November 25, 2018
Dear Baraboo School Board,
In light of the students who engaged in offensive behaviors through the use of Nazi salutes in a photograph prior to a school function, I am writing this open letter as a scientist and educator who has concerns as to how this will affect teachers and the students at your schools. The district’s policies are very clear on expected behavior of students who attend your schools. I will be referencing several of your polices with links to them provided. I am also highlighting key rules and will be discussing the “free speech” excuse your board has given.
For reference, my article on Freedom of Speech Clarifications…
Let’s first discuss your published policies…
The school board policy on expected student behavior
1. Students shall understand that they must make choices involving value judgments,
standards of conduct and courses of action.
2. Students will appreciate themselves as unique individuals, worthy of respect by
others, as well as self-respect, by discovering their strengths and realistically
accepting their liabilities.
3. Students will learn to recognize relationships between their behavior and
4. Students will assume the responsibility and the consequences for their actions,
striving to achieve self-discipline and self-control.
5. Students will be active participants in developing for themselves the structure and
control needed to promote a positive learning experience and lifestyle
The school board policy for students in classroom behavior…
Student Removal from Class
A teacher may temporarily dismiss a student from class for the following behaviors,
which includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following:
1. Dangerous or disruptive behavior that interferes with classroom instruction;
2. Possession or use of a weapon or other item that might cause bodily harm to
persons in the classroom, or threatening to use violence or weapons;
3. Under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances or controlled
substance analogs, or otherwise in violation of district student alcohol and other
4. Harassment, hostile or offensive behaviors;
5. Fighting or inciting and/or encouraging a fight or disruption;
6. Disruption and intimidation caused by gang or group symbols or gestures, gang or
group posturing to provoke altercations or confrontations;
7. Pushing or striking a student or staff member;
8. Physical appearance or attire that presents a danger to health or safety, or
interferes with classroom instruction.
9. Threats of violence, or use of intimidation, fear or force including but not limited
to verbal/physical threats.
A student may be subject to removal from classroom/ disciplinary action for other
behaviors including, but not necessarily limited to, the following:
1. Stealing District property or property of others
2. Willful damage to school property/and property of others
3. Defiance of authority (willful refusal to follow directions or orders given by the
4. Repeatedly reporting to class without bringing necessary materials to participate
in class activities
5. Possession of personal property prohibited by school rules and otherwise
disruptive to the teaching and learning of others
6. Repeated use of profanity
The school board policy on dress code…
Our student dress code is designed to accomplish several goals:
Maintain a safe learning environment in classes where protective or supportive
clothing is needed.
Allow students to wear clothing of their choice that is comfortable.
Allow students to wear clothing that expresses their self-identified gender.
Allow students to wear religious attire without fear of discipline or discrimination.
Prevent students from wearing clothing with offensive images or language,
including profanity, hate speech, and pornography.
Prevent students from wearing clothing with images or language depicting or
advocating violence or the use of alcohol or drugs.
Ensure that all students are treated equitably regardless of gender/gender
identification/gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, body
type/size, religion, and personal style.
1. Basic Principle: Certain body parts must be covered for all students at all times.
Clothes must be worn in a way that genitals, buttocks, midriffs, breasts, and
nipples are fully covered with opaque (neither transparent or translucent) fabric.
All items listed in the “must wear” and “may wear” categories below must meet
this basic principle.
2. Students Must Wear, while following the basic principle of Section 1 above:
A Shirt, AND
Bottom: Pants/Sweatpants/Shorts/Skirt/Dress/Leggings, AND
Shoes. There may be specific requirements due to student safety regarding
appropriate footwear in certain classroom settings.
3. Students May Wear, as long as these items do not violate Section 1 above:
Fitted pants, including opaque leggings, yoga pants, and “skinny jeans”
Tank tops, including spaghetti straps; halter tops
4. Students Cannot Wear:
Items with violent language or images (e.g. weapons)
Images or language depicting drugs or alcohol (or any illegal item or
Hate speech, profanity, pornography
Images of language that creates a hostile or intimidating environment
based on any protected class or consistently marginalized groups
Swimsuits (except as required in class or athletic practice)
Accessories that could be considered dangerous or could be used as a
Any item that obscures the face or ears (except as a religious observance)
Visible underwear (visible waistbands or straps on undergarments worn
under other clothing are not a violation)
Attire with a gang-related association
Body markings or tattoos that do not meet the above standards must be fully covered.
The wearing of outer garments and headwear will be permitted in school vehicles and at
school activities when appropriate.
Freedom of speech is what your board cited for not punishing students for blatantly engaging in offensive behavior. The Nazi salute, propaganda, and WW2 are a part of your curriculum. Baraboo students are actively taught Nazi symbolism is synonymous with some of the most horrible crimes committed in recent history. Nazi salutes coincide with the ideals of genocide of anyone who is not deemed racially superior. This is hate speech. This is a “gang symbol” from an emerging group of individuals called white nationalists (I have written about them HERE). Coincidentally the Proud Boys who have ties to the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017,are now considered a terrorist group by the FBI.
This is not freedom of speech issue. The dress code policy, use of profanity, student expectations on promoting a conducive and positive learning environment could easily be argued that they are in violation of students’ free speech. If the board is willing to suspend students for wearing, signing, or saying anything related to hate speech, gang symbolism, encouraging oppression of marginalized groups…these boys in this picture using a worldwide symbol of hatred, torture, and death must be disciplined. By not enforcing your own policies, the board has marginalized every group of students who now feel unsafe to go to school because Nazi signs and speech is allowed.
The board is in violation of their own policies and clearly showing bias towards a demographic who historically (and in recent news) is not prosecuted and/or serve time for sex crimes, shot for their race, threatened to be fired for kneeling during a football game…I could go on. This is the example you are setting for the students who are already marginalized through society and for the male white students who are now given a free pass for promoting racism, sexism, and genocide. There will be division in every classroom now.
This is what you are telling the country’s educators. The teachers in your district now have a precedent to favor white males and give them free passes over the children who would be sent home for wearing or signing gang symbols. The board says this is a free speech issue. If this is the case, eliminate the highlighted points I have listed that are found within your own policy. This is clearly school board bias, not freedom of speech.
Last point…would you fire teachers who engage in Nazi salutes? Freedom of speech is not freedom of consequence. Freedom of speech is not going to jail for saying words. Reconsider your decision and hold these boys responsible for promoting oppression and school wide division…the subsequent sacrifice will be the students who now can not learn in an environment that excuses hate and marginalization of non white, straight males.
Do better and serve all of your students.