Albany School District apologizes over Nazi assignment

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP/NEWS CENTER) – School district officials in Albany say they're mulling disciplinary action for a high school English teacher whose writing assignment asked students to make a persuasive argument blaming Jews for the problems of Nazi Germany.

School district spokesman Ron Lesko says Friday that administrators are discussing what official action the 10th-grade teacher at Albany High School could face for the assignment given to students on Monday.

The Albany school district has apologized for the writing assignment that asked students to make the persuasive argument against Jews.

The assignment, reported Friday by the Albany Times Union, asked students to research Nazi propaganda, then assume their teacher was a Nazi government official who had to be convinced of their loyalty.

The assignment tells students they “must argue that Jews are evil.”
    
Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard says she doesn't believe the teacher who handed out the assignment had malicious intent. She says the intent of the assignment was to have students make an argument based on limited information but should have been worded differently.

“We
expect teachers to have good judgment, and in this case it was misconceived,”
said Vanden-Wyngaard.

Sitting
alongside of the superintendent Friday was Shelly Shapiro of the Jewish
Federation of Northeastern N.Y. Shapiro says while the assignment was very
unfortunate, she looks at the situation as a teachable experience.

“I
was totally shocked when I learned this morning that anyone would have such an
unbalanced lesson for grade students about anti-semitic views,” she
says.  “My position is that we need to help teachers with the
difficult lessons in learning about the Holocaust. So that's why I'm so proud
of what they're going to do, they're going to work on it and educate about it.”

Vanden-Wyngaard
says the hardest part of all of this for her to understand is how a teacher
asked students to support the notion that the Holocaust was justified.

“If
you're going to introduce a potentially difficult lesson, you've got to talk
with someone about it prior to doing so,” she said.

Vanden-Wyngaard says some type of disciplinary
action will be taken, but it is too soon to be specific, since
the possibilities fall across a broad spectrum.

A third of the students refused to complete the assignment.

The school district has not named the teacher.

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