A staff librarian at an elementary school in Washington, D.C., directed third graders to re-enact the Holocaust, including asking them to dig ditches for mass graves and simulate shootings, according to an email that the school’s principal sent to parents late Friday.
One student was instructed to portray Hitler, the email said.
The staff member leading the activity at Watkins Elementary School, in the Capitol Hill section of southeast Washington, also reportedly made antisemitic statements during the episode, Principal MScott Berkowitz said in the email.
The staff member has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is investigated, Mr. Berkowitz said. The episode has also been referred to the district’s Central Equity Response Team, which commonly responds to hate and bias incidents, Mr. Berkowitz said.
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be tasked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war or murder,” Mr. Berkowitz said. “In no way is this lesson supported by the school’s leadership or D.C.P.S. curriculum,” he added, referring to the District of Columbia Public Schools.
The student assigned to the role of Hitler is Jewish, according to a parent, The Washington Post reported. The child, The Post said, was told to pretend to commit suicide, as Hitler did.
Another parent, The Post reported, said her son had to pretend to be on a train to a concentration camp and then act as if he were dying in a gas chamber. This student, the parent said, also had to act as if he were shooting his peers.
The third grade had been working last week on a research project that would result in a classroom presentation before winter break, Mr. Berkowitz said in his email. But officials received reports on Friday that students were being asked to re-enact the Holocaust as part of library time, he said.
Mr. Berkowitz, who did not immediately respond to a message late Sunday, did not release the staff librarian’s name in his email. A spokesman for District of Columbia Public Schools also did not confirm the name. But parents, including one whose child was in the class, identified the woman as Kimberlynn Jurkowski, who, according to her LinkedIn profile, has been a library specialist with the school district since 2014.
Ms. Jurkowski did not respond to a message sent via social media, and calls to several numbers listed for her were not answered.
This was not Ms. Jurkowski’s first run-in with a school district. She was convicted in October 2013 of defrauding the Hamilton Township School District, in New Jersey, of nearly $24,000 in a tutoring scam, according to The Press of Atlantic City, a local newspaper. The district, according to the newspaper, paid for tutoring for Ms. Jurkowski’s two children, but she and the tutor continued to bill the district for several months after the tutoring stopped.
The report said she cooperated with the state and entered an intervention program, which is typically for first-time offenders and usually ends with the removal of a conviction from a person’s record.
A spokesman for D.C.P.S. did not respond to a question about whether the district was aware of Ms. Jurkowski’s prior troubles.
Enrique Gutierrez, the spokesman, said in a statement that officials had started an investigation of the Holocaust re-enactment.
“This was not an approved lesson plan,” he said, “and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident.”
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