A staff librarian at an elementary in Washington D.C. has been placed on administrative leave after reports claim she instructed third graders to reenact scenes from the Holocaust.
According to The Washington Post, who broke the news first, Kimberlynn Jurkowski, a former librarian from New Jersey, had students at Watkins Elementary School participate in activities related to the horrendous event, including digging ditches for mass graves and simulating shootings.
The school’s Principal, MScott Berkowitz, sent out an email to parents informing them that the situation was being investigated. The district’s Central Equity Response Team, which commonly responds to hate and bias incidents, has also been notified of the incident.
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be tasked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war, or murder,” Berkowitz explained. “In no way is this lesson supported by the school’s leadership or D.C.P.S. curriculum.”
Jurkowski’s other request included having a student, who was assigned the role of Adolf Hitler, pretend to commit suicide, as the dictator did. Reportedly, the child is Jewish. The mother of the student told FOX 5 that when her “husband picked up our child after school and there was a lot of sobbing and crying and distress.” She said her child was left emotionally distraught after being told to pretend to choke and die in a gas chamber and after watching students simulate digging their own graves.
However, the staff member told the news station she believes “somebody’s misquoting what happened in the library that day.” While Jurkowski denied having students reenact scenes or participating in hate speech, she wouldn’t reveal whether the topics were discussed in any capacity.
It also wasn’t the first time the librarian had found herself in trouble with a school district. According to The Press of Atlantic City, Jurkowski was convicted in Oct. 2013 of defrauding the Hamilton Township School District, in New Jersey, of nearly $24,000 in a tutoring scam after she and an instructor, Mildred Spencer, a friend she hired for her two children–paid for by the district–continued billing them for classes even after the program was over.
Her teaching license was suspended for three years by the state Department of Education. She entered an intervention program which, for first-time offenders, typically expunged the offense from someone’s record. An investigation into the incident is still ongoing.