School District Won't Punish Students In Nazi Salute Prom Photo Due To First Amendment

A photo went viral this month showing high school students in Baraboo, Wisconsin, lifting their arms in an apparent Nazi salute before their junior prom.

The Baraboo School District in Wisconsin reportedly doesn’t plan to punish the students who gave an apparent Nazi salute in a photo that went viral this month.

The school district’s administrator, Lori Mueller, distributed a letter via a student information system on Wednesday saying that the district has completed part of an investigation into the photo but that some “key details” remain unclear, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“We cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved,” she reportedly wrote. “Moreover, because of students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions.”

The photo, reportedly taken before the Baraboo High School junior prom last spring, captured dozens of male students lifting their arms in an apparent Sieg Heil, a gesture used as a greeting in Nazi Germany.

After the photo went viral and received widespread condemnation, Mueller condemned the students’ actions as “not reflective of the educational values” of the school district and said it would pursue “any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal.”  

She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The school district wrote in a statement on Nov. 14 that it understood “the moral responsibility we have to be relentless in our work to create a culture in which racism is not tolerated.” It later announced a series of community meetings, which appear to be ongoing, to “acknowledge the deep significance” of the students’ actions. “The answer to hate is not hate,” it said.