A high school teacher in Georgia has been put on paid leave after allowing four students to dress up in Ku Klux Klan hoods during school.
Catherine Ariemma, an award-winning teacher at Lumpkin County High School, said the students were in costume for a film project on racial issues for her AP history class. Even so, a number of students in the school were made uncomfortable by their appearance, and the incident has fueled racial tensions in the community.
“I feel terrible that I have students who feel threatened because of something from my class,” Ariemma told the Atlanta Journal-Constituion. “In hindsight, I wouldn’t have had them film that part at school.”
Lynn Hogue, a law professor at Georgia State University, said that there was nothing inherently wrong in allowing students to don the KKK robes for educational purposes, but the execution could have been handled better.
“The answer is not necessarily to not do it,” Hogue said, “but rather to be sure that everybody is reasonably informed about it so that people aren’t caught off guard and it doesn’t backfire.”
“Good common sense should have told her this was not a good idea,” said Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights activist who has been called to the town to help address the issue.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.