WATCH: Wyoming High School Students Enter School Wearing KKK Robes, Waving American Flag

wyoming high school students kkk robes
Viral image shows two Wyoming students wearing white robes to school. (Facebook/Micah Lott)

On Wednesday, students at Riverton High School in Wyoming stormed through the front doors of the school dressed in what appeared to be KKK robes and waving the American flag. They were both wearing white robes and big grins on their faces. One of the boys was wearing a pointed hood and had a large cross around his neck.

A “white out” theme was encouraged for that day as a “Spirit Day” at the high school and was meant to be a celebration of the school’s team colors, red and white, according to Wyoming Public Media.

A statement issued by the school says that the two unnamed students have been disciplined. Wyoming state superintendent Jillian Balow tweeted that she is saddened and disappointed.

“I am saddened and disappointed by the actions of the two students involved in the incident,” Jillian Balow, Wyoming’s state superintendent, said on Twitter. “This hurts our community, state, and nation.”

At first, some of the students who commented on the school’s Facebook post suggested that the boys were dressed as monks. However, Balow quickly dismissed that notion.

“The facts indicate that they deliberately and intentionally entered the school in attire known to be associated with the Ku Klux Klan,” Balow wrote on Twitter. “Hateful speech, attire, or behavior is unequivocally unacceptable.”

Michael Lott, 26, is a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and a Native American rights activist. When he saw the photo on Facebook, he had no doubt in his mind that the boys were dressed as KKK members.

“I was surprised to see something this blatant,” Lott said. “Racism is a taught behavior. We have to acknowledge what we’re teaching our children and how it’s continuing this cycle in our country.”

Riverton, a small Wyoming town with a population of 11,000, is surrounded by the Wind River Indian Reservation. In the 20th century, Riverton was carved out of reservation land. For years, this has led to tensions between the white residents and the approximately 14,000 Native Americans who live on the tribal land that surrounds Riverton.

Unfortunately, Lott has experienced that tension personally. As a student attending Riverton schools, he heard racist taunts frequently, even though Riverton High School is in one of the most diverse districts in the state and serves more Native American students than any other Wyoming school district.

“We were always told to ‘go back to the res,’” he said. “But then you grow up and realize, ‘What does that really mean?’ Because we’re on the reservation, we’re surrounded by it.”

Terry Snyder, the district superintendent appeared to soften what these boys did by suggesting that they perhaps didn’t understand the significance of wearing white robes and pointed hoods. He told CNN that it appeared to be a “very poor decision.”

However, like Balow, Snyder rejected the idea that the boys were dressed as monks, according to the Casper Star Tribune. Snyder added that after gathering information from multiple parties, school officials are “100 percent certain” that the students deliberately dressed in Ku Klux Klan attire.

“We have interpreted the attire to be offensive and to be inappropriate,” Snyder said. “We understand there can be different interpretations, but through our investigation, we believe that it was offensive and inappropriate, and we have taken disciplinary action with the students involved.”

Because of his own extensive experience in the town, Lott quickly dismissed the claim that what the boys did was a “joke.”

“Some people are like, ‘This is just a prank,’ but given all the context of the situation here, that’s not right,” Lott said. “It’s not okay to portray, even as a joke, that history behind the KKK. That’s not a joke, what they’ve done to people.”

One teacher at the school shared anonymously that while her students of color were “horrified, uncomfortable and fearful,” they weren’t surprised.

“A lot of my students are so desensitized to the racism here, that it’s really sad. Sometimes their reactions are just ‘Oh, well that’s Riverton,’ or ‘Oh, it happens,'” the teacher said.

A Facebook post by the school’s administration condemned the boys’ actions.

“We are aware of the photo circulating social media,” the school said. “We do not condone or support the student’s actions. We have taken disciplinary measures and have handled it. One student’s decision does not represent our school or district. We are an inclusive school that is proud of our diverse population and celebrate that fact regularly.”

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The Washington Post said that the school’s faculty and principal met on Thursday to discuss ideas on how best to address the situation and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Lott is hopeful.

“People are just barely having these conversations right now. The wound is still very fresh,” he said. “We’re definitely moving slower here than in other parts of the country. We need to talk so we can understand each other better, and see that as indigenous people, we’re humans too.”

It’s a bit unreal that these situations are just now being addressed in a town where racial tensions have been commonplace for decades, but alas…Make America Great Again.

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Featured image: screengrab via embedded video

Tiffany Willis Clark is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America and AmReading.com. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she had a long and successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. In 2011, she made the decision to pursue her dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.