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San Diego Middle School Teacher Tells Jewish Student Hitler “Has Strong Leadership Qualities”

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s portrait was placed alongside inspirational historical leaders in a San Diego school history class last week, and when a student complained the teacher explained that Hitler had committed bad deeds but was a great leader, NGO Partners for Equality and Educational Responsibility in Kindergarten thru 12th grade (PEER K-12) told The Jerusalem Post.

At the Carmel Valley Middle School, as part of a lesson for 7th graders, Hitler was included on a board that displayed the likes of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, US president John F Kennedy, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

According to PEER K-12, a 12-year-old student communicated to their teacher that it was inappropriate to display a photo of Hitler alongside such positive role models.

The teacher reportedly told the student that “Hitler may have done some bad things, but he also had strong leadership qualities.”

In response to the incident, the San Dieguito Union High School District said “A lesson in World History included a discussion of various historical figures, along with images of them on a whiteboard in the classroom. The images were directly related to the curriculum and displayed during a lesson. After a concern was raised regarding one of the images and the impact it had on a student, it was taken down.”

However, PEER K-12 said that the student that had complained was initially moved to another history class. The NGO further said that while Principal Vicki Kim reportedly told the parent of the student that the portrait would be removed in response to his complaint, the teacher only removed Hitler’s picture upon receiving further inquiries from the community.

“This is revisionist history, plain and simple,” PEER K-12 told the Post. “This was not a lesson on World War II or the Holocaust, and in the fact this teacher is only tasked with teaching history until 1912. If this teacher is a Holocaust denier then she must be relieved of her duties immediately. This erasure of Jewish history cannot go unchecked.”

“Ignorance at best, malice at worse is how we would describe a teacher comparing Adolf Hitler, a genocidal maniac, to global leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr,” remarked the NGO StopAntisemitism.

PEER K-12 also claimed that the parent of the student had contacted the Anti-Defamation League, but had been told that the school was already a part of the ADL’s anti-bias training program “No Place For Hate.” Carmel Valley Middle School received the designation as a “No Place For Hate school” in May. 

The families of students and PEER K-12 formally called for the school district to hold an investigation into the incident.

StopAntisemitism also said that it called “on the San Dieguito Union High School District board to investigate the teacher’s actions, the Principal’s failure to appropriately follow up, and the overall curriculum that would result in such atrocious educational instruction.”

PEER K-12 also requested that two resolutions, one condemning antisemitism and the other against discrimination against students, be considered at a board meeting on Thursday.

This incident is not the first racially charged  incident that the San Dieguito school board has grappled with this year. In June, Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward was fired over remarks about Asian students and their families’ wealth as a reason for their academic success.