School launches investigation after prom picture of students appearing to perform Nazi salute goes viral

A Wisconsin school district is considering legal action after a photo of students appearing to give the Nazi salute went viral, prompting an apology from the photographer. Students are also alleging that their school routinely ignores racism.

“The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo,” read a Monday tweet from the Baraboo School District in Wisconsin. “We are investigating and will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.”

Superintendent Lori Mueller also tweeted a letter sent to parents which read in part, “Early this morning, a photo that was taken last spring of some Baraboo School District students who appear to be making extremely inappropriate gestures began circulating on social media,” and she reiterated the district’s commitment to investigate with the help of local law enforcement.

“With that, we want to be very clear,” she wrote. “The Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment where all people, regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry are respected and celebrated.”

Mueller tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “We are launching an investigation, and as such, are unable to provide additional details at this time.”

The photo of a large group of male students, wearing suits adorned with prom corsages, shows many throwing one arm straight in the air, like the greeting used in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It was brought to national attention Sunday night after journalist Jules Suzdaltsev tweeted it with an acknowledgment to a private account, writing, “If anybody from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin can clue me in on why it appears the entire male class of 2018 is throwing up a Sig Heil during their prom photos — that would be great.”

He also tweeted of the original poster, “We even got the black kid to throw it up. #BarabooProud.”

Suzdaltsev posted a message he received from one student in the photo. “My name is Jordan Blue, I am the boy captured in the photo to the far right,” he wrote Monday. “The photo was taken during our Junior Prom photos. I clearly am uncomfortable with what was happening. I couldn’t leave the photo as it was taken within 5 seconds. The photographer took the photos telling us to make the sign, I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I firmly didn’t believe in.”

“I attend BHS [Balaboo High School], these classmates have bullied me since entering middle school, and I have struggled with it my entire life and nothing has changed,” Blue wrote. “These are the boys of Class of 2019, nothing has been done and my question is, [will] anything ever be done. I truly & firmly believe we need to make a change to this horrible act, it needs to stop. Bullying, immaturity, and just taking things as a joke.”

Yahoo Lifestyle could not reach Blue for comment.

Additionally, current and former Baraboo students who said they had encountered racism while attending the school messaged Suzdaltsev.

One anonymous graduate sent a screenshot of a fellow student calling her the N-word. “I’m mixed and a classmate of mine posted this about me,” she wrote. “When my friend reported it to the school, they did nothing. They said, ‘They couldn’t prove it was her’ even though one of her friends told them it was her.”

A different teen also told Suzdaltsev that he was bullied by a classmate for not supporting President Trump. “He continued to mock and harass me for being a feminist as well. When I confronted him about this image being put on his story, he responded by putting another photo of me on his story captioned, ‘I do what I want.’ When I went to the principal’s office to tell them I was being harassed, they just simply had him delete the snaps and there were no further repercussions.”

A third student tweeted a Snapchat screenshot of two Latino students with the caption, “Dirty Mexicans inbound.” One also told Suzdaltsev that the day after Trump was elected, someone shouted “White Power!” in the hallway. “I immediately went to a school official but was told that nothing could be done because it was his First Amendment right and he wasn’t harming anyone,” wrote the student. “I was then told that I should look up videos of Black Lives Matter protesters being hostile toward police and that I should get a tougher skin.”

Suzdaltsev tweeted a screenshot of a cryptic apology from the photographer, who removed the image from his website. “Due to malevolent behavior on the part of some in society, this page has been modified,” the photographer allegedly wrote. “It is too bad that there are some in society who can and do take the time 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…”

The identity of the photographer is not confirmed, however, Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to the man who allegedly shot the photo and did not receive a response.

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