An instructor at a DC school has been placed on leave after she allegedly told third-graders to re-enact scenes from the Holocaust — including digging mass graves and having a Jewish student cast as Adolf Hitler.
The principal of Watkins Elementary School told parents in an email that the staff member told the students “to portray participants from the Holocaust like Adolf Hitler, digging ditches to serve as mass graves, and simulated shootings,” Fox 5 reported.
“It was also alleged that the staff member leading the lesson made anti-Semitic statements,” added Scott Berkowitz, who did not name the clueless educator.
The principal said the students had been taking a library class to do a self-directed project before winter break — but the library instructor had them take part in the hideous re-enactment instead.
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be asked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war, or murder,” Berkowitz told parents in the email, the Washington Post reported.
The educator was placed on leave Friday.
One parent told the paper on condition of anonymity that her son was told to pretend being on a train to a concentration camp, act as if he were shooting his peers and then pretend to die in a gas chamber.
When the kids asked the staffer why the Germans committed the atrocities, she said it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas,” according to the Washington Post.
One mother told Fox 5 that her husband picked up their child, who she said suffered emotional distress after being told to pretend to choke and die in a gas chamber.
She told the outlet she has spoken with other parents about how their children are doing after the incident.
“They are traumatized. One parent said that their child was worried the teacher in question was hiding at their house. Children are having nightmares and generally having a very hard time,” the mother told Fox 5, adding that the Jewish student who was told to play Hitler “is not doing well at all.”
The parent added that the instructor told the children not to tell their parents, but that they told their homeroom teacher — who reported the incident and helped them through the rest of the day.
The children later met with the school’s mental health response team, Berkowitz told the parents.
The school librarian told Fox 5 that she believed “somebody’s misquoting what happened in the library that day.”
She insisted that there was no Holocaust re-enactment or hate speech by the staffer, but would not answer when asked whether there was any discussion about the Holocaust.
“I’m going to wait for the investigation. I was shocked to see it myself,” the unnamed librarian said, referring to the principal’s message.
The incident has been reported to the DC Public Schools’ Comprehensive Alternative Resolution and Equity Team, the Washington Post reported.
“DC Public Schools is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all students,” DCPS said in a statement.
“Last week, we received a report of a classroom of students receiving a lesson that included portraying different perspectives of the Holocaust. Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war,” it said.
“Additionally, there were allegations of a staff member using hate speech during the lesson, which is unacceptable and not tolerated at any of our schools. This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident,” the statement added.