A high school in Creston, Iowa, said Wednesday it has disciplined students who appeared in a viral photo that showed them wearing white hoods similar to Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and waving a Confederate flag next to a burning cross, according to reports.
Among the five students seen in the photo, at least one of them appeared to be armed with a rifle. Principal Bill Messerole of Creston Community High School confirmed all the students in the photo were disciplined after the school learned about the photo early Wednesday morning.
International Business Times could not find the post where the students would have shared the photo. However, media outlets and social media users have shared the screenshot of the image.
Messerole said the photo was not taken on school grounds. The names of the students in the photo have not been released yet and the school also refused to comment on what punishment the students received, citing the school’s confidentiality policy, according to San Francisco Chronicle.
Messerole mentioned the school authorities met with the students involved in the incident, however, he declined to comment further. He also refused to comment on whether he had spoken to the students' parents or guardians. "I'm new to this," he said when asked for more information. "I haven't had any situations like this before."
"Our investigation is ongoing," the principal mentioned. "I would say that picture does not reflect the values of Creston High School, our school district or our community whatsoever. We are proud of how our students and staff conducted themselves today after the picture became public. It is of the utmost importance that our students feel safe and welcomed in our district," NBC affiliate WHO TV reported.
Social media users reacted to the photo saying that it conveyed a message of hate.
Creston Police Chief Paul Ver Meer told the Omaha World-Herald his department was made aware of the controversial photo, however, they have not been a part of the investigation. Speaking for the department, Union County Sheriff Rick Piel told the Associated Press over the phone that there was nothing for the law enforcement agency to investigate into the matter.
"As far as I know, it's all being handled by the school," he said. "We've spoken to the county attorney, and we can't come up with a charge."
A current member of the Creston football team reached out to WHO TV, and spoke anonymously on behalf of his teammates. "As a current student at Creston and a member of the football team, I would just like to make a statement. The five individuals that were involved with the picture are clearly in the wrong and they will face the consequences eventually. But I can promise everyone that as a whole our football team and community aren’t about that. The actions made by a small group shouldn’t represent the entire football team and community. I’m proud to be a part of what this team is actually about and it’s sad to see something like this ruin a rich tradition we carry," the statement read.
A similar incident took place in October 2015 when The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, started to suspend students after photos surfaced on social media that showed a group of cadets wearing white hoods similar to those used by the KKK.