A staff member at a Washington, D.C., elementary school has reportedly been placed on leave after telling third-grade students to reenact elements of the Holocaust.
The unnamed staffer at Watkins Elementary School told students in library class to act out scenes that included digging mass graves for their classmates, simulating shooting victims and traveling on a train to a concentration camp and then dying in a gas chamber, The Washington Post reported.
The staffer was placed on leave Friday pending an investigation, a DC Public Schools (DCPS) official told CNN in a statement.
One student was cast as Adolf Hitler and directed at the end of the exercise to pretend to commit suicide just as Hitler did, principal MScott Berkowitz told parents in an email viewed by the Post. That student was reportedly Jewish.
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be asked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war or murder,” Berkowitz wrote.
He said the class met with the school’s mental health response team after the incident.
The staffer also allegedly made antisemitic comments during the exercise and urged the children not to tell anybody about the reenactment. When the kids asked why the Germans committed the atrocities, one parent said the staffer told them it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas.”
DCPS told CNN it was not an approved lesson plan and apologized to students and families who were subjected to it.
The district has launched an investigation into the incident.