A historical KKK photo at Central High removed

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - UPDATE-Cheyenne is once again in the spotlight dealing with a national hot-button issue about another incident in a local school.

On Friday, Central High school literature students walked into their class to find an old black-and-white picture of KKK horsemen posed for a photo behind the teacher’s desk.

According to NAACP sources, the teacher told her students the photo was of a 1913 KKK parade taken by her grandmother.

LCSD1 officials say the teacher meant to use the photo as part of an illustration for upcoming class materials and to give students a sense of what it was like in the pre-civil rights south.

A copy of the photo was posted to Facebook and got an immediate public reaction.

“No matter how you meant it, it’s still impactful. If you didn’t mean it as .. if it was a learning tool it’s still impactful because you have people of color you have children, which is our main issue,” said Pastor Stephen Latham, President of the NAACP Cheyenne Chapter.

According to LCSD1 advocates, this caused upset among students and, eventually, parents, making them question the staff’s cultural sensitivity.

“I view it as a community issue that comes into the school system and then we see the repercussions. We see the micro-aggressions in the things that happen in the schools. They’re a direct reflection of what happens in our community,” Drew Hall, Access and Opportunity Coordinator-LCSD1.

According to LCSD1 advocates, three students of color and one caucasian student complained, and the administrator removed the photo.

The school district’s advocacy team and the family met about the incident Monday morning.

“What were trying to do is make sure our staff feels safe and our families feel safe, so we can have the dialogue and interaction around really tough conversations that perhaps our community needs to have,” said Dr. Margaret Crespo, Superintendent LCSD1.

According to LCSD1 officials, the teacher is undergoing a disciplinary process until their investigation is complete.

“It continues to build a wedge between the community we’re trying to..I’m working together with several organizations and were trying to bring this community together and this kind of thing just continues to rip it apart,” said Latham.

But many feel this is a continuation of an ongoing problem Cheyenne and Wyoming leaders aren’t sufficiently addressing.

“What the first rule of the code of the west? Live each day with courage. We can do that. We don’t have to be afraid to address the racism of our past and present in order to not make it our future. We dont have to be afraid to say everybody deserves to feel safe and secure in their schools,” said Sara Burlingham, Executive Director of Wyoming Equality.

Thursday will be a town hall event at the Romero Community Center at 6:30 pm.

The Central High English teacher Shannon Black says in a statement released on Friday.

“I have kept the picture over the years not to promote or idealize the KKK, but rather for the opposite reason—that the picture serves to show how openly racism was practiced and accepted in some places at that time in history. I teach students about such books as To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as part of the English curriculum. These novels all revolve around the pre-civil rights South, very small-town mindsets, the innocence and perspective of children in trying to understand the intrinsic ugliness of some people,” says Black.

Black wanted to make sure that the public had a full and accurate explanation.