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Online Outrage Over What Appears to Be Prom Photo Featuring Dozens of Wisconsin High Schoolers Giving Nazi Salute

Credit: Twitter.com/jules_su

Two hours northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the close-knit community of Baraboo, home to roughly 12,000 residents and a school district serving 4,000 kids across five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

It’s an outlier town perhaps best known for the Circus World Museum, which draws tourists and families from across the country every summer.

But over the past 12 hours, city officials and school district leaders have been racing to respond to an online controversy now surrounding the Baraboo School District, its current senior class, and what appears to be a photo of more than 60 boys giving a Nazi salute last spring, around the time of the junior prom.

It was a 1 a.m. tweet from journalist Jules Suzdaltsev, a frequent contributor to Vice, that went viral over the late-night hours, earning tens of thousands of shares on social media and morning headlines across Wisconsin’s top news outlets.

Suzdaltsev tweeted that he was quickly flooded with reactions, comments, and anecdotes from other alleged Baraboo students and alumni who said they wanted to share their own experiences with district bullying and hate speech and what they encountered when they attempted to report these incidents to school authorities.

City officials are now weighing in, and the district says that although the photo did not occur on school property or during a school function, administrators are investigating the image and considering what actions to pursue:

The Auschwitz Memorial tweeted that the photo is why the organization works hard “to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising.”

School officials told the Baraboo News Republic that the high school was “placed in a ‘soft hold’ Monday due to the photo,” which “prevents students from leaving school premises — such as for off-campus lunch — unless they have permission from a parent and approval through the office.”

Some online commenters have pointed to past controversies at the district as evidence of a toxic school culture. As the News Republic reported back in 2012, many residents were outraged by the use of Confederate battle flags in a student-led memorial for a friend who had died in a car crash.

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