DC Public Schools (DCPS) has launched an investigation into the allegation that a staff member at Watkins Elementary in Southeast asked third-graders to reenact the Holocaust.
The alleged incident was first reported by The Washington Post, after one of the students told their mother about the traumatizing experience.
“My child had to pretend to suffocate in the gas chamber, had to pretend to ride the trains, had to mass-shoot people, had to put bodies into mass graves,” the mother said, adding that her son was crying while he talked about what he went through.
DCPS placed the instructor involved in the scandal on leave pending the ongoing investigation on Friday, December 17.
The employee has not been identified by officials, but multiple news outlets named Kimberlynn Jurkowski, the school’s library media specialist, as the person in question.
She allegedly assigned roles to students, including the role of Adolf Hitler, and ordered them to pretend to be digging mass graves and shooting people, as part of the play, The Washington Post reported. The student playing Hitler was asked to simulate committing suicide as the German dictator did.
On Friday, Watkins Elementary Principal Scott Berkowitz penned a letter to parents, saying the school received a report of “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 our school,” the principal said in the letter.
The school system stated it was not an approved lesson plan, and apologized to all students and families who were subjected to this incident.
Students that were in the class are currently getting support through the DCPS Comprehensive Alternative Resolution & Equity Team.