SoCal school district backtracks on assignment questioning Holocaust

A Southern California school district said it will change an eighth-grade assignment that asked students to argue whether or not the Holocaust happened.

The writing assignment for eighth graders in the Rialto Unified School District (San Bernardino County) asked students to write an argumentative essay about the Holocaust and explain “whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”

The existence of the assignment, made in April in connection with a unit on “The Diary of Anne Frank,” was first reported May 4 by the San Bernardino Sun.

Interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam said he would caution administrators to make sure that “any references to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments,” according to a statement released May 5 by district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri, who said an academic team from the school district would meet to change the assignment.

Islam, who reportedly was not aware of the assignment until the district received emails about it, received death threats over the incident.

In an email to the school district from the L.A. office of the Anti-Defamation League, associate regional director Matthew Friedman said: “It is ADL’s general position that an exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust Denial.” The office later said it “does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda.” — jta