A Wisconsin high school student wore a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) uniform during a class presentation, sparking outrage from teachers, parents, and fellow students alike. A photo of the young man then went viral on social media, prompting even more scorn from the internet.
As WXIN (Indianapolis) reports, a student at Westosha Central High School — who has not been identified in the media, as of this writing — wore the KKK uniform Monday while giving a class presentation about crime in the 1920s. Classmate Breanna Beitzel captured the moment on her cell phone camera and uploaded a picture to Twitter.
It is unclear, as of this writing, how the KKK costume was relevant to the student’s presentation. However, classmate Jessica Batko tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that their 11th grade honors English class had been reading The Great Gatsby and were assigned topics related to the time period. Batko says that the student wore the KKK costume during the presentation but his presentation had little to do with the KKK.
According to The History Channel, the KKK, after a period of relative quietness and obscurity following the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction, re-emerged in the late 1910s and early 1920s, spurred on largely by Thomas Dixon’s 1905 book The Clansman and D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of a Nation. It was during this period that the Klan reached its peak in membership, with over 4 million known members, before falling into decline once again with the arrival of the Great Depression.
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Miss Balko says that the only adult in the room never told the student to remove the costume.
“There was only a student teacher in the room at the time and she never told him to take it off, however she did talk to him after class.”
After news of the KKK costume began spreading around social media, principal Lisa Albrecht responded with a statement sent to parents.
“As any of you would be, I was appalled by the photo…”
Albrecht also posted a statement on Westosha High School’s Facebook page. For reasons that are not clear, however, the post has been taken down, and as of this writing, the Facebook page in question is filled mostly with photos of a recent girls’ soccer game.
However, WGNO (New Orleans) was able to show a saved screenshot of the statement.
“The student in the photo, not meaning any harm, wanted to convey the message of crime during this time and the uprising of the KKK and how hateful this group of people were. I have spoken to both the student, and the student teacher. The student, in his eagerness to do a good job, admits he failed to understand the hurtful symbolic meaning of the prop…”
However, the student does appear to have at least a few defenders. Westosha student Camille Tracy said the KKK uniform might have made more sense as a prop, but not a costume.
“I would have said something — like maybe, instead of putting it on, I would have shown it not on myself.”
Neighbor Jack Harris, who lives not far from the high school, thinks the KKK costume was OK for a history presentation.
“He’s not wearing it to recess. He’s wearing it for educational purposes. If that’s what his presentation was and he wanted to wear it, yeah he should.”
As of this writing, it’s not clear if the student who wore the KKK costume has received any formal discipline, and officials at Westosha High School are declining to comment on the incident to the media.
Do you believe this high school student was in the wrong to wear a KKK costume during a school presentation?
[Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers]