WESLEY CHAPEL — Three students at Wiregrass Ranch High School face suspension after they wore what appeared to be Ku Klux Klan costumes to school Thursday.
The students wore the outfits as part of homecoming week, during which each day has a theme and students are encouraged to wear attire that matches the theme. Thursday's theme was characters, said Pasco County School District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.
Other students dressed up like superheroes and television characters, Cobbe said.
The three students — two Hispanic and one Arabic, all seniors — were seen on school grounds in the costumes Thursday morning, Cobbe said. Distressed students alerted the administration, which called the three students in.
When the students arrived to talk with staffers, they weren't wearing the costumes. At first, Cobbe said, the students told administrators they had dressed like ghosts. School officials disagreed when they later saw photos of the three teens in white sheets with their faces covered and in pointy hats, Cobbe said.
"I never did get what their reasoning was — why they thought it was acceptable to dress like that," Cobbe said.
The students were cited for harassment and could be suspended from school for one to 10 days, according to school district policy, according to Cobbe.
Senior Emma Weiss, 18, president of the school's Unity Club, said she heard about the incident midday Thursday.
"I couldn't believe that students at our school would think that's appropriate," Weiss said. "What they did was inappropriate in every sense of the word."
She said students at Wiregrass Ranch High are well aware of the country's history of race relations.
"They had to have known," she said of the three students dressed in sheets. "But I don't think they meant it in a menacing way. I think they thought it would be funny. I don't think they thought it through."
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.