A Wisconsin school district and local police are investigating an incident in which male high school students appeared to be doing the Nazi salute in their prom photo.
The photo that was widely shared on social media Monday was taken last spring and reportedly featured all the male students from the Baraboo High School class of 2019.
In a statement Tuesday, the Baraboo School District said it was investigating the incident involving students “who appear to be making extremely inappropriate gestures.”
Superintendent Lori Mueller told BuzzFeed News that the district had involved local law enforcement to investigate the incident.
“If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue,” Mueller said in the statement.
The Baraboo Police Department confirmed that it was assisting the school district with the investigation into the “controversial photo.”
Mueller added that the photo was not taken on school property or at a school-sponsored event.
The photo appeared to be taken at the Baraboo High School prom by Wheel Memories, a Baraboo-based company that provides “photographic services to the motorcycle community.”
Wheel Memories’ website has a section titled “BHS Prom Pics,” but the photos have been deleted and replaced with a message that said the page was modified “due [to] malevolent behavior on the part of some in society who can and do take the time to be jerks.”
The message went on to blame the internet for bullying and added, “To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize.”
The statement ends with “YOU ARE JERKS! Grow up!”
Wheel Memories did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
The deleted photos can be found on the archived page for the website.
The incident first came to light when Twitter user @CarlySidey shared the photo that was posted by the @GoBaraboo Twitter account on Sunday with the caption, “We even got the black kid to throw it up #barabooproud.” The @GoBaraboo account has since been deleted.
Jules Suzdaltsev, a producer, writer, and host whose tweets about the photo were widely shared, posted a statement from Jordan Blue, one of the only students in the photo who was not making the offensive gesture.
In his statement, Blue claimed that the photographer told the students to make the sign. He said that he was “clearly uncomfortable” with doing the salute for “something I firmly didn’t believe in.”
Blue also alleged that his classmates in the photo had bullied him since middle school and that nothing was ever done to discipline them. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Blue for comment.
Suzdaltsev also shared accounts from people who said they were Baraboo High School students, describing alleged racist incidents at the school, including the frequent use of the n-word, chants of “white power,” and derogatory social media posts about Native American, black, and Mexican students.
In 2012, several Baraboo High School students defended placing Confederate flags on their pickup trucks to honor one of their classmates who died in a car accident, according to a Baraboo News Republic report at the time.
Austin Smothers, a Baraboo High School junior, told the outlet that he and others at Baraboo High School often drove their trucks with the Confederate flag flying in the back.
“We never meant it to be a racist thing to anybody,” Smothers said at the time. “We wanted to honor our friend, Joshua Blum, who had just died. We wanted to show we cared for him.”
Other students quoted in the article also defended the use of the Confederate flag, saying it wasn’t racist.
“It’s from The Dukes of Hazzard and the General Lee car,” one Baraboo High School graduate told the News Republic. “For me, the flag means fishing and hunting. That’s it. It doesn’t mean I am a racist.”