Several Mound Westonka High School students are facing disciplinary action, including suspension, after participating in an annual dodgeball tournament while dressed in uniforms some spectators said resembled KKK regalia.
The group of upperclassmen boys donned all-white uniforms at Wednesday night’s annual fundraiser, including white T-shirts and bandannas pointed upward like cones, according to witness accounts and a team photo circulated on social media.
Dodgeball teams are encouraged to dress in costume for the event, meant to promote school spirit. Staff members supervising the tournament allowed the boys to play and “did not witness nor receive any reports of behavior believed to be inappropriate during the event,” district officials wrote in a statement to the media.
Allegations of misconduct bubbled Wednesday evening, prompting administrators to launch an investigation.
Some complaints centered around white supremacist comments that appeared to be made by students on social media. One screen grab of a Snapchat message depicts a boy holding a pointed white bandanna on his head and another over his mouth, exposing only his eyes. The caption says “Grand wizard” — a term for the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
In an e-mail sent to parents, Mound Westonka Principal Mark McIlmoyle wrote that a small group of students had engaged in “offensive conduct,” both on and off campus, that violated district policies. McIlmoyle said that “appropriate action” was taken and an investigation into the possible behavior of other students was ongoing.
School officials declined to elaborate on what specific action was taken, but students said several boys on the team were suspended.
“We are very disappointed by the poor decisions made by a few of our students. This is not indicative of our student body as a whole …” McIlmoyle wrote to parents. “We are deeply committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment that respects diversity in all forms.”
Santiago Rodriguez, a Mound Westonka junior, said he felt “disgusted” when he heard about the costumes and the pictures that were circulating from a friend who attended the tournament.
“The teachers didn’t recognize it as something that could be offensive, because all they saw was a bunch of kids dressed in white,” Santiago said. “It wasn’t the stereotypical hooded Klansman, but they were still going for a KKK-vibe with it.”
Students in attendance caught on more quickly, he said, because they were privy to social media posts before and after the event. Santiago said the boys’ motives may not have been out of hatred, “but it was still out of ignorance.”
At least one of the students suspended for the incident is a hockey player, students said. Some rallied behind him on social media, concerned about the team’s success in his absence.
Santiago, and others, didn’t agree. On Friday, Santiago tweeted: “Kids dressed up as the KKK and you’re worried about a hockey game? Do you see nothing wrong with that? #mwhspride”