A school district superintendent in Pennsylvania has issued an apology for a photograph that was being shared on social media in August of 2015 showing three high school students, who appeared to be female, dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan for a history class project, according to Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post.
Upper Darby School District Superintendent Richard Dunlap explained that the project was meant to “identify and highlight the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan.”
The image showed three students wearing white shirts with the letter “K” and cone-shaped hoods covering their faces. The photo was taken during a presentation in a 2014-2015 school year history class and was illustrating the historical influence of the 1920s.
“The photo has offended many in the community, and the Upper Darby School District is deeply sorry for this,” Dunlap said Friday in a statement. “Though there was no intention to harm or offend anyone, we recognize that the project was in poor judgment and an inappropriate activity.”
The district noted that the Upper Darby School District has 12,000 students in 14 schools and is located in southeastern Delaware County, PA. It added that the county’s residents are diverse socioeconomically and ethnically.
Still, the county has been involved with the Ku Klux Klan historically. A book entitled “Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-1950,” tells the story of the 2,155 members of the Klan lodge, “Klavern” 350, during the years 1925-1926.
And in 1988, approximately three dozen Klan members marched down a street in Parkside Borough, 10 miles from Upper Darby Township, while protesters threw eggs and ridiculed them.
Over 70% of Delaware County’s population is white, reports the US Census Bureau, and roughly 21% of the county’s residents are African-American. Dunlap said district staff will be undergoing training to understand diversity issues more thoroughly. He added that students would also be receiving training in addressing diversity.
WCAU-TV quoted Philadelphia high school teacher Christy Kenney-Quinn, who questioned why the incident even occurred.
“I think that’s an inappropriate assignment. I don’t think that we need to dress like the KKK to talk about the historical time period,” she said.
The principal of the high school apologized for the incident and the teacher who assigned the project said that it was never intended to harm anyone, writes Tom Wyke for the Daily Mail. Wyke referenced the Southern Poverty Law Center, who explain that the Klan has a long history of violence toward Jewish people, African-Americans, and other groups.
The organization came into being after the American Civil War in the 1800s. Currently, it has become a compilation of loosely organized groups who share a belief in racial separation.
In 2015 University of Buffalo graduate art student Ashley Powell admitted to hanging “White Only” and “Black Only” signs on bathroom doors in Clemens Hall as part of a class project. Powell, who is black, stood before a group of more than 70 students at a Black Student Union meeting and said she hung the signs.
The event occurred in September of 2015 and was part of an Installation in Urban Spaces class that required her to make an installation in an urban area that involved time. Many students said they were disgusted by the signs, and some said they were shocked.
Powell apologized for the trauma, fear, hurt, and pain the signs caused, but she did not apologize for her art, reported Gabriela Julia and Marlee Tuskes of UB’s The Spectrum. She said:
“I do not believe that there can be social healing without first coming to terms with and expressing our own pain, rage, and trauma.”