Grand Forks Red River High school administrators said Saturday that disciplinary action has been taken against three students who dressed in KKK garb during the state hockey semifinal at the Ralph Engelstad Arena against Fargo Davies High Friday night.
A photo of three Red River High school fans wearing KKK hoods during the game sparked outrage on Twiiter leading to an investigation by school officials.
Grand Forks Herald reports that Principal Kris Arason, said in a statement: "We, as a school, are extremely disappointed with the behavior of these three students. This behavior is not a representation of our school or student body."
He said the school authorities have contacted the students and their families and “appropriate action is being taken,” though he did not specify the actions taken.
The Associated Press reports that 19-year-old Shane Schuster, of the University of North Dakota (UND), who was at the arena noticed the three students and snapped the photo with his camera phone and posted it to Twitter at 7:40 p.m. with the caption, "I guess the red river highschoolers are racist?"
He said: "We were behind the visitor’s bench. The first period had just started, and the (Red River) student section was doing a chant. I squinted my eyes, and saw them wearing the KKK-style clothes. I was shocked and did a double take."
Schuster, describing his reaction to the students' garb, said: "I thought, ‘Are those KKK hoods?’ I couldn't believe it. I was shocked."
The photo was “retweeted” hundreds of times and attracted criticisms on Twitter and other social media. It soon appeared on many news sites including USA Today and Huffington Post, Grand Forks Herald reports.
The three students wearing the KKK hoods were seated among fellow Red River High School students, and their offensive costumes were almost invisible in the midst of a sea of white outfits worn by the other students who were participating in the school's traditional “whiteout” for the occasion.
The school authorities claimed that the students, said to be freshmen, wore the costumes for only about 30 seconds and removed them after other students objected. In a statement Saturday, Mark Rerick, athletic director for Grand Forks Public Schools, said officials acted once they were alerted. He said in a statement: "After being alerted about the picture of the students in the stands, I immediately conferred with our tournament security staff as well as the security personnel working for Ralph Engelstad Arena."
The school principal added: "The students removed the attire after students around them told them how offensive their attire was."
Red River senior Barret Eichof, said: “They put them on for about 30 seconds. Nobody did anything at first, but then after everyone saw it, we all told them to take it off."
Alyssa Carlson, a junior, said she was "ashamed." She said: "Three guys ruined it for everybody."
But Shane Schuster, the student who snapped the photo and posted it to Twitter, said the three students had on the costumes much longer. Grand Forks Herald reports he said: "It seemed like they had it on for about 10 minutes."
But Arason contested the claim, saying it was unlikely that the students wore the offensive costumes for so long.
The principal, referring to student eyewitness accounts, said: “That is not even close to the correct amount of time we have heard. There was a security guard posted by the student section. There is no way they could have had the attire on for that long.”
Both Sports Grid and Dead Spin accused the authorities of nonchalance in the face of the evidence. Fargo Public Schools Athletic Director Todd Olson, had told the Grand Forks Herald: "To be very honest, I think you’re looking for something that is not there." He argued that the "white-out" tradition peculiar to the school was accepted.
Dead Spin reports Davies High Head Coach Brian Davidson, said he noticed the "white-out" costumes but did not see anyone in KKK hoods. He commented on the allegation, saying, "That's pretty tacky, no, not in today's days, c'mon."
According to the Grand Forks Herald, there is a little history behind Fargo Davies High School that may have informed the action of the Grand Forks Red River High school students. The school is named after Ronald Davies, a former U.S. District judge who ruled against the governor of Arkansas when he tried to stop the desegregation of Little Rock schools in 1957.
Tom Davies, the judge’s son, said he was uncertain if the three students wearing hoods and robes were aware of that bit of history.
He said: "I’m not familiar with the white out actions and they cause me no concern. The hooded portion is something the school administration should talk to the students about. They may not have attached any significance to their attire but, if they did, and it was racially motivated, then the school ought to take appropriate action, whatever that is."
The Associated Press reported that Red River won the game 2-0 to advance to the North Dakota Boys State Hockey Tournament title game against Grafton-Park River on Saturday