Officials with a Wisconsin school district say free-speech rights would make it difficult to discipline students who appeared in a photograph that showed several high school boys giving what appears to be a Nazi salute.
Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller said in a letter to parents Wednesday that officials cannot know the ‘intentions in the hearts’ of those involved. She also said the district isn’t in a position to punish the students because they are protected by the First Amendment.
‘We must come together and, in a meaningful way, consider the travesties of the past that were fueled by hatred and embrace the celebration of diversity fueled by love and acceptance,’ the letter stated, according to the Baraboo News Republic.
Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller said in a letter to parents Wednesday that officials cannot know the ‘intentions in the hearts’ of those involved in the 2017 photo from May
Mueller’s letter also said part of the district’s investigation is complete.
The photo of about 60 boys was taken outside the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo last spring in May. The parent who took the photographer said he simply asked the boys to wave goodbye to their parents before heading to prom.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Peter Gust insisted that the virtually all-white group of boys were merely waving goodbye to their parents, not making any political statement.
‘I am very frustrated and find it reprehensible that people all over the world can snap to a judgment without knowing any facts and go ape — and it is coming from all over the world,’ he said.
A group poses in the same space where a majority white group of boys took a photo for their prom
Parents voiced their concerns with the viral image at a Baraboo School Board meeting
‘When I first saw the picture I didn’t see a Nazi salute. it was not intended to be one,’ he said at his home a five minute drive from the high school in Baraboo, a town of 12,000 people, 45 miles northwest of Madison.
‘Now I look at it, I see it. Hell yeah, the optics of it are bad. But it never crossed my mind at the time.’
At least one student in the front row appears to be pictured making the white power hand signal.
At least one student in the front row was also pictured making the white power hand signal. The majority of those pictured laughed as they gave the salute
The majority of the teenagers, who are believed to be the school’s Class of 2019, can be seen laughing in the photo.
Jordan Blue, one of the students pictured who didn’t salute, said in a statement that the photographer told them to raise their arms
One of the students pictured, who was only one of the few that didn’t salute, told Young Turks reporter Jules Suzdaltsev that the photograpgher taking the picture told them to salute at their junior prom.
‘I am the boy captured in the photo to the far right. I am clearly uncomfortable with what was happening,’ the student, Jordan Blue, said in a statement.
‘I couldn’t leave the photo as it was taken within five 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.’
The student also indicated a culture of bulling at the school, saying those in the photo had bullied him since middle school.