A painful lesson

The world has changed in many ways over the past decade, and one of the most dramatic ways in which that change has manifested is in Social Media.

While 40 years ago, it may have taken hours or days for news to travel from a small town like New Prague, in today’s connected world, all it takes is a few hours, or maybe even a few minutes, for happenings in New Prague to be shared around the world.

So it was this weekend, when a student posted a Snapchat image from the New Prague High School spring play, “The Foreigner.” The image was from the play’s final scene, which involves actors dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods.

The image was quickly shared by others, and the school administration caught wind of it less than an hour after it was posted. A single image of five people in Klan robes can paint a powerful picture, especially to a minority student attending a predominantly white school, where less than 1 percent of the student body is black.

“The Foreigner” is an award-winning play about acceptance. The Klan members represented an evil force in the play, but many of those seeing the image knew nothing of the play, only that there were students wearing Klan robes.

Was this, as some like to say, a “teachable moment?” Principal Lonnie Seifert said the play has a good message, but he pointed out that the message had been lost due to the extensive Social Media furor over the weekend. School officials, the play’s director Ben Thietje and others met Monday morning and eventually all agreed that cancelling the play was the right thing to do in this instance. “Cast and crew would not have had a pleasant experience in presenting this play,” Thietje said.

The district was put in a tough position, but all involved are standing by the decision. It’s a painful lesson in the hazards of modern communication.

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