School officials and community members in Las Vegas said they don't fault a high school teacher for letting two students dress in Ku Klux Klan costumes during a classroom presentation on U.S. history.
Clark County School District officials investigated and the Las Vegas Academy principal sent parents a letter calling the incident "unfortunate" after one of the students was photographed wearing the white robe and hooded mask at school outside class Jan. 9.
"While the presentation was designed to highlight the atrocities committed by the Klan, and there was no intention to harm or offend on the part of the students, it was in poor judgment and inappropriate for students to go to such lengths to convey their message," Principal Scott Walker said in his Jan. 11 letter.
The teacher and student weren't identified, and district officials said he wasn't disciplined. Amanda Fulkerson, district communications officer, called the incident a personnel matter.
Several students, parents, teachers and one school board member backed the teacher at a Thursday meeting.
"This teacher has my support," said Clark County school Trustee Linda Young, the only black and minority school board member. Young noted that she didn't receive complaints from the public, and said she believed the teacher meant no harm.
Esther Langston, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, professor emeritus with the Delta Sigma Theta black sorority and educational organization, said the teacher needed the academic freedom to educate students in a creative fashion.
Clark County School District equity and diversity chief Greta Peay told The Sun teachers must prepare carefully before and after a potentially controversial lesson to avoid misunderstandings.
Peay said she understood that the purpose of the controversial lessons was to have students better empathize with the victims during the Jim Crow era and the Holocaust. However, Peay said she would not personally recommend that teachers allow their students to dress up as controversial historical characters.
"I would not do this activity with K-12 students," she said. "That's not to take anything away from this teacher. But teachers need to be careful, and really know the culture and climate of the school and have a good grip on how the school will react."
The Sun reported the same performing arts magnet high school came under public scrutiny last year after theater students used the N-word during a production of "Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
The same teacher who let students wear KKK costumes also permitted students to dress as Adolf Hitler in other assignments, the newspaper said.
Officials said that since August 2012, more than 6,500 of the district's 18,000 teachers have taken voluntary diversity training classes, mostly after school and on weekends.