Rialto Unified school officials say all eighth-grade teachers will make a mandatory visit to the Museum of Tolerance before the end of the school year in response to a public outcry to a writing assignment asking students to consider whether the Holocaust actually happened.
Eighth-grade teachers will also receive extensive sensitivity training to ensure similar incidents don’t occur, district interim Supt. Mohammad Z. Islam said at an emergency board meeting Wednesday.
A student trip had already been planned before the uproar.
The writing assignment that started the controversy was created by a group of eighth-grade teachers to meet Common Core standards for critical thinking and was assigned to students in December.
The teachers, he said, “didn’t realize what the implications would be.”
Students were asked in the 18-page assignment 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.”
The assignment asked students to interpret three sources, one of which describes the Holocaust and “The Diary of Anne Frank” as a hoax.
In February, students completed the assignments, which were later evaluated for their ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency and conversation, said Susan Levine, associate superintendent of educational services.
The Anti-Defamation League has said it had no evidence that the writing assignment was part of a “larger, insidious agenda,” and considered it a “misguided” attempt to meet critical thinking standards. Still, it joined other critics in condemning the assignment.
In response to the criticism, school board members scheduled the emergency meeting, where officails again apologized for what they called a misguided teaching effort.
“From the bottom of my heart, I feel sorry for this whole thing happening,” Islam told the crowd.