School says Nazi-saluting students protected by First Amendment, sparking outrage
A picture taken before prom on the steps of the Sauk County Courthouse in the town of Baraboo in May featured around 60 boys, with at least a half of them giving what looks like Nazi salutes.
The image caused controversy after surfacing on the internet and was swiftly removed. But it was too late as it was already reposted on social media and went viral, prompting an investigation by the Baraboo School District.
Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller shared the results of the probe in a letter mid-week, saying “we cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved.”
As for possible disciplinary action, “because of students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions,” the letter read, as cited by local media.
The father of one of the boys, who took the photo, earlier said that the kids never meant to do Nazi salutes, but were only asked to wave to their parents.
However, one of the students in the picture who didn’t raise his hand said some of his classmates could have come up with Nazi greetings as a sick joke.
“It was very disrespectful to what my beliefs are,” he told Baraboo News Republic.
Twitter users were angered that the boys escaped responsibility and accused the Baraboo school authorities of raising white supremacists.
So since you and the district refuse to take any action to condone this behavior , I'm pretty sure you should delete this part of your high school's site. You really don't know what was in these people's hearts when they showed the NAZI salute, Lori? #barabooproud#baraboo # pic.twitter.com/fWdIvczbsq— Justine S Harrison (@JustineSHarriso) November 24, 2018
Other commenters said the response by Mueller reveals that she has no idea how free speech works and doesn’t know history well enough to understand that the Nazi salute is no laughing matter.
This is beyond unacceptable. Didn’t the Supreme Court find that the 1st amendment doesn’t cover hate speech that incites violence? The Nazi salute is the epitome of violent speech. #Baraboo School District - this is the wrong decision and wrong message to send! https://t.co/PosHCRvsw6— Jenny L. (@JennyPowder) November 24, 2018
"Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller said in a letter to parents Wednesday that officials cannot know the “intentions in the hearts” of those involved."— Kevin M. Levin (@KevinLevin) November 24, 2018
When you line up in a prominent community space and engage in a Nazi salute "intentions" are the least of your problems. https://t.co/tdHHkFw6jf
NOW that we know there's no punishment, we also know what are Baraboo's Scool District's true values.— Stan Gordon (@Cotumarre) 25 ноября 2018 г.
Question, now that the Nazi salute is (according to them), protected under the 1st ammendment rights, will they allow kids openly salute like that from now on if they want to?
2 possibilities:— Simon Balto (not Balto the dog) (@SimonBalto) 25 ноября 2018 г.
1. #Baraboo admins are so incompetent, they don’t know that hate speech in schools isn’t protected if it creates a hostile environment.
2. Baraboo admins are fine with hate speech.
Either scenario should cost Baraboo admins their jobs. https://t.co/Q798iKYl6o
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