SALEM, Wis. – A Wisconsin high school student’s presentation on crime in the 1920s is creating a social media firestorm after a picture of the student dressed in what appears to be a Klu Klux Klan outfit was posted online.
“This morning, I became aware of a photo taken in an Honors English class, where a student was presenting in a KKK-like outfit. As any of you would be, I was appalled by the photo,” Westosha Central High School Principal Lisa Albrecht posted to Facebook Monday.
“In my investigation, I found that students in this class were presenting background information about the 1920s in preparation of reading a novel written about this time period,” she wrote. “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.”
Pictures of the student’s presentation were posted to Facebook and Twitter by his classmates Monday, and the backlash was immediate.
only at central … pic.twitter.com/VEko25Pm5S
— bre (@breannabeitzel) April 18, 2016
“only at central …” user bre wrote in a Twitter post showing other students taking a picture of the student presenter, who stood in front of a projection screen with the words “Crime in the 1920’s” on display.
Student Jessica Batko also tweeted a video of the presentation with the message “Why??”
— Jess. (@JessicaBatko) April 18, 2016
Albrecht’s Facebook post about the incident linked to a Facebook page with a picture, but the picture has since been removed.
Batko told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the class is reading “The Great Gatsby,” and were tasked with researching a topic related to the 1920s. She said the student in the KKK outfit spoke about crime, but did not delve much into the specifics of the KKK.
“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,” Batko said.
“I have spoken to both the student and student teacher,” Albrecht wrote in her Facebook post. “The student, in his eagerness to do a good job, admits he failed to understand the hurtful symbolic meaning of this group. The student teacher, in hindsight, recognizes now how this incident negatively portraits (sic) on the culture of the building and apologizes for it.”
Westosha Central High School alum Brett Sandberg seemed to be shocked by the student’s presentation.
“Once I heard of it – I just can’t believe someone would actually put that on,” he told WTVR.
Senior Camille Tracy told the news site the student could have made the same point in his presentation without actually wearing the KKK costume.
“I would have said something – like maybe, instead of putting it on, I would have shown it not on myself,” she said.
Sandberg seemed to agree.
“I think it should have been shown instead of worn,” he said.
Others, like local resident Jack Harris, doesn’t think the student did anything wrong.
“He’s not wearing it to recess. He’s wearing it for educational purposes,” Harris told WTVR. “If that’s what his presentation was and he wanted to wear it, yeah he should.”