A staff member of the Watkins Elementary School in Washington DC was put on leave on Friday after forcing third-grade students to participate in a Haolocaust reenactment that included having the students simulate shootings and dig mass graves for their classmates.
The principal of the school sent an e-mail to parents explaining that the offensive lesson was given during a library class. In the email, the principal said that according to reports he received, the re-enactment included “students being asked to portray participants from the Holocaust like Adolf Hitler, digging ditches to serve as mass graves, and simulated shootings. It was also alleged that the staff member leading the lesson also made anti-Semitic statements.”
“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,” Principal Scott Berkowitz said in the email reviewed by The Post.
Berkowitz stated that the unnamed teacher assigned a Jewish student the role of Adolf Hitler, instructing the student that at the end of the exercise, he would simulate Hitler’s suicide.
A parent told Fox 5 DC that her child was told to pretend to choke and die in a gas chamber while other students simulated digging their own graves. The parent told the media that her child was visibly upset after school.
The staff member who ran the exercise instructed the students not to tell their parents about the reenactment however the students told their homeroom teacher, who reported the incident.
Another parent told media that the staff member made anti-Semitic comments. In addition, when the students asked why the Germans had perpetrated the Holocaust, the staff member responded, “because the Jews ruined Christmas.”
DC Public School system released a statement on Sunday
“DC Public Schools is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all students. 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. 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. We have launched an investigation, and students are being supported by our DCPS Comprehensive Alternative Resolution & Equity Team.”
The school district says the staff member involved in the incident is on leave. The school is providing counseling to impacted students.