A Kentucky educator has been suspended after she allowed one of her students to give a classroom history presentation costumed as the man who was the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.
Pulaski County Schools superintendent Patrick Richardson says the incident happened during class on May 12. The district was alerted on Monday, an investigation was launched, and the Educational Professional Standards Board was notified.
“First and foremost, I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed by this incident. I would hope our school and community realize that this does not represent the character of our students and staff at Southern Middle School or our district as a whole,” Richardson said in a statement.
Two days before the incident, the teacher gave an extra credit assignment where students were to dress up like a historic figure. The student in question asked if he could come as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.
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Forrest was a renowned Confederate army general and served as grand wizard from 1867 to 1869.
The teacher allegedly approved his choice. Several other students reportedly saw the student wearing the costume on TikTok.
“It embarrassed not only me but our school district and community,” the administrator said. “I’m angered by the lack of thoughtfulness that went into this situation.”
Jaxson Clark, an eighth grader at Southern Middle School told LEX18 he does not think the teacher did anything wrong. He was in the class on Friday during the student’s controversial presentation. Clark said the teacher stopped the child from parading around the school in costume.
“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,” the middle schooler said.
The teen added he believes it was appropriate for his classmate to wear the costume.
“There was no racist movement behind it,” said Clark, who is white. “I mean there was Black kids in the classroom, they all thought it was good. Nobody felt targeted. You have to learn history so you don’t redo it.”
While Clark did not see anything wrong with the outfit being approved, Jane Leclercq, a white woman whose grandchild attends the school, does.
“That teacher should be ashamed of herself. Why would a teacher actually approve something like that? I don’t understand. I’m outraged. It’s ridiculous,” she stated.
Lexington-Fayette NAACP President Whit Whitaker said there needs to be a conversation about the heroes children are looking up to.
“What is your definition of a hero or of a historical figure? Would he have done the same thing if he wanted to come as Charles Manson or Hitler?” Whitaker asked in an interview with WKYT.
The student who wore the costume will not be reprimanded because he was given permission. School officials have arranged to speak to him and other students at the school about why the choice was inappropriate.