NJ principal, teacher on leave following Hitler’s controversial grade 5 presentation
TENAFLY, NJ (NEXSTAR /WPIX) – A New Jersey school district put an elementary school principal and teacher on paid leave as officials investigate a school assignment where a student allegedly showcased Adolf Hitler’s greatest accomplishments while he was disguised as a German dictator.
“As many know, I am investigating to understand how a 5th grade assignment that violates the district’s curriculum was authorized and remained posted even after some members of the school community expressed concerns about its relevance,” wrote Shauna DeMarco, Superintendent of Tenafly Public Schools. in a statement Thursday.
DeMarco said the district has specific guidelines for teaching students difficult and sensitive subjects in a way that keeps parents informed and involved.
âIt had a devastating impact on the student involved and his family, who were thrown into turmoil through no fault of their own,â DeMarco wrote. âIt has also been incredibly painful for members of our Jewish community in the face of increasing cases of anti-Semitism across the country. “
She added that an initial review of the incident “indicates that the curriculum and learning standards were not implemented appropriately and an attempt to individualize the project led to the pupil to receive wrong teaching from the teacher. Posting of the resulting project was offensive and inappropriate and directly violated school board policies.
DeMarco said she would also investigate why the principal failed to act after parents and others raised concerns.
A photo of the character development mission completed was posted on Facebook by Lori Birk on Sunday. The project was written in the first person as if the student were Hitler.
âMy greatest achievement has been to unite a large mass of Germans and Austrians behind me. I came to power as leader of the Nazi party, becoming chancellor in 1933, then assuming the title of fÃ¼hrer und reichskanzler in 1934, âthe mission states. âFÃ¼hrer and reichskanzler mean chief and chancellor. I was pretty good, wasn’t I? I was very popular and a lot of people followed me until I died. My belief in anti-Semitism prompted me to kill over 6 million Jews.
According to Birk, it was written by a fifth-grader and his choice of topic for the assignment was approved by the teacher prior to the presentation.
âPlease read – as it was hanging in the hallway of Maugham School in Tenafly. It’s ignorance, anti-Semitism and hate taught in fifth grade, âBirk wrote.
The one-page essay was posted on a school notice board for more than a week, parents said.
The mission resulted in a municipal investigation, as well as increased safety at the school and in the school district offices.
A parent at the school called the situation “appalling”.
Tracy Stevens, another parent at the school, reacted similarly: âI myself am very shocked to learn what happened. Very surprised.”
According to the parents, the mission was to make the children dress up as a historical figure of their choice, whether the person they chose to portray was famous or notorious.
Mark Zinna, the mayor of Tenafly, said the project was poorly conducted.
“The adults involved in allowing this to happen really screwed up,” Zinna said at a town hall press conference early Tuesday afternoon. âAll the fifth grade classes studied famous people in history. The way this has been presented in a positive light is of real concern.
The executive director of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey said the way the mission went was concerning.
“Every Jew in this town should be shocked by Adolf Hitler’s post,” Jason Shames said at a press conference outside the school Tuesday afternoon. “There is no doubt that this is as offensive to us as it could ever be.”
The mission was made in April, but comments about it have started to spread on social media in recent days among parents. It then spread even more online.
DeMarco wrote in part on Tuesday that she understands why âtensions are high and our community is extremely upset. We share these feelings.
However, some residents of this town of 14,600 inhabitants warn against rushing to court.
“I’m not saying it’s a good thing,” said a mother who asked not to be identified. “I condemn him, but the child did not know.”
The head of the Jewish Federation said a full investigation should take its course.
“Rushing to judge here hurts the situation,” Shames said. âWe have to be very careful that we are talking about a 10 year old child.
The investigation will focus on the adults involved in the situation, according to the mayor.