The Baraboo School District will not punish the Wisconsin students who were seen giving the Nazi salute in a prom photograph that went viral earlier this month, according to a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, November 21. In the letter, superintendent Lori Mueller stated that the Baraboo High School students are protected by free speech under the First Amendment.
“We cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved,” Mueller explained, referring to the shocking picture which showed almost 60 high-schoolers raising their hand in the Sieg Heil greeting, along with a few making the white power sign. She went on to add, “Moreover, because of students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions.”
But while the students themselves might have a right to free speech, the Wisconsin school district isn’t going to forget about the photograph—or the message behind it—anytime soon. Mueller promises that the district will hold meetings to heal the hate and prejudice in the local Baraboo community. As her letter said, “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.”
School officials will hold a meeting on Thursday at City Hall, where the public can comment on and discuss the decision, which the district made following the “completed” investigation.
Of course, many people are unhappy with the prospect of these students not being properly punished under the guise of protecting their First Amendment rights, noting that students get punished for things they say all the time. Some have already angrily taken to Twitter, with tweets like this one from author Reza Aslan: “This is utter bullshit. If schools can punish students for saying ‘bullshit,’ they can punish them for a Nazi salute.”
This is utter bullshit. If schools can punish students for saying “bullshit,” they can punish them for a Nazi salute https://t.co/h2U2ggu8oh
— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) November 24, 2018