Baraboo School District announces educational steps following photo controversy

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BARABOO, Wis.(WMTV) -- The School District of Baraboo released a list of educational steps after a controversial prom photo was taken last spring.

A letter was sent home to parents on December 4 from the Baraboo School Board of Education and Dr. Lori Mueller, the District Administrator, outlining a growing list of social justice initiatives.

In November, a photo of high school students giving what appears to be the Nazi salute was shared on social media. The photo was taken before prom in front of the Baraboo courthouse. The photographer said he asked the students to give the "hi" sign, and not the salute.

Since the photograph's social media release, the school district and city officials developed a series of community meetings to discuss the photo, the healing process, and the next steps that need to be taken to address the controversy.

The third part of the meeting series, Baraboo Acts, is scheduled to take place on Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Al Ringling Theatre. The school district plans to discuss the short-term and long-term community action plan.

The school district also plans on several educational steps to build upon work that is underway in the Baraboo School School District.

  • Continue to provide mental health supports for students and staff experiencing trauma from global media attention

  • Conduct annual field trips with Baraboo High School students to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois.

  • Invite Holocaust speakers annually to Jack Young Middle School as part of the school’s curriculum

  • Post “ Holocaust & WWII Resources & Opportunities: At-a-Glance ” to the Baraboo School District’s website for individuals to provide teaching and learning suggestions and feedback for curriculum teams to review

  • Review and revise the District’s social media teaching and learning practices

  • Develop a K-12 scope and sequence of knowledge and skills for teachers to use for instruction on social justice

  • Partner with Baraboo area’s Teens-N-Theatre to perform “Hurt People” at Baraboo High School

  • Enlist the expertise and assistance from the YWCA to build capacity and leadership for restorative practices/justice with students, staff, and parents

  • Contract services from educational expert Paul Gorski to conduct a district-wide equity audit and develop an action plan for social equity work; the results of which will be included in our 2019-2022 District Strategic Planning process

  • Organize and facilitate a full day of peace assemblies and sessions on Dec. 18, 2018, for the Baraboo High School student body in collaboration with Masood Akhtar , President and Founder of the We Are Many United Against Hate organization, and Elana Kahn , Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish

This list is not all-inclusive and will continue to grow over the next few months and years.

The letter sent home to parents on Dec. 4 reads in part:
"As previously stated, hate has no home in Baraboo. We understand the moral responsibility we have to be relentless in our work to create a hate-free environment where all people, regardless of race, color, religion, abilities, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, immigration status or ancestry, are respected and celebrated. We will come together and, in a meaningful way, consider the travesties of the past that were fueled by hatred and embrace a future of the celebration of diversity fueled by love and acceptance."