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Teacher Allows Student to Wear KKK Costume

A high School skit in Missouri ended with a teacher being suspended and a few students, along with their parents, being outraged.

It all started with a simple skit that dealt with historical events in a classroom. The history teacher who came up with the idea of creating realistic approaches to understanding history thought that allowing a student to wear a KKK costume would somehow make the skit more believable. He was right.

The costume was considered a part of a “study group presentation” that would focus its attention on the 15th amendment (which gave African-American the right to vote), but it went awry the moment another student took a photo of the outfit and posted it on social media, according to The Springfield News-Leader.

“As part of the presentation, students discussed the adverse historical actions of certain organizations that actively engaged in the suppression of voter rights,” said the teacher in his attempt to explain the relevance of his decision. Unfortunately, this was not enough. He was suspended shortly after a few students shared the post, which was then reshared by their angry parents.

Did everyone overreact on this one?

We send our children to school to learn about events that aren’t always so nice or comfortable. When a teacher attempts to create ways to assist in the child’s learning, it can get a bit sticky. The moment the 9th-grade history teacher to allow the KKK costume to be worn, he didn’t realize that he was opening wombs that have yet to heal. All he wanted to do was help the students understand the significance of the movement, not relive it. Proof of this is in his letter of apology which says:

“I want to sincerely apologize for the pain and negative attention that I have brought to our classroom, school, and community,” states the letter written by the teacher. “I made a mistake on Friday during our skit assignment. I let a student wear an inappropriate costume that was unacceptable and hurt many people’s feelings. As the professional in the room, I should have known better. I’m sorry.”

The superintendent of the Poplar Bluff district where the school is located visited the classroom and continued the apology, although he continued to explain how he knew the teacher meant no harm.

This is a tough call because this costume was worn during a skit. Do we get upset when they wear the same costumes in movies or television shows that depict a time in American history that isn’t so great? We focus our attention on punishing others when they remind us of the horrific events that occurred in America, and the nasty history of inhumane treatment among African-Americans. By punishing the teacher, we told the students that this is not something that we should look at because it’s so wrong. True, it is indeed wrong. However, the ugly of it all is exactly what needs to be seen time and time again if need be. Sometimes this is what it takes to ensure that hatred, evil, and nastiness is prevented in the future. The parents and the school board could have used that moment as an opportunity to really have an honest talk with the students about the feelings that conjured up as a result of the costume, rather than merely pushing away the point of the exercise.

What do you think? Is this a situation that only African-Americans can address because they were the victims of the KKK movement? Is this something that was an innocent lapse in judgment, and if so, does that even matter? Open communication without fear is the only key that will open the door to our unity as a people…regardless of color.

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About Audra L.

Audra L. is an author, columnist and community activist who's dedicated to finding truth through research and effective communication. She received her degree in Public Policy and teaches Community Development, Public Speaking and Communications Law to youth throughout the nation. She is the recipient of over 23 awards and honors for her commitment to community outreach initiatives.

17 comments

  1. Let’s face facts. History, unlike a Disney movie, is filled with ugliness. All kinds of ugliness to all kinds of living things, which includes people. As a result we want our history to be either sanitized, or buried or to be washed away—it did not happen! However, “it” DID happen and many innocents were harmed in the process

    The uncomfortableness the students felt was real and so was their parents rightful indignation. They should have felt afraid and explored why the fear. This was a skit, and the students were not in mortal danger, but those who lived this part of history lived in unfathomable fear. This fear should be dissected and explored so history is not repeated

    By punishing the teacher, an important teaching moment was lost, and buried. The action and reaction were bad, but nobody took time to find out why. Instead of apologizing, the teacher should have been allowed to ask his students “ok, what just happened” and let the learning dialogue begin

  2. Teacher was correct to allow costume within skit. It was a learning environment. This politically correct atmosphere is harmful. People need to be less sensitive…not more.

    • Absolutely agree!! The teacher did absolutely nothing wrong!! I’d love it if my kids had this kind of teacher…one that brings history alive, or any subject alive for that matter. Why are people so easily upset without knowing what’s going on?? The way this was handled after the skit was so very wrong on so many levels.
      When I was in high school, I had at history teacher that was amazing. He did very innovative things to make history ‘come alive’. As a result of that one teacher, I feel in love with history. I’ve been a mean history lover ever since. I have learned the value of knowing history and how many things we can learn form it.
      I wish the students would go to bat for this much maligned instructor, we need to encourage innovativeness in instructors like this, not punish them.
      School board support him, principal support him, peers support him, parents support him!!!! Get this guy back in the classroom where he belongs…

  3. I believe in free speech and free expression.
    If someone wants to say on television or on line “I am a communist” or I am a fascist” (almost the same thing in my opinion) they should be allowed to do so .
    If someone in a skit or in fancy costume wishes to dress up as Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler (Again almost the same thing in my opinion !) they should be allowed to do so.
    If however either fascists or communists try by force to stop others from airing their views and even try to jail those who disagree with them then that cannot be allowed as using force on others when not in self defence is illegal.

