Unclear if teachers face discipline in Holocaust writing assignment

A spokeswoman for the Rialto school district, which reversed course on a controversial eighth-grade writing assignment challenging the Holocaust's historical record, said she cannot discuss whether the instructors involved will face any disciplinary action.

The assignment, created by a group of teachers and the district's educational services division, asked students to research and write an argumentative essay about whether the Holocaust actually occurred or if it was "merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth."


It garnered swift and widespread criticism, including from the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called it "grotesque."

School officials say the assignment has since been pulled and will be revised.

Rialto Unified spokeswoman Syeda Jafri told the Los Angeles Times that the assignment was a "bad mark" on the district's record "and we will fix it and move forward."

Interim Rialto Unified Supt. Mohammad Z. Islam was not aware of its topic until school officials received an email about it, Jafri said.

Islam was "deeply disturbed" by the assignment and acted swiftly, she added.

"Once in a while things fall through the cracks," Jafri said.

She declined to comment on whether the teachers faced disciplinary actions, saying it was a confidential personnel matter.

Still, Jafri said the district "deeply regrets" the incident, adding that there was "no excuse."

The district had already planned to take 24 students in June to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Jafri said.

She noted that the school district has always used sensitivity and compassion to teach students about the Holocaust and will continue to do so.

The Anti-Defamation League says it has no evidence that the writing assignment was part of a "larger, insidious agenda" and is treating it as a "misguided" attempt to meet critical thinking standards.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement that if the district had wanted to help students understand the nature of hate propaganda, "they should have assigned them to research the sources of the bigotry — totalitarian governments like Iran, neo-Nazi groups and bigoted pseudo-intellectuals."