The KKK Kase: Students’ Efforts to Bring the Club to LHS

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The KKK Kase: Students’ Efforts to Bring the Club to LHS

Headlines from the 1992 December and January Drops of Ink issues show students’ shock and frustration with the recent KKK events and LHS.

Headlines from the 1992 December and January Drops of Ink issues show students’ shock and frustration with the recent KKK events and LHS.

Headlines from the 1992 December and January Drops of Ink issues show students’ shock and frustration with the recent KKK events and LHS.

Headlines from the 1992 December and January Drops of Ink issues show students’ shock and frustration with the recent KKK events and LHS.

Rachel Benner, Staff Writer

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KKK, an infamous three-letter series, is synonymous for hate.

The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, is an organization that advocates for extremist views such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-Semitism, among other things.

What a lot of students may not know is that there was an attempt to create a KKK club at Libertyville High School in 1992, 24 years ago. According to articles from the Chicago Tribune at the time, three seniors, who were later suspended for 10 days, passed out flyers and books condoning the group and what they represent.

The hate literature was distributed for a few weeks before the students were caught. Racial slurs against African Americans, Hispanics and Jews were presented along with white supremacist references.

The KKK is a group with three distinct movements. The first started in the 1860s and the second in 1915. The third, which is still currently running, commenced in the 1950s. The students had the idea to spread it to LHS after one of them wrote a paper about the group for English class. Another spark came a few weeks before the students were uncovered. Students of a neighboring high school, Warren Township, burned the letters KKK in the team’s football field reported the Chicago Tribune.

Thirty to thirty-five other upperclassmen at LHS signed a petition endorsing the group. Information in a 1992 issue of Drops of Ink displayed that at the time of the occurrence, there were 25 African Americans attending LHS and the total minority student percentage was 12. Today, according to the Illinois Report Card, there is a minority percentage of 18, more than 350 students total.

Back in 1992, minority students from neighboring towns started to fear for their safety. This was the case with John Borders, an African American sophomore who lived in Vernon Hills.

“I find myself looking over my shoulder more now. I felt fairly comfortable before this stuff happened,” said Borders in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.

The teacher and student responses varied, but overall, there were two reactions that were more prominent than others: the first was shock and the second, bewilderment. Many attributed the actions to pure ignorance, including the Lake County State’s Attorney at the time, Michael Waller.

“It shows that ignorance can crop up anywhere, even in places that are dedicated to the eradication of ignorance,” Waller voiced.

Mr. Matthew Leone, a current earth science teacher at LHS, was a teacher at LHS during that time.

“Things happen all the time that you can make a learning experience [out of] for everyone. I wouldn’t call it disruptive. The teachers I knew at the time used it as a teachable moment,” Mr. Leone stated.

In February of 1993, that same school year, a guest speaker, Tom Martinez, a former Klansmen, came to speak to students about his days as a member of the organization. He included details of his days as a white supremacist and his regretful decisions. To end the speech, he discouraged students from getting involved in extremely violent associations.

In addition to these consequences, the students issued an apology, which was published in the December issue of Drops of Ink in 1992.

“You have no reason to fear us. You have reason to be disappointed, but please do not be afraid. Please judge us not by that split second of thoughtlessness, but by the way we treated you before that instant and the way we will continue to treat you afterwards,” proclaimed the anonymous students, who had signed the “membership list.”

This occurrence happened 24 years ago, so why now resurface it? Although this nation has grown a lot since the Jim Crow laws, racial tensions continue to be prevalent in the United States today, with violent incidents and protests taking place around the country.

This is evident in communities like Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black man was shot by a white police officer in August 2014. Or in July in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a black man was held down by white police officers and shot multiple times from close range.

In addition, Tel Aviv University in Israel reported that in the year of 2014, anti-Semitic violence increased 40 percent worldwide, 3 percent in America.  

About 190 current KKK chapters remain active around the nation. According to the New York Post, these organizations endorsed Donald Trump as a candidate and even threw parties and parades to celebrate the election results.

Lily Marcus, a current senior who is Jewish, commented on the history of LHS in light of everything happening in the world today.

“I find [the event] rather hard to stomach. Today, we are just kind of ignoring basic rights and things that we should be much more proactive about,”Marcus said in an interview conducted over email. “There are a lot of things that are being spoken out against, which is always important, but I feel as if there is so much more we are ignoring.”

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