Governor approves firing entire class of cadets over Nazi salute photo

“This incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

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West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced this week that he has approved terminating another staff member and an entire class of cadets giving the Nazi salute in a class photo. Gov. Justice reached this decision after reviewing an official report completed by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety related to the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Academy Class 18.

Marked with official seals, the photo bears the label: “West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class #18.” Above the class of cadets giving the Nazi salute are the words: “Hail Byrd!”

Responsible for teaching cultural diversity to the cadets, instructor Karrie Byrd told investigators she was unaware of the “historical or racial implications of the gesture.” But according to the report, Byrd’s statement was “heavily contradicted by multiple sources during the investigation.”

After seeing the class photo, a secretary was ordered by Byrd to caption the picture with “Hail Byrd!” The secretary recalled Byrd telling her, “That’s why they do that because I’m a hard-ass like Hitler.”

Last month, two academy trainers and a cadet were fired for their involvement in the photo after it was posted online. Thirty-four other employees were suspended without pay.

On Monday, Gov. Justice announced that he approved terminating a fourth staff member who failed to report the photo as well as the entire class of cadets depicted in the photograph. The governor also approved suspending four additional academy instructors who saw the photo but failed to report it.

“I have reviewed the factual information regarding this incident that was provided by Secretary Sandy, and have approved all of his recommendations,” Gov. Justice said in a recent press release. “I expressed my thanks to him and the entire Department for quickly getting this report done.

“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class 18 in the strongest possible terms. I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences – terminations and dismissals. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of State government.

“We have a lot of good people in our Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. But this incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

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