Baraboo School District investigating boys' apparent Nazi salute
BARABOO, Wis. (AP) -- The photographer who took a picture of boys from Baraboo High School giving what appears to be a Nazi salute says he simply asked the students to wave goodbye to their parents.
Pete Gust told community journalism website Madison 365 that the pre-prom photo, which has been shared widely on social media, was innocent. He says he asked the boys to give him a "high five" for the photo taken in May on the steps of the Sauk County Courthouse in downtown Baraboo, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) northwest of Milwaukee.
Gust has removed the photo from his website, Wheel Memories, where it had been posted since May, and wrote "To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize."
The Baraboo School District and police are investigating the photo.
Updated 9:30 p.m. November 12, 2018
UPDATE: BARABOO, Wis. (CBS 58) -- People around the world are expressing outrage after a picture was posted to social media. It shows a group of Baraboo High School students giving what appears to be the Nazi salute.
The Baraboo School District is now grappling with the heated fallout and emotions peaked during a school board meeting on Monday night.
"Shamed, appalled, and angered," said Baraboo School Board President Kevin Vodak.
The Auschwitz Museum, a memorial of Holocaust education, tweeted of the danger of normalizing hatred.
Jewish leaders in Milwaukee say they've seen a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents for years now.
"It's not innocuous. Terrible things begin when people say hateful things and other people don't call them out on it," said Elana Kahn with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
The boys have been called out yet a question in the meeting was still, what to do next?
"These kids really need more than ever the support of these adults and mentors to guide, teach, and educate our kids."
The School District is being assisted in their investigation by the Baraboo Police Department.
The family who runs the photography company that took the picture declined CBS 58's request for an interview.
BARABOO, Wis. (AP/CBS 58) — The Baraboo School District is investigating a photo of a group of high school boys giving what appears to be a Nazi salute.
The photo of more than 60 male students dressed in suits shows many with their right arm extended upward. The photo was posted to a since-deleted account on Twitter before screenshots of the photo began generating outrage across the state and country.
Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller says she became aware of the photo Monday after it was posted on social media. Mueller says the photo appears to have been taken last spring and wasn't on school grounds.
The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud 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.— Lori M. Mueller (@LoriMMueller) November 12, 2018
Mueller says the photo doesn't reflect the district's values and that administrators will pursue appropriate action. Baraboo police are also investigating.
The Baraboo Police Department is aware of a controversial photo of a group of high school students that has been posted to social media. Officers are assisting the Baraboo School District with their investigation into this matter.— Baraboo PD (@BarabooPD) November 12, 2018
The Auschwitz Memorial tweeted that the photo is why it works hard "to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising."
It is so hard to find words...— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 12, 2018
This is why every single day we work hard to educate. We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising. Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalizing and accommodating hatred. https://t.co/13AzZaMGJR
The Baraboo School District also released a letter sent to parents in response to the photo.
The Baraboo School District sent the following letter to parents this morning in response to a photo circulating on social media. We are launching an investigation, and as such, are unable to provide additional details at this time. pic.twitter.com/oRxcl82lJT— Baraboo Schools (@barabooSD) November 12, 2018
A second letter was also sent to parents Monday afternoon in response to the photo:
The Baraboo School District sent the following letter to parents this afternoon in response to a photo circulating on social media. pic.twitter.com/0IXNUdLeRD— Baraboo Schools (@barabooSD) November 12, 2018
Baraboo is a town of about 12,000 about 115 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Several organizations including the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the Jewish Federation of Madison, the Wisconsin Jewish Conference, and ADL Midwest have released a joint statement.