Leaders for D.C. Public Schools say they’re investigating the hiring of a librarian who is accused of directing third-grade students to reenact the Holocaust.
The Washington Post was first to report that the Watkins Elementary School staff member allegedly told students to re-enact gruesome events from the Holocaust last week — including being gassed and committing suicide.
Now, there are questions about how the staff member was hired in the first place due to past criminal convictions.
According to the New York Times, the librarian in question was forced to leave a previous job in New Jersey after she was convicted in 2013 of defrauding a school district out of $24,000 in a tutoring scam.
“We do a thorough background check on all of our employees when they’re hired, and we’re doing an investigation into the hiring process, specifically, to this staff member,” D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee said Monday.
The staff member is on administrative leave, DCPS said.
“It’s been rightfully universally condemned. What is important, now, is what DCPS is going to do about it. I wrote the Chancellor early this morning; I have yet to hear back,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in a release Monday. “How thoroughly will DCPS investigate key factors around this incident: what enabled the librarian to think this was appropriate? How did the librarian come to DCPS in the first place? What corrective actions will be taken in response? How is DCPS addressing the ill effects this incident may have had on the students at Watkins?
The school apologized to parents in a letter on Friday.
“Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war,” Principal MScott Berkowitz said in the letter. “Per DC Public Schools’ protocol for responding to incidents of hate and bias, this has been reported to DCPS’ Central Equity Response Team.”
The staff member involved in executing what D.C. Public Schools called an unapproved lesson plan was placed on leave pending an investigation.
“Additionally, there were allegations of a staff member using hate speech during the lesson, which is unacceptable and not tolerated at any of our schools,” the letter reads.