  4. The KKK was formed by the Democratic Party to suppress any voters- OF ANY COLOR – who opposed them. My guess is that the people opposed to the costume are deficient in understanding history.

  5. This is ridiculous! The costume was for a presentation on why the KKK was bad. These people are brainwashed to be so easily dogwhistled into triggerment. I bet the old timers were like “Good. They’re seeing it for themselves, they won’t repeat it.” But the 1980-something born kids that are now parents are too volatile to realize that. You know what we had in the 1980s? KKK costumes. We had movies, too. In fact, there was one movie we watched on how the Nazi party could happen. I forget the name of it, but pretty much things escalated slowly until finally the teacher said “Okay, you ready to meet the Grand Leader?” *lots of applause* “Okay, here he is! *shows Hitler*” *applause turns into shocked silence* That’s what we’re becoming. It all begins with silencing people and getting rid of history.

  6. We are not serving our students well by erasing history, we should instead acknowledge the past and vow not to repeat it. The tearing down of statutes, eliminating history from our textbooks, denial of the holocaust, and other atrocities that have stained history is not to be celebrated, but must be acknowledged and taught. It is appalling that this teacher was punished for attempting to enlighten his students by letting them experience this part of history.

  7. Regarding the teacher presenting a skit on history and the uncomfortable truth of the way African Americans have been treated in the South of the United States by a voluntary group called the Klu Klux Klan (aka KKK). The group has created fear and violence. It is part of the history of the USA unfortunately. In the past I have had to read Social Studies that recount hero’s such as Rosa Parks to second graders. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the bus even though she was expected to due to the color of her skin. When I teach this I get a little frustrated. Why should Rosa give up her seat? She worked hard all day and also got to the seat first. Manners also usually have a man giving up his seat to a woman.
    The costume may have been a authentic and the situation, if fear still exists, may have been what drove frustration among students and parents.
    How do we teach students? A picture in a book may serve a similar purpose, but I wonder if this may take the air out of the sails of people who spread hate by bring it to the surface through re-enactment. .
    By bringing this somewhat fear evoking, yet highly noticeable costume to light may allow police or neighbor’s to stick up for their brethren, besides, how fast can someone run in that costume if they were needing to get away quickly?
    As we teach, we can take power away from the fear drivers.
    I see both sides. If the situational skit was prepared by all of the class/classes and the classmates were comfortable with this material then I think it’s ok. If some of the students have been bullied or are feeling abused by the subject then that would create anger
    The teacher may have reached some students who haven’t known of this issue and helped to create understanding and camaraderie amongst classmates. Teaching students that they should stand up for each other, may be an amazing outcome! Team building exercises such as skits and life sharing are bonds that can last a lifetime. I guess it depends on the class’s comfort level. The teacher may have overestimated that comfort level, but how do teachers bring light to these harsh subjects? I guess if someone was offended then we apologize, but what do we do when the teacher was effective with part of the class?
    It’s a harsh subject, but then again I’m teaching curriculum Social Studies and Rosa Parks to second graders in the south.

    • I think that the difference between this and say an Adolf Hitler costume someone mentioned is that Hitler is dead, the KKK is alive and well depending on where you live. It isn’t history if you’re their target because they are still active.

  8. So, what is next offensive, whistling Dixie in public, Dixie Crystal’s sugar, Dixie cups, cotton clothing, table centerpieces with cottonballs in them? This will not be the end of mob rule in this country

  9. It is WOUND, not WOMB.

  10. I would like to commend the teacher for teaching skills that are non conformist and allowing him to think outside the PC box.

  11. agree. this should have been a perfect opportunity to reflect on the wrong done in the past and how to prevent the same happening in the future. without doing this society is doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past over and over again

  12. Re: the kkk costume in the school info-skit. I am a jew, the kkk hates us as well as black people. As long as everyone understood the facts, ie. the real and true purpose of the lesson, i believe the costume brought a shocking sense of reality to a lesson on hatred. People are far too HYPER-SENSITIVE today, and as a result place their emotion driven, ‘I am a victim’ veil over their mind’s ability to reason past their emotions. I support the teacher and say to the hyper-sensitive victims, get over it! Sheesh! You are always looking for any excuse to vent your own resentment and hatred against people who are trying to show you love and understanding.

  13. Funny? The administration must have known the KKK was originated by the democrats to keep the blacks under control. The ones involved must have been republicans.

  14. We reenact the war with folks in Union and Confederate Uniforms. We must let children learn what the holocaust meant, and the nazi uniform is necessary to fully understand it. The KKK was a blatantly anti black group, and the hood they hid behind is essential to understand that they understood how other people felt and hid their faces while they committed atrocious acts like tarring and feathering and lynching. Children must learn that there are people like that to face a real world. Talking about civil rights is incomplete without the KKK and their hoods.

  15. don’t leave anything out; teach the truth; show the facts; no apology necessary

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