ALBANY, New York – A New York state high school English teacher who asked students to imagine they were Nazis and give reasons why Jews were evil could be reprimanded or dismissed, a school district superintendent said on Friday.
City School District of Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard apologized at a news conference and pledged officials would personally express regret to Albany High School students who were given the assignment and their families.
“This assignment for some of our students at Albany High School was completely unacceptable. It displayed a level of insensitivity that we will not tolerate in our school community,” Vanden Wyngaard said.
“I’m deeply apologetic to all of our students, to all of our families and the entire community,” she said, appearing with representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and the United Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York at the federation office in Albany.
Vanden Wyngaard declined to name the teacher but said the teacher was removed from class and faced disciplinary action.
“It can go anywhere from a letter of counsel, to a letter of reprimand, all the way through to termination. There is a broad spectrum,” Vanden Wyngaard said.
A letter would go out to all families in the school district, she said.
Vanden Wyngaard first issued an apology through the Times Union on Thursday night after the newspaper reported the assignment on its website. She responded with “absolute horror” when a parent presented her with the assignment on Thursday.
The teacher gave three classes of 10th-grade students a persuasive writing assignment as part of a class project to demonstrate how Nazis thought and showed their loyalty to the Third Reich before World War Two.
“You need to pretend that I am a member of the government in Nazi Germany, and you are being challenged to consider that you are loyal to the Nazis by writing an essay convincing me that Jews are evil and the source of our problems,” the assignment instructions said.
One-third of the students refused to complete the task, which was assigned following a class review of Nazi propaganda, said Ron Lesko, a spokesman for the district.
Students were asked for an introduction, a conclusion and a list of arguments and were advised, “Please remember your life (here in Nazi Germany in the 30s) depends on it!”