KKK Reenactment: Ground-Breaking High School History Lesson, or Extremely Bad Taste?

Catherine Ariemma (WGCL)

ATLANTA (CBS/WGCL) There's an old saying that goes "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and one Georgia history teacher is probably wishing she had stuck to the remembering part and not the whole bring-it-back-to-life with full Ku Klux Klan costume garb part.

Catherine Ariemma teaches honors history at Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega, Ga., about 65 miles north of Atlanta, and by all accounts is a good teacher with a spotless record over the past five years with the school district.

Not anymore.

Ariemma encouraged one of her classes to wear Klan hoods through the school cafeteria.  Let that sink in. A history teacher encouraged high school kids to wear symbols of one of the most recognizable racist groups of the past century, on school grounds in the heart of the Old South. What could go wrong?

Plenty as it turns out.

Ariemma says the incident on Thursday, May 20 was part of a school film project thought up by a group of her students who wanted to retrace the history of racism in America, and decided to focus on the Ku Klux Klan.

"The kids brought the sheets in, they had SpongeBob party hats underneath to make it shaped like a cone," Ariemma said. "They cut out the eyes so they could see."

Ariemma said she led the students through a cafeteria to another location where they shot the scene. Later, she said another teacher approached her.

"That's when I heard there were a couple of students who were upset," she said.

One student, Cody Rider, told CBS affiliate WGCL that he was more than upset - he was ready to fight.

"My intention when I was approaching them was to fight. I'll be honest with you," said Rider. "I was angry and outraged."

Rider says a couple of the hooded students taunted his cousin and asked him if he would participate in their lynching scene.

"It was poor judgment on my part in allowing them to film at school," Ariemma said. "... That was a hard lesson learned."

Ariemma is now on administrative leave and could lose her job pending an investigation, according to school administrators.

And there's one history lesson not likely to be repeated at Lumpkin County High.