Baraboo Schools Investigating Purported Nazi Salute Prom Photo; Photographer Says It’s Innocent

Baraboo Schools Investigating Purported Nazi Salute Prom Photo; Photographer Says It’s Innocent

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Baraboo Schools Superintendent Lori Mueller said Monday that the district is investigating a photo that appears to show dozens of Baraboo High School students giving the Nazi one-arm salute before prom last spring, but the photographer says the photo is completely innocent and taken out of context.

In a letter to parents, Mueller confirmed that the photo shows BHS students, but that it was not taken on school grounds or at a school-sanctioned event.

“The school district is investigating this situation and is working with parents, staff and local authorities. If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue,” she wrote. “With that, we want to be very clear: 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.”

The photo was first posted in an online album of BHS prom photos at wheelmemories.com, the website of local motorcycle photographer Peter Gust. It was posted to Twitter last night by the account @GoBaraboo, which calls itself a “parody account.” It was posted with the caption, “We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud.”

In a phone message left for Madison365, Gust said the photo was “taken out of context” and “as innocent as the boys and girls going to the prom.” He said he simply told the boys to “wave goodbye, heading off to prom.”

“No he didn’t,” said Jordan Blue, a BHS student who can be seen in the photo not participating in the salute, in a Facebook message to Madison365. Blue said Gust told the group to raise one hand for a photo.

“Which doesn’t give a bunch of teenagers a lot of guidance on how to raise their hands,” Blue said. “I felt upset, unsafe, disappointed and scared. I felt unsafe because I go to school with them, I don’t believe in what they represented and the symbol they shared … they knew it was wrong, but they still did it.”

Gust is the parent of one of the boys in the photo and is a retired social studies teacher.

Gust has removed the entire prom photo album, replacing it with a statement that reads, in part, “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! … To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize.” However the album is still available via the Web Archive.

Twitter user @CarleySidey retweeted the @GoBaraboo tweet, which was then retweeted by Young Turks journalist Jules Suzdaltsev and has since gone viral. The original tweet has been deleted and the @GoBaraboo account set to “private.” Suzdaltsev was also the first journalist to make contact with Jordan Blue.

Baraboo Schools Superintendent Mueller tweeted Monday morning, “The photo of students posted to is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.”

She reiterated that pledge in an email to Madison365.

“The District is investigating at this time to determine who is all in the photo,” she wrote. “The photo is not endorsed by nor reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.”

The photo has garnered international attention overnight, with the Auschwitz Memorial Museum weighing in via Twitter.

The Baraboo Police Department tweeted Monday that they are assisting in the investigation.

This story is developing. It has been updated and will continue to be updated.

Written by Robert Chappell

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