Catherine Ariemma is an advanced placement U.S History/film teacher at Lumpkin High School in Dahlonega Georgia, a rural community about 75 miles outside of Atlanta. She made a decision on how to present some of her course material that may very well ruin her career.
It seems that Catherine Ariemma permitted four of her students to wear Klu Klux Klan mock robes for a historical reenactment about discrimination. Other students at Lumpkin High School became very upset and frightened after seeing the four students walking the school hallway in their Klan costumes, and at least one parent called the school about the incident.
Ariemma’s class consisted of 15 students from various races, but no black students. The fifteen students had spent the year viewing historical films. It was their turn to create their own film.
According to Ariemma, the students brainstormed to pick a specific film topic, and ultimately decided to trace the history of racism in America. The topic included covering the history of the Stone Mountain ,Georgia and Tuscaloosa, Alabama white supremacist chapters. The kids put on SpongeBob party hats to make a “cone head.” They then donned white sheets with eye holes cut out to make a KKK costume. Ariemma led them through the cafeteria to a location where they shot a film scene.
School officials have placed Ariemma on leave and will decide whether to suspend her or fire her. The school also says that they are now considering a new policy requiring all film projects to be approved by administrators….really, they are just now thinking that maybe school activities need to be approved- ground breaking.
Many people are mad that the incident took place at all, saying that the KKK has no place in school. I disagree. Ariemma clearly showed a lack of judgment in how she went about letting these students cover the subject, racism was and is still a very real topic. We can not ignore the KKK and pretend that it didn’t, and still does, exist. However, it is a sensitive subject for many. I’m not one of those politically correct folks, but some subjects do involve a degree of sensitivity. The students walking the halls in KKK costumes were privy to what was going on….other students just see the costume, but have no idea what the context may be.
Simple measures such as: informing the entire school to not be alarmed if they see her students recreating KKK scenes for a history film and donning the costumes at the film scene and removed at the film scene could have saved Ariemma, the school, and the students a lot of headache.