School Board Admits Holocaust Denial Project ‘Horribly Inappropriate’

The school board of the Rialto Unified School district took “full responsibility” Wednesday for a disputed assignment on the Holocaust after three days of public backlash.

The San Bernardino Sun reported that residents, rabbis and elected officials packed Wednesday night’s school board meeting to express concern about the district’s eight-grade essay assignment, which asked students to “explain whether or not you believe the Holocaust was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.”

After listening to public comments, the school board’s president read out a statement calling the assignment “horribly inappropriate.”

“The board and staff are deeply sorry for the hurt and propagation of misinformation caused by this assignment,” board president Joanne Gilbert said, as quoted by the San Bernardino Sun. “There was no intent to be hurtful, but due to a lack of critical thought and a lack of internal checks and balances, this project commenced and turned into a horribly inappropriate assignment.”

Gilbert also said eighth-grade teachers are now expected to go through sensitivity training at the Museum of Tolerance, according to the newspaper. A small group of the district’s eighth-grade teachers had developed the disputed assignment.

While the essay prompt was contentious on its own, the assignment also included extensive text lifted from a Holocaust denial and conspiracy website as one of three sources students were to use in their arguments. A spokeswoman for the school district did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on the inclusion of that source.

Image via Shutterstock / J. Henning Buchholz