A Kentucky middle school teacher was suspended after approving a student’s request to dress as the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard for extra credit.
The Southern Middle School teacher allegedly approved the plan by the eighth-grader to represent Nathan Bedford Forrest — a Confederate soldier and the KKK’s first Grand Wizard — by dressing up in a complete Klansman hood and robe, according to LEX 18.
Video of the student wearing the robe and hood inside a school bus and in the classroom led to outrage over the weekend and parents called for the teacher to be fired. The instructor has yet to be identified
“That teacher should be ashamed of herself,” Jane Leclercq, a grandmother of one of the middle school students, told the local outlet. “Why would a teacher actually approve something like that? I don’t understand, I’m outraged, it’s ridiculous.”
Whit Whitaker, the head of the local NAACP, condemned the teacher’s decision and called on students to take sensitivity training to avoid future incidents.
“My initial response was outrage, but it’s happened so many times. I think people get numb to it,” he told WYMT. “They want to apologize later instead of stopping it before the fire gets out of control.”
Pulaski County Superintendent Patrick Richardson confirmed that the district received reports about the incident on Monday, leading to the teacher’s suspension. The district also reported her to the Educational Professional Standards Board.
Richardson said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed by this incident. I am deeply apologetic of this situation, and I am taking immediate steps to address this matter.”
The superintendent added that while the student would not face disciplinary action because they had gotten the teacher’s approval, staff members will sit down with the student to explain why the teacher’s decision was wrong.
Despite the public outrage over the incident, one of the Southern Middle School students who shared the TikTok video of the outfit on the bus claimed the teacher and student did nothing wrong.
Jaxson Clark, a fellow eighth-grader, said there was nothing racist about the incident, noting that the teacher took away the costume until it was time for class.
“He came in on Friday morning trying to wear it in school, so she took it from him and told him he could wear it during the assignment and she would give it back to him at the end of the day,” Jaxson said.
“There’s no reason to be offended by it,” the classmate said of the costume. “You can’t be mad over a school assignment that teaches history, you have to learn history to make sure you don’t redo it.”