November 14, 2018

Wisconsin students cause uproar after their 'hateful' Nazi-themed prom photo is revealed

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A group of Wisconsin high school students are heavily criticized after a photo of them posing with the Nazi salute made it online.

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Approximately 50 male students from Baraboo High School’s Class of 2019 came together last year in a group photo shoot for their junior prom. In the image that went viral, all the teenagers posed with arms extended in the infamous Sig Heil salute made popular by Adolf Hitler.

All the boys were dressed in their suits and tuxedos, and most were smiling. One white boy in the front row was also pictured making the white power hand signal.

OFFENSIVE MESSAGE

The photo was posted on Sunday to a parody account on Twitter called “Welcome to Baraboo.” An accompanying tweet which contained the school’s signature hashtag read:

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“We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud.”

The tweet has since been deleted, and the account made private. Social media users are outraged at the insensitivity of the photo and are appalled at the seeming normalization of hatred portrayed by young men.

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BULLYING VICTIM

Jordan Blue, pictured in the far right, was one of the few students who did not salute. He revealed to reporter Jules Suzdaltsev that the photographer taking the picture instructed them to make the sign.

Blue said he was uncomfortable with what was happening, but couldn’t leave as the photo was taken within five seconds. A more troubling reason was that he had been bullied by the guys in the picture since middle school and was afraid.

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THE PHOTOGRAPHER SAYS IT'S "INNOCENT"

The man behind the camera, local photographer Pete Gust claimed the photo is "innocent," and is actually of the kids waving goodbye to their parents. Gust also took down the shots from his site and left a bizarre message:

“Due [sic] 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.”

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The school district also spoke in a statement, explaining that the photo was not condoned and that investigations are being made into the issue.

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BAD REPUTATION

Meanwhile, former students of Baraboo High School have been sharing their racism experiences at the school with Suzdaltsev anonymously. One person narrated how he reported hearing a white student yell “White Power” in the hallway following President Trump’s election victory.

A school official told him to get a tougher skin and also look up videos of Black Lives Matter protestors being hostile toward the police.

DISRESPECTING HISTORY

Among those that have reacted against the photo is the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland.

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“It is so hard to find words. …This is why every single day we work hard to educate,” the museum wrote in a tweet. “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.”

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