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December 20, 2021 1:05 pm
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Washington DC Elementary School Staff Member Placed on Leave for Directing Students to Reenact Holocaust, Mass Shootings, and Hitler’s Suicide

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Washington DC. Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/Wikimedia Commons.

A staff member at Watkins Elementary School in Washington, DC was placed on leave on Friday for assigning third-grade students to reenact the Holocaust, according to a report by local Fox affiliate Fox 5.

DC Public Schools officials have not confirmed if the staff member, who cast a Jewish student as Adolf Hitler and told others that Germans committed the Holocaust “because the Jews ruined Christmas,” is still receiving pay while the incident is under investigation.

“Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war,” wrote Watkins Elementary School Principal Scott Berkowitz, according to WTOP News, to parents and students last week, noting also that the staff member, who has not been identified, “used hate speech during the lesson.”

He continued, “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.”

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“No matter the intent of an incident, we are always required to report it so that we can move forward to restore our community and repair harm.”

According to The Washington Post, the Watkins Elementary School students were completing a research project in library class when the staff member interrupted their work and told them to reenact the Holocaust, which included digging mass graves for classmates assigned roles as Jewish concentration camp prisoners and simulating a death-squad style mass shooting of Jews.

Speaking anonymously, one parent said her child was cast as a passenger on a train en route to a concentration camp, and later directed to act out a Jewish prisoner suffocating in a gas chamber. He was also asked to simulate shooting Jews. All students, according to the report, were told to keep what happened a secret.

Another parent of a child who participated in the exercise told the Post that the Jewish student cast as Adolf Hitler was ordered to reenact the Nazi leader’s suicide.

The students have since met with mental health professionals, Principal Berkowitz said.

In a statement issued Sunday, the DC Public Schools’ Comprehensive Alternative Resolution and Equity Team, to whom the incident was reported, said, “This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident.”

Condemning the incident on Twitter, the Anti-Defamation League announced on Sunday that it is providing DC Public Schools with “resources & support to help promote healing & education.”

“We’re horrified 3rd grade students were instructed to re-enact scenes from the Holocaust,” the ADL said. “Simulation activities trivialize the experience of victims & often reinforce stereotypes. We’ll be providing resources & support to help promote healing & education.”

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