Two students at a high school in central Wyoming are facing discipline after showing up to school in white robes reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan regalia.
Photos and video uploaded to social media this week showed the Riverton High School students sporting white hooded robes as they arrived to school Wednesday morning, according to Wyoming Public Media. The incident occurred during the school’s holiday spirit week, and Wednesday’s theme was “White Out Day.”
School officials said the students took advantage of what was supposed to be a celebration of Riverton High’s team colors, red and white.
“The facts indicate they deliberately and intentionally entered the school in attire known to be associated with the KKK,” said Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “This hurts our community, state, [and] nation.”
Terry Snyder, superintendent of Fremont County District 25, also addressed the incident, saying the students involved have been disciplined. Snyder stopped just short of describing the punishments, however, citing privacy rules.
A teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said she first learned of the incident Wednesday from students who saw it firsthand. The teacher said while students of color were left feeling “horrified” and “uncomfortable” at the sight of their KKK-clad peers, for many, it wasn’t their first brush with racism in the Riverton School district.
“A lot of my students are so desensitized to the racism here, that it’s really sad,” they told Wyoming Public Media. “Sometimes their reactions are just ‘Oh, well that’s Riverton,’ or ‘Oh, it happens.’ “
Native American rights activist Micah Lott reshared a photo of the incident, which he said was proof that racism is alive and well.
“They try to say racism is gone,” Lott wrote on Facebook. “This is taught behavior, the klan is alive and well in Riverton, Wyoming … We all knew it.”
Riverton is a city of about 11,000 people and borders the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Fremont County District 25 is also one of the most diverse in the state, serving more Native American students than any other district in Wyoming. Still, the city’s population is overwhelmingly white, with very few African-Americans at less than 0.2 percent of the total.
“I believe that these actions were inappropriate,” Snyder said of the incident. “It was dealt with immediately. We’re not going to tolerate anything that begins to look like it has racial overtones at all, and that was the basis for the disciplinary action.”
The anonymous teacher suggested a lengthy out-of-school suspension for the students, but also called on school administrators to better address racism within the school district.
“I think what would be more constructive, because these racist encounters happen so often, is to have an assembly about it,” they said. “Bring in different speakers, talk about racism, talk about how it affects people. Something needs to be done in the whole school and the whole district.”