Parents outraged after California school assignment asks students if the Holocaust was a hoax

'There was no offensive intent...'

Published 06 May 2014  |  

(PA)

Parents are outraged after a California public school asked students to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred.

Reports of the assignment began circulating last week, after Rialto Unified School District parents complained about their children's "Is the Holocaust a Hoax?" homework.

The April writing assignment asked eighth-graders to "write an argumentative essay, based upon cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe [the Holocaust] was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth," according to Yahoo.

District Interim Superintendent Mohammed Islam assured parents that no offense was intended.

"The intent of the writing prompt was to exercise the use of critical thinking skills," Islam wrote in a statement. "There was no offensive intent in the crafting of this assignment. We regret that the prompt was misinterpreted."

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Associate Regional Director Matthew Friedman said the writing assignment had no benefit for students.

"It is ADL's general position that an exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value," he wrote in a press release.

"It only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust Denial."

Friedman stated it does not appear the district was malicious in its intent.

"ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda," he said. "Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills."

District spokesperson Syeda Jafri said that the Educational Services Department, which wrote the writing prompt, will undergo cultural sensitivity training.

"Absolutely the Holocaust occurred," Jafri told CBS. "It was brought to our attention, and we're not happy. And we are going to correct it."

According to Rialto Police Captain Randy De Anda, both Jafri and Islam have received death threats over the controversial homework. Police officers were patrolling the district's headquarters yesterday in response to the threats.

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