Investigations are ongoing after a D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) librarian allegedly instructed third-grade students to reenact the atrocities of the Holocaust last week, directing them to portray different scenes, including as if they are being gassed and committing suicide.
Questions are now being raised as to how the Watkins Elementary School staff member was hired despite their past criminal convictions, including one for defrauding a New Jersey school district out of $24,000 in a tutoring scam in 2013, NBC Washington reported.
According to students, they were forced to simulate digging their classmates’ mass graves and then shooting the victims.
The unnamed instructor also allegedly cast one Jewish student as Adolf Hitler, and that he told the child to pretend to commit suicide, as Hitler did, at the end of the play, the Washington Post noted.
“We do a thorough background check on all of our employees when they’re hired, and we’re doing an investigation into the hiring process, specifically, to this staff member,” DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee said on Monday. He noted the individual in question is on administrative leave.
The same day, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced the issue has been “rightfully universally condemned,” adding that he is yet to hear from Ferebee on details of the probe.
He said they opt to determine what prompted the librarian to think that reenacting the Holocaust was appropriate and what will be the sanctions given following the offense. The school has also since apologized to parents in a letter on Friday.
“Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war,” Principal MScott Berkowitz said in the letter.
“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,” the letter reads, noting that the Holocaust activity was an unapproved lesson plan.
The students involved in the class are now being supported by the DCPS Comprehensive Alternative Resolution & Equity Team, according to WTOP.