Citadel punishes 14 cadets after investigation into KKK-like photos

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Fourteen cadets at The Citadel military college have received discipline ranging from dismissal to on-campus punishment for posing in photos while wearing costumes similar to the Ku Klux Klan.

“The investigation found that the cadets did not intend to be offensive,” Citadel president Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in a statement Monday. “However, I am disappointed some recognized how it could be construed as such but didn’t stop it.”

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In December, photos emerged on social media of cadets wearing all white clothing and white pillowcases on their heads. Eight students had been suspended pending an investigation.

The investigation found a group of freshmen were directed to wear the costumes by an upperclassman, according to The Citadel. They were meant to be dressed as the “Ghosts of Christmas Past,” and the lyrics sheets in the photos were for Christmas songs such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Joy to the World."

Some of the freshmen in the photos understood the costumes could be construed as offensive but thought they could explain they were meant to be ghosts, according to The Citadel.

“While the skit had no ill intent, it did show poor judgment,” Rosa said. “It demonstrates that we must integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets’ daily activities, and into the already extensive leadership and ethics curriculum. We are working on that now. The bottom line is that the cadets involved now understand that the costumes could be considered offensive and hurtful to many.”

As a result of the incident, Rosa created the President’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity and Inclusion, according to the release. The college also plans to expand the racial sensitivity and ethical decision-making training cadets are already required to take.

Democratic presidential candidates had linked the costumes to the fact that the Confederate flag still flies at the Charleston, S.C., military college.

Charleston was the site of a shooting last year by a white gunman at a historic black church that prompted outcry over the Confederate battle flag.