Andrew Burton/Getty Images
A Southern California school district is revising an assignment that asked eighth grade students to write an argumentative essay on the Holocaust, and whether it was an "actual event in history," or "merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth."
The San Bernardino Sun discovered the assignment's instructions over the weekend. The Rialto Unified School District middle-schoolers were directed to use three sources in their essay, including one that called concentration camp gassings and The Diary of Anne Frank a "hoax," claiming that no evidence has been found proving that Jews died in gas chambers. KTLA reports that the source is a page on the website biblebelievers.org.au that says: "In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America's welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans."
The district first defended the assignment, with spokeswoman Syeda Jafri saying the point was to engage students in "critical thinking." But on Monday, Jafri read a statement that announced interim Superintendent Mohammed Z. Islam would talk to administrators to "assure that any references to the Holocaust 'not occurring' will be stricken on any current or future argumentative research assignments."
"This was a mistake," Jafri said. "It should be corrected. It will be corrected. We all know it was real. The Holocaust is not a hoax.... I believe our classroom teachers are teaching it with sensitivity and compassion."
The Rialto Unified School District serves 26,000 students in the suburbs east of Los Angeles. Jafri told The Sun that the district did not receive complaints from parents, teachers, or administrators over the assignment, and added that since the press picked up the story, district officials have received death threats. For more on the story, watch this news report from CBS Los Angeles. --Catherine Garcia