Students of a Washington D.C. elementary school were instructed by a school staff member to re-enact scenes from the Holocaust. Jewish leaders and education officials met on Tuesday to thoroughly investigate the matter.
Following the incident that happened at the Watkins Elementary School, a meeting was held with the participation of members from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC), the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, along with Washington Officials, including the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools and the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs Director. They were joined by several members of DCPS’s equity and elementary school management teams.
The meeting included an open discussion of the pain, fear and outrage this antisemitic event has triggered, and a thorough investigation was promised on behalf of the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools, along with a review of the internal employee screening procedures.
On December 17, students of the Watkins Elementary School were supposed to work on their projects in the library when a staff member instructed them to re-enact scenes from the Holocaust. When the third-grade students asked why the Germans killed Jews, the staff member said it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas,” reported The Jerusalem Post.
The woman ordered a Jewish student to play the role of Adolf Hitler and then pretend to commit suicide. Another student had to pretend that he is on a train to the concentration camp and then had to act as if he was dying in a gas chamber.
She was placed on leave immediately, and the school’s principal condemned the incident and informed parents that all the students will meet with the school’s mental health team.
“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 Berkowitz wrote in his email to the parents.
Classroom simulations in which students act out the roles of oppressed people have fallen out of favour in recent years as these activities have the power to traumatise students or reinforce historical patterns of abuse.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk