A California school district has abandoned a lesson plan that asked students to write an essay arguing that either the Holocaust occurred or was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.”
The lesson was written by a group of eighth grade teachers at Southern California’s Rialto Unified School District and was intended to teach students to distinguish between propaganda and quality historical sources. It had been assigned to about 2,000 students according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, a local newspaper.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told Fox News that teaching students about the nature of propaganda was a valid lesson plan. He added, though, that he believes the plan in question ran the risk of misleading students into believing that Holocaust denying propaganda is factually legitimate.
“Whatever (the district’s) motivation, it ends up elevating hate and history to the same level,” he said.
The district’s spokeswoman, Syeda Jafri, called the lesson plan “an error.” She said teachers would review the assignment to ensure that all references to the Holocaust “not occurring” would be stricken from the assignment.
"The Holocaust should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed," she said in a statement.
Plans to abandon or amend the controversial lesson came on the heels of death threats against Jafri and interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam. The Associated Press reports that one person made a number of calls with very specific threats to local police department.
There were no other demonstrations on the campus Monday but Rialto police Capt. Randy De Anda said he and two other officers showed up to monitor the area because the department takes all death threats seriously.
"We believe he (the caller) is a white male in his 30s. He did give us a name, but we haven't confirmed it yet so we don't know if he's a previous student," he said.
The department has the threatening calls on tape and will complete an investigation and forward the findings to the district attorney.