BARABOO (WKOW) — The photographer who took the viral Baraboo High School junior prom photo said all the controversy surrounding the photo is a misunderstanding.
Pete Gust said the gestures in the photo are being taken out of context. During the time of the photo, he said he was instructing the boys to wave goodbye.
“I had said to them, okay boys, you’re going to say goodbye to your parents, so wave. I put my hand up and said, now you’re looking towards me, wave, say goodbye,” Gust said.
Gust said the boys were in different stages of waving goodbye when the photo was snapped. As far as he knows, none of the boys intended to do a Nazi salute. He said people are wrong for interpreting it as something inappropriate.
“If you want to interpret that way then I guess go ahead and interpret that way,” Gust said. “For society to now turn it around and blame these kids is absolutely wrong.”
But one student said he remembers the events differently. Jordan Blue said the group of boys were mostly juniors and had no reason to wave goodbye.
The Baraboo School District and police are investigating the photo.
The Jewish Milwaukee Federation, the Jewish Federation of Madison and the Wisconsin Jewish Conference released a joint statement that said:
“We are alarmed by the disturbing display of anti-Semitism by a group of Baraboo High School students. Though the incident apparently took place last May, it reflects a rising swell of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. We are particularly concerned with the prevalence of bigotry within schools; more than 25 percent of all the recorded anti-Semitic incidents in Wisconsin last year took place among students or on campus. We have witnessed numerous egregious incidents targeting African Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups.
We appreciate the school district’s comment and look forward to working with them to prevent any future such incidents. As we know, acts of hate begin with hateful expressions. Such expressions must be a call to action for schools and families to educate youth to respect diversity and to embrace difference. The values that will hold us together must be taught and reinforced, lest we see the continued rise of hate and its consequences.”