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Third-graders allegedly forced to re-enact Holocaust, with student playing Hitler, simulated shootings, dying in gas chamber, digging of mass graves

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Image source: WTTG-TV video screenshot

Third-graders in a public elementary school in Washington, D.C., allegedly were forced to re-enact the Holocaust, with a student playing murderous dictator Adolf Hitler, simulated shootings, a gas chamber death, and students digging their own mass graves, WTTG-TV reported.

What are the details?

The principal of Watkins Elementary School sent a letter to parents explaining he had received reports about the re-enactment having taken place during a library lesson Friday, the station said, and that it was "alleged that the staff member leading the lesson also made anti-Semitic statements."

D.C. Public Schools is investigating, WTTG reported.

The station spoke to a mother of one of those students under the condition of anonymity to protect her child.

"My husband picked up our child after school, and there was a lot of sobbing and crying and distress," the mother told WTTG, adding that her child was told to pretend to choke and die in a gas chamber and watch fellow students simulate digging their own graves.

The mother added to the station that her child was still struggling emotionally as a result of the re-enactment — and that other parents are saying the same thing with regard to their children.

"They are traumatized," the mother noted to WTTG. "One parent said that their child was worried the teacher in question was hiding at their house. Children are having nightmares and generally having a very hard time."

The mother added to the station that, to her knowledge, the child who was told to play Hitler is "not doing well at all."

The mother characterized the alleged lesson as "a terrible corruption of historical trauma that was inappropriate for 8- and 9-year-olds to learn about it this way, and I'm outraged," WTTG reported.

In addition, the mother told the station the staff member who gave the lesson told the students not to tell their parents about it — but that the students told their homeroom teacher, who reported it.

What did the school district have to say?

"Last week, we received a report of a classroom of students receiving a lesson that included portraying different perspectives of the Holocaust," D.C. Public Schools said in a statement, WTTG said. "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."

What happened to the staff member in question?

The staff member who allegedly conducted the Holocaust re-enactment is on leave, the district told the station.

WTTG said it spoke by phone to a school librarian, who said, "I think somebody’s misquoting what happened in the library that day" and that there was no Holocaust re-enactment or hate speech.

However, the station said the librarian wouldn't answer repeated questions regarding whether there was any discussion about the Holocaust.

"I’m going to wait for the the investigation; I was shocked to see it myself," the librarian told WTTG in regard to letter sent home to parents.

The school is providing counseling to impacted students, the station added.

'Sorry is not enough'

The mother who spoke to WTTG added that "we just want accountability for this. Sorry is not enough. And we’re going to lay out what that looks like as parents."

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