A controversial writing assignment that asked eighth-graders in Rialto to consider sources that contend the Holocaust never happened is a “bad mark on our record” that will be fixed, a spokeswoman for the district said.
Students were asked 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.”
School officials say the assignment has since been pulled and will be revised.
“This is a bad mark on our record and we will fix it and move forward,” district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri told the Los Angeles Times.
A group of teachers and the district’s educational services division created the assignment, but 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.
The Anti-Defamation League says it has no evidence that a writing assignment asking eighth-graders in Rialto to consider arguments that the Holocaust never happened was part of a “larger, insidious agenda,” and is treating it as a “misguided” attempt to meet critical thinking standards.
The statement on the league’s blog Monday came after the Rialto Unified School District reversed course on the assignment after it came under widespread criticism, including by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called it “grotesque.”
“If the teacher involved wanted to help his or her student 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,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based center, said in a statement.