrators of the Baraboo School District deserve as much shame as the students who actually committed the contemptible actions in the photo. Please share their story on social media so as many people as possible can see their cowardly response and condemn their inability to do the right thing and punish those responsible for this reprehensible act.
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Original reporting by Susan Endres at Madison.com.