BARABOO, Wis. – A photo showing a group of male, mostly white Wisconsin high school students with their arms raised in what appear to be Nazi salutes has sparked a district investigation and criticism from a Holocaust memorial group.
The image of students in the Baraboo School District in Wisconsin was originally posted on the @GoBaraboo parody account with the caption, “We even got the black kid to throw it up.”
But the picture, which was tagged #Barabooproud, has since been taken down, and school officials and police are now promising to look into it further.
District Superintendent Lori Mueller tweeted Monday morning that the photo posted under the hashtag is “not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo.”
In a statement sent to parents, Mueller said the photo in which students appear to “be making extremely inappropriate gestures” was taken last spring. It was not taken on school property or at a school-sponsored event, Mueller said.
“The school district is investigating this situation and is working with parents, staff and local authorities,” she said in a statement.
“If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue.”
Baraboo police tweeted that they are assisting the district’s investigation as well, after they were made aware of a “controversial photo of a group of high school students.”
The Baraboo School District, located about 40 miles northwest of Madison, had just over 3,000 students and a 17.6% minority population in 2015-16 school year, its most recent year of statistics.
Holocaust group denounces photo
The Auschwitz Memorial Twitter page was among a number of groups that have criticized the photo, with its group of smiling, well-dressed teenagers apparently making a gesture of hate.
“This is why every single day we work to educate,” the organization posted. “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.”
The group also attached a link to its website, offering lessons on the history of Auschwitz.
“If @barabooSD wishes to know more about what can be the extreme result of normalization of hatred — and hatred is enrolled in this symbol — please see some online lessons dedicated to the history of Auschwitz,” the group tweeted.
One student in the picture, who wished to remain anonymous, said the photographer had instructed the boys to raise their hands.
The photography agency that took the photos of the Baraboo High School event in question, Wheel Memories, had originally posted thumbnails of all the photos, including the photo in question.
The photos have since been removed, the photo agency wrote on its site in a message that blames “jerks” and online negativity.
“It is too bad that there are those in society who can and do take the time to be jerks; knowingly and willingly to be jerks! The internet can be a wonderful tool but for some there is an overwhelming urge to destroy. The destruction may not be physical but instead it can be bullying that is intellectual or emotional,” the photo agency wrote.
“To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize. To those who have harmed them, we as society often ignore them I have chosen not to do that. YOU ARE JERKS! Grow up! Be kind, Be gentle, Be civil!”
CNN has reached out to several students in the photo, as identified through social media, and has also reached out to the photographer for comment.