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article imageStudent's film racism history in KKK hoods, Teacher put on leave

By Kim I. Hartman     May 27, 2010 in World
Dahlonega - A teacher who allowed students taking part in a class project on racism to dress in KKK hoods to film a segment on the history of the Klan in the South. Some say it was racism, others ask how you can study racism in the US without looking at the KKK.
A North Georgia teacher at Lumpkin County High School is on administrative leave and could lose her job after she allowed four students to dress in costume Ku Klux Klan outfits for a final project in a high school class on Racism Thursday, administrators said.
The sight of people in Klan-like outfits upset some black students at the school and led at least one parent to complain.
Catherine Ariemma, who teaches the advanced placement course combining U.S. history with film education, could face punishment ranging from suspension to termination, Lumpkin County School Superintendent Dewey Moye said Monday. Ariemma has spent nearly six years teaching in the rural county about 75 miles north of Atlanta.
A report went to school officials, after parents of black students learned what had happened and called the district.
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File photo
Ariemma was placed on paid suspension, and activist the Rev. Markel Hutchins was called to the town 50 miles north of Atlanta to help quell what seemed to be growing frustration among Dahlonega's small African American community reports the Atlantic-Journal Constition.
Ariemma's students were filming reenactments of various historical periods last week, and four donned Klan outfits, superintendent Dewey Moye told the AJC.
She said she walked with them through the cafeteria, but forgot students were there eating lunch.
"I told them, ‘I don't want you to walk through the building by yourselves because I don't want people to get the wrong idea," Ariemma said. "I failed to think about that there was a lunch track in the cafeteria when they went by.
Ariemma is an award-winning teaching. Last year, the Georgia Senate passed a resolution lauding her "dedication to her students and her profession" after she was honored as Lumpkin County High School's 2009 STAR Teacher. The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program is sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and recognizes teaching excellence.
She said she continues to stand behind the video project and the lesson it was to convey to her students.
"This project was about racism in U.S. history," Ariemma said. "Not just racism against African Americans, but racism as a whole."
She said including the Ku Klux Klan was an essential piece.
"You cannot discuss racism without discussing the Klan," she said. "To do so would be to condone their actions."
The Anti-Defamation League weighed in Tuesday with this statement:
The Anti-Defamation League, issued this statement posted at ajc.com that Lumpkin County School Administrators acted appropriately in ordering administrative leave for a teacher who allowed students to parade in Ku Klux Klan costumes in the school.
The teacher, Catherine Ariemma, acknowledges now that it was a mistake to allow her students to walk through school in the Klan attire. “But,” said ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut, “unfortunately she should have known better than to allow it.”
“Some students tell us they were offended, others say they were frightened when confronted with fellow students dressed in Klan garb, one of the most toxic symbols of racism and religious bigotry in American history.” After a conversation with Lumpkin County Superintendent, Dewey Moye, Nigut said he was pleased that school officials recognize the seriousness of the incident. “We understand the teacher involved has had a stellar career but the school had no choice but to condemn her decision in this matter.”
Airemma said "It was poor judgment on my part in allowing them to film at school, This was a hard lesson learned."
Ariemma added "She hoped this can be turned into a teachable moment."
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