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Student defends Pulaski County teacher who allowed classmate to wear KKK costume in class

Posted at 7:38 AM, May 16, 2023

SOMERSET, Ky. (LEX 18) — A student is coming to the defense of his teacher who was suspended, pending an investigation, for allowing a different student to wear a KKK costume as part of a history project.

Jaxson Clark, a Southern Middle School eighth grader who spoke to LEX18 with his mother’s permission, said he was in the class Friday where the student wearing the Ku Klux Klan costume gave a presentation. He sees no reason for his teacher to be in trouble.

“There was no racist movement behind it,” Clark said. “I mean there was Black kids in the classroom, they all thought it was good. Nobody felt targeted.”

The extra credit assignment was given last Wednesday, Clark said. Students were asked to have the teacher approve the historical figure they would dress up as before they did so.

The student chose, and was approved to wear, a costume depicting Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first KKK Grand Wizard, Clark said.

“He came in on Friday morning trying to wear it in school, so she took it from him and told him he could wear it during the assignment and she would give it back to him at the end of the day.”

Clark thinks the student put it on while on a school bus. He provided LEX 18 video originally downloaded from Tik Tok that he said showed the student wearing the costume on the bus.

Many students at school found out about what happened from the Tik Tok, he said.

“That teacher should be ashamed of herself,” said Jane Leclercq, a grandparent of a student who goes to the school, located in Southern Kentucky. “Why would a teacher actually approve something like that? I don’t understand, I’m outraged, it’s ridiculous.”

Kathy Townsend, a community organizer in Somerset who has helped organize local Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches and Juneteenth events, said she was shocked and angered to hear about what happened at Southern Middle School.

“The KKK represents hate, simple as that,” Townsend said. “This is harmful, when I was young I was scared to just see pictures of the KKK, so can you imagine what students at Southern Middle who aren't white children [felt].”

Townsend said there should be no tolerance for racism and the teacher should be fired.

“In this climate in 2023 she knew better,” Townsend said, adding a clear line was crossed.

Aside from being suspended while they investigate, Pulaski County superintendent Patrick Richardson said the situation will be reported to the Educational Professional Standards Board.

“It sickens me that this has occurred,” Richardson told LEX18. “It embarrassed not only me but our school district and community. I’m angered by the lack of thoughtfulness that went into this situation.”

He said they will work as hard as they can to rectify the situation.

While the student who wore the costume will not face disciplinary action because they were given permission, other school personnel will speak to them about why the teacher’s decision was not appropriate, Richardson said.

They first learned about the situation Monday morning, he said.

The KKK is a domestic terrorist organization founded after the Civil War that used intimidation, violence, and murder to maintain white supremacy in the south, according to the National Geographic Society.

Clark thinks the person at fault in all this is the bus driver who reported what we saw.

“There's no reason to be offended by it,” Clark said. “You can't be mad over a school assignment that teaches history, you have to learn history to make sure you don’t redo it.”