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Jennifer Johnson, Forum News Service, Published February 25 2013

School weighs response to KKK stunt, remains mum on punishment

GRAND FORKS – School administrators say they’re still developing ways to address the student body after three Red River High School students dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb at a hockey game Friday night.

School officials said they won’t reveal what punishment the students received because of a federal law protecting the privacy of students’ records.

High school Principal Kristopher Arason said Monday that the consequences would be the same as at any school, ranging from “suspensions to (affecting) participation in extracurricular events to letters of apology.”

Three students identified as freshmen briefly donned the costumes after the start of the Roughriders’ state semifinal hockey game against Fargo Davies High School. While many students wore white that evening for the “white out” hockey tradition, the three wore robes and hoods resembling the costume of KKK members.

A University of North Dakota student posted a photo of the incident on Twitter, causing an uproar after it spread to national websites such as the Huffington Post.

Lesson in incident

Several Grand Forks students voiced their disappointment with the attire, while some felt it should be understood as a joke. Arason issued a statement Saturday saying the behavior was not representative of the school or student body.

The school district is looking into what grade level the civil rights movement and information about the KKK are being taught, according to a district spokeswoman.

“I think a vast majority of our students understand the symbolism of the costume and the feelings that it evokes,” Arason said. “It was not appropriate.”

Arason has been talking with Fargo Superintendent Jeffrey Schatz, the first principal of Davies High School, which was named in honor of Ron Davies, a Fargo-based federal district judge whose 1957 rulings integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. Schatz has a school video about the judge that may be used for students in Grand Forks.

“I think we would look to our social studies teachers to use it as part of our curriculum,” Arason said.

School officials say they don’t know what this means yet for future events, particularly “white out” activities. Arason said the overall reaction to the students, the power of social media and the speed at which information travels have already set an example.

“We’re looking at our possibilities,” he said. “I can’t say we’ve decided exactly how this will take place, but I think the education kids have received already about that is (about) making choices and how quickly things can happen.”