Students in an English class at a Wisconsin high school couldn’t believe what they were seeing on Monday morning.
One of their classmates got up in front of the class to give a report wearing a Ku Klux Klan get-up – white hood and all.
Around the room students whipped out their cell phones because this moment had to be seen on social media.
The school’s principal has blamed social media for escalating the incident to one that has brought unwanted and negative national attention to the school. She told The New York Daily News that the student who wore the costume “feels awful.”
It didn’t take long for people outside the room to find out what had happened. Even as the student was speaking classmates were uploading photos and commentary to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
“History Lessons at Westosha Central,” one wrote.
“StopWhitePeople2k16,” wrote another.
More than one student wondered: Why did he have to wear it? Couldn’t he have just shown it?
The school responded later on Monday with a tweet from its own Twitter account referring followers to a Facebook post, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But that Facebook post is no longer available and it’s unclear why it was taken down, the newspaper reported.
“As any of you would be, I was appalled by the photo,” Lisa Albrecht, principal of
Westosha Central High School in Salem, told parents in that statement, according to the Kenosha News.
“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 period of time.
“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.”
Current students weren’t the only ones shocked by what happened.
“Once I heard it ... I just can’t believe someone would actually put that on,” Brett Sandberg, an alumnus of Westosha Central, told FOX6 News in Milwaukee.
But opinions are divided on whether the student did anything wrong.
“He`s not wearing it to recess. He`s wearing it for educational purposes. If that`s what his presentation was and he wanted to wear it, yeah he should,” Jack Harris, who lives near the school, told FOX6.
Jessica Batko told the Journal Sentinel that her 11th-grade honors class is reading “The Great Gatsby” and that students were supposed to write about something related to the 1920s.
She said the student in the white hood talked about crime but didn’t give much information about the KKK.
Albrecht told the Daily News that a college student studying to be a teacher was leading that part of the class on her own. The student teacher apologized, and so did the student after Albrecht explained that the costume was “culturally blind.”
“The student that did it, he just feels awful,” Albrecht told the New York tabloid. “He gave me the presentation and he goes, ‘I should have just held it up, I shouldn’t have worn it.”
Albrecht said all the media attention has given a false impression that students at her school are racist. She told the Daily News that she hopes the incident will show students “how things can spiral out of control.”
“The social media part is just as hurtful,” she said. “Unfortunately, what’s happened is so many people have jumped on the bandwagon.”