Wisconsin School's Nazi Prom Photo Sure To Go Over Well With College Admission Boards
Oh, those wacky kids today! Always on their phones, smoking their Juuls, buying a lot of unicorn-themed things ... and taking "Heil Hitler" prom photos. I guess!
Over the weekend, some students from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin tweeted a photo of dozens of boys in the class of 2019, at their Junior Prom, in a group photo, doing a Nazi salute -- a photo reportedly taken by a parent of one of the boys in the picture and reportedly posted to their own website that was filled with other pictures of the Baraboo High School prom (UPDATE: Said photographer is motorcycle photographer one Peter Gust, whose son is in the picture. He is former educator and Wisconsin Education Association Council regional director. Nice!) The tweet, first shared by Twitter user Carly Sidey, has since been deleted, and the account that posted it has gone private.
Gosh! I sure hope that no college admissions boards find out about this picture and who posed in it, and that this photo doesn't follow every single one of them around for the rest of their lives. I'd say "hope they don't want a political career," but it doesn't seem as though the Republican Party would have much of a problem with those optics these days.
While the school district has yet to issue an official response, Baraboo School District Administrator Lori Mueller issued a tweet saying that the picture is not "reflective" of their values.
I am sure she would like to think that. However, if you've got that many kids doing a Nazi salute, and one of their parents is taking the picture, you might want to take a moment and consider what values and beliefs your school district is actually encouraging in its student body and what kind of values and beliefs are endemic in your comunnity. It's not just that they thought it was OK to do this that's scary, but that they had no fear of repercussions, social or otherwise.
The same school district, by the way, had an issue a number of years ago when some students flew Confederate flags at their friends' funeral, insisting that they thought said flags represented only "hunting and fishing," "The Dukes Of Hazzard," and being rebels. Great job, Baraboo High School history department!
When VICE Contributor Jules Suzdaltsev posted about the picture on Twitter, he immediately received several messages from current and former students who said that this was indeed representative of the "educational values and beliefs" in the Baraboo School District.
Am I surprised that a school official responded to kids yelling "White Power!" in the hallways by saying they couldn't do anything about it because "free speech?" Why no, I am not. I am not at all surprised by that. I heard the same thing myself back in school, and so did a lot of other people I know. Apparently it's a tried and true method for not having to do anything about this kind of shit.
Another student messaged him to give context to the photo and the parent who took it.
It's easy to think that as long as your school district doesn't go around explicitly advocating racism or anti-Semitism, that it's done its job as far as that kind of thing goes. But if they're not actively discouraging it, if they're not creating consequences for racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry when they see them happening, if they're not actively working to make sure kids from their school do not develop these beliefs, it is simply not enough. It is necessary, especially in this day and age where these beliefs are thriving on the internet and being embraced by people in power (*cough* Steve King *cough*), to be proactive.
Mueller tweeted that the district is looking to figure out "appropriate actions" in response to this, but if they're actually going to be effective, they need to go further than just giving these particular kids a few days of detention. They need to take a look at their curriculum and make sure they are including texts that will help students develop a healthy abhorrence of things like Sieg Heil salutes, and they need to look into the processes they have to respond to this kind of thing on a day-to-day basis.
In other words, they need to do their job and teach the damn children better.
UPDATE: Jordan Blue, the one kid in the picture who is not saluting has since sent a statement to Jules Suzdaltzev:
Good for you, Jordan Blue!
UPDATE 2: Photographer Peter Gust has issued a statement on the website where the pictures were initially hosted.
"Due malevolent behavior on the part of some in society; this page has been modified. It is too bad that there are those in society who can and do take the time to be jerks; knowingly and willingly to be jerks! The internet can be a wonderful tool but for some there is an overwhelming urge to destroy. The destruction may not be physical but instead it can be bullying that is intellectual or emotional. To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize.
To those who have harmed them, we as a society often ignore them I have chosen not to do that. YOU ARE JERKS! Grow up!
Oh yeah. Those jerks. Always destroying the fun of a good, wholesome... nazi salute with their bullying of... nazis?
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse