A photo some claim includes the entire male portion of the Baraboo (Wis.) High School senior class of 2019 (the original caption in the tweet below was corrected in a later tweet) was spread across social media showing many of the students giving a Nazi salute, with at least one member also apparently offering up a white power hand gesture. If the information disseminated across social media is true, that group, which has since been condemned by school district officials, by definition includes most or all of the school’s senior male student athletes.
The photo is a troubling indication of the state of racial relations in Baraboo, a small city roughly halfway between Milwaukee and the Minnesota border. While no recent demographic studies of the town available, the 2010 census found that 94 percent of Baraboo’s 12,000 residents are white. That’s despite the town’s long bygone history as the winter home of the Ringling Brothers circus, which led to Baraboo being nicknamed “The Circus City.”
Regardless of whether those demographics are still representative of the Baraboo population, the photo captured and disseminated across social media paints a bleak picture of the racial sensitivity of the school’s senior male population.
While it has not been confirmed that the photo in question contains every boy in the senior class, at least some members of the photo of Baraboo football players attending the 2018 prom below show students who are also in the Nazi salute photo, including two who are clearly in the first row of both shots:
The Baraboo School District responded to the incident quickly on Facebook, sent out the following email on Sunday addressing the photo and how it plans to respond to it, per our Gannett partners at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“Early this morning, a photo that was taken last spring of some Baraboo School District students who appear to be making extremely inappropriate gestures began circulating on social media. The District has confirmed at this time that the photo was not taken on school property or at a school-sponsored event.
“The school district is investigating the situation and is working with parents, staff and local authorities. If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issues.
“With that, we want to be very clear: The Baraboo School district is a hate-free environment where all people, regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry, are respected and celebrated.”
VICE contributor Jules Suzdaltsev, who originally sent out the photo and started its viral promulgation, was inundated with those who claimed to be former Baraboo students offering anecdotes of other hateful behavior in the school, though it remains unknown if anyone connected with the school’s sports teams was involved in those incidents, if true.
While there isn’t a paper trail to past racial incidents connected with Baraboo athletics, there have been other racial flash points at sporting events in Wisconsin since the 2016 election, including at least two basketball games in early 2018.
Regardless of how deep the scandal cuts in Baraboo, there is no question that it has painted an ugly brush on an otherwise outwardly pastoral community previously known best for its aforementioned historic role as the “circus city” and for being the birthplace of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.