Tenafly Superintendent: Hitler class project taken out of context
TENAFLY — A fifth grade school project that involved a student dressed as Adolf Hitler to highlight the dictator's “accomplishments” was taken out of context, according to Tenafly Schools Superintendent Shauna DeMarco.
Photos of a student's handwritten paragraph about the notorious Nazi leader went viral, heading into Memorial Day weekend, along with a description of the student who dressed as Hitler while reading it to her class at Maugham Elementary School.
After vowing on Friday to review the entire project, DMarco said on Wednesday that the assignment given by a teacher, who is Jewish, was meant to take on "social norms and historical figures who personify good and evil."
Students were to speak from the perspective of one of these individuals and how they might have perceived and rationalized their actions, DeMarco said.
The student's paper, which had been hung for display in the public school's hallway, ended with the sentences "I was very popular and many people followed me until I died. My belif in antisemitism drove me to kill more than 6 million Jews."
"When people saw the students’ projects, which were displayed in the school, they did not understand the assignment, resulting in justifiable concerns," DeMarco wrote on Wednesday, adding "Given that the lesson was specifically issued within the context of social justice, it is unfair to judge any student or teacher in this matter."
She said her "fact-finding" into the teacher-assigned project was ongoing.
The Israeli American Council of New Jersey has asked for members of the public to write letters, stating that such a project "cannot and will not be acceptable in our schools." The council said it would hand deliver those letters to the superintendent on Wednesday.
Tenafly Mayor Mark Zinna on Tuesday said that the class display had been taken down, after hanging weeks earlier. He asked people to wait for the superintendent's findings before passing judgement, while also writing on Facebook, "No discussion of the murderer of six million Jewish people can ever be presented in a positive light."
The IAC and Zinna on Wednesday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's requests for comment about the school superintendent's most recent statements